We lost our cat Seamus last week, he was not only a super-cool cat, he was also our only pet. For the first time in my entire life, I am living in a house without a pet. My husband referred to the feeling as being 'Truly emptiness', as even when our kids grew up and moved out we still had animals to feed, shelter, love, and sing to. My husband took the loss more deeply than I, as Seamus was his favorite cat ever!
Seamus never came home. Having had outdoor cats for the last 23 years that can come and go as they like through a cat door, he was a boldly independent cat, and not coming home on a July evening could be the markings of a long hunting trip, but it wasn't. By the second morning of him not having come home my husband was looking frantically through his phone for a picture to put up somewhere, on a cat finder forum or something. He really didn't know where to start, and he also had no pictures of Seamus himself (because he never takes photos), but luckily I did! I quickly put a photo on Facebook, hoping one of my neighbors had seen him. I also asked that people send out some 'cat-go-home' magic' that he would either come home or we would know what became of him.
Within minutes one of my neighbors reached out to me, sharing a posting from a town group I was not a part of, in which someone had found a cat in the road, hit by a car. The description and time of finding were exact, and the location was literally the end of my field. I knew it was Seamus! I also knew my husband would be devastated, and that the underlying anxiousness I had been feeling for days was connected to this moment. We walked the edge of the property but did not find him. We knew from the description where he had been placed and we knew without a doubt that he was not just wounded, and could have crawled off somewhere, which meant an animal had gotten to him before we had. This is some ways was comforting to me, as he was a great hunter himself and it seemed somehow fitting that he too would become part of the food chain. (I am aware some of you may find that disturbing, but if you live with animals that hunt, you understand).
Not finding his body left me with a brief wondering of how I would honor his spirit, and give closure to myself and my husband. My husband was too upset to do anything except lay on the couch in his sadness, but the ceremony of death is something that I knew Seamus deserved, and I also knew my husband needed to happen even if he couldn't do anything himself. So I did...
I started in the yard gathering wildflowers, leaves, and ferns from our land, as Seamus loved this land. As an outdoor cat, he was always in the yard, the bushes, the woods. He was a part of this land and the land was a part of him. Without his body to honor I would use the plants of the land he loved, as they held a memory of him just as we did. I walked down the driveway and along the edge of the road to the area he had passed. There I began singing "Follow me Home... Follow me home!" and I began walking the spirit of my dead cat home to where he belonged. I could feel him behind me before I had gone more than ten feet!
I sang the entire way carrying a huge bouquet of wildflowers with tears running down my cheeks. As I walked and sang I thought how fortunate I was that I could feel him, see him, and know he was with me. I thought about all the people who have called me over the years wanting to know if I could help them find their missing pet, or if I knew if their beloved animal had crossed into spirit. I recognized how hard it was to not know, to never get the answer, or to have the body of your pet. I felt how hard the lack of closure can be and I knew that I had to document my experience and share it with you so that you too can have a means of honoring your animals that do not make it home.
With the greenery and wildflowers gathered and my spirit cat tagging along behind me I set about preparing for his ceremony. I filled a box with flowers and leaves I had gathered, and a bit of fur I managed to get out of his brush. I sealed the box and posted a photo of him I had printed, on the front of the box. I gathered his blanket, cleaned his food bowl and filled it as an offering, and gathered water from our sacred well in his water dish. I started a small fire in the central fire pit, using the rest of my gathered greenery to encircle it with love and the energy of our land. I created an altar with his food and water bowl, and the box of wildflowers that now represented his body. I lit incense in the four directions, asking Freyja and Bast (both goddesses sacred to cats) to watch over him, and I lit the fire.
I sang songs of his evilness (he was not really evil at all, but I liked to pretend he was), and told stories of his hunting prowess and his unusual relationship with the squirrels of our land, as the fire got going. When the time was right I placed the box of flowers representing Seamus on the fire and sang and cried some more as I said goodbye to a great cat. While my husband was not able to be with me while I did the ceremony, I shared it with him and I know it made him feel better as well knowing that Seamus had been properly honored.
Death is a peculiar thing. It is so powerful that it stops us in our tracks, leaves us dumbfounded, and changes our everyday life, and profound death is not just limited to our human loved ones. For many of us losing a pet is harder than losing a person, as our pets are with us every day, they are part of our intimate world and they love us in a way that we can seldom love ourselves; honestly and without judgment! It is my hope that in sharing how I honored my cat, you too may find the means to honor your beloved animals in their time of passing. It is also my hope that through this we gain a bit of understanding about death and how it affects us. For while my husband could not take part in any ceremony and really had a hard time talking about his loss, it was because of how much he would miss Seamus not his lack of caring.
I feel we often judge others by how they handle death and dying. When someone is dying and family members do not come around, it is seldom because they lacked love for the dying, but more that they cannot handle the emotions that witnessing it brings up for them. When someone is unable to attend a funeral or just disconnects after death it is most likely due to their overwhelming emotions and seldom due to not caring. We need to be kind to one another and realize we are all different. While some of us need to be close to the dying (human or animal), some of us are unable to process the experience and find ourselves shutting down and hiding from the process, the same is true when death has arrived. How we process death is not a sign of how much we mourn, it is more a sign of how we deal with our emotions.
In this time of the pandemic, it is likely that it is not just our animals we are unable to physically say goodbye to. Know that spirit is not limited by physical space. The dead; be they animal or human, are able to be everywhere and are not limited by physical contact. If you have lost someone and were unable to say goodbye or give honor, know you can do this at any time. Set up an altar, gather items that remind you of the one you loved, and sit in reflection of your love. May your heart be full...
Looking to make contact with your Beloved Dead (unfortunately I do not offer animal communication)-https://www.salicrow.com/spirit-sessions
SUMMER SPIRIT GALLERY @ Solstice Meadow-https://www.salicrow.com/events-1/summer-spirit-gallery