The Butterfly

red admiral butterfly in forget-me-nots

The Butterfly.

The forget-me-nots were a happening place this afternoon, flower stems waving with the weight of various bees and other insects. And butterflies were out in force in the garden this afternoon.

But this Red Admiral was special. Why else would a black and orange and cream butterfly be fluttering among the forget-me-nots, skipping just a few flowers ahead of me, happily flitting from one place to another?

tortoiseshell cat in forget me nots

My Little Butterfly.

Cookie loved the forget-me-nots. It’s where I remember her best in all the years in this house. Butterflies also indicate a visit from the spirit world. And a butterfly in Cookie’s colors fluttering about in the forget-me-nots, when I just happened to be walking out to the compost bin (yes, with my camera) is too much of a coincidence.

I know I’ve written quite a bit about Cookie lately, but it’s not because I’m trying to remember her. You’d be hearing just as much about her if she was still alive, she was just that present in my life every day. And in many ways, she still is and always will be. But especially in the forget-me-nots.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Little Visits

pastel painting of black cat

Are You Looking at Me? © B.E. Kazmarski

This is the third and final article in the series of articles about my cats visiting me in a spiritual sense, a collective of individual instances through the years.

Working in my office/studio one evening, I heard the door of my refrigerator open—you know how you recognize these everyday noises—and I didn’t think too much of it. Until I remembered that I lived alone and I had not opened the door myself. I slowly turned my head to look into the next room where the refrigerator was plainly in view, and the door was indeed wide open, and…Kublai was standing right in front and looking over the contents.

Kublai, my first black kitty, was a real creative thinker, and between his strength and able mimicry of my movements—opening windows and doors, pulling lids off containers—and my tiny refrigerator, he just decided he’d open it one evening and help himself to the contents.

If I’d had a video camera he surely would have won a prize for the way he’d flip open the door, stand there with all the other cats ranging behind him and “humph”, his message: “There’s nothing good in here to eat.” Well, I was a vegetarian, but he was also a feline garbage dispose-all and stopped at absolutely nothing. He’d eat cooked carrots as well as anything else.

Read the rest of this entry »


Taking Sally Home

pastel painting of cat bathing

A Warm Bath, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Second in a series of stories about visitations for the Halloween season.

So many visitations happen around the loss of an animal companion that it’s difficult not to dwell on the loss itself—but that misses the point of the visit. They’ve returned to tell you not to dwell on their loss, and to know of their peace and happiness. I’ve yet to hear of a single visit where the pet was unhappy.

But some visitations happen before the loss, or just at the time of the loss where you may sense another presence and understand it’s somehow related to your animal companion.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Balloon

cat peeking out from under bed

Waiting for Mom, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

For the days prior to the Feast of All Hallowed, Samhain, the Day of the Dead and other celebrations of the dimming of the veil between this world and the next, I am sharing a few stories of visitations, the mysterious returns of my cats after they’d transitioned. None are scary, unless you’re afraid of something that isn’t physically there, but all include elements I can’t explain and only accept…and am glad to have experienced.

torbie cat

Fawn

One night in early April, 1988, still with patches of snow on the frozen earth, a very small, very pregnant cat politely but confidently asked me if she could come into my home to give birth to her kittens. Of course I said yes, and I witnessed the entrance to this life of four independent and individualistic progeny. The last one born stayed with me after the others were adopted; the “runt of the litter”, the little cat with the big attitude, a torbie, my Fawn.

Ten years later, a friend sent balloons to my workplace for my birthday. The whole bunch was too big to take home, so I took one home and tied it to a lamp in my studio.

Read the rest of this entry »


Little Visits

pastel painting of black cat rolling on floor

Are You Looking at Me? © B.E. Kazmarski

This is the third and final article in the series of articles about my cats visiting me in a spiritual sense, a collective of individual instances through the years.

Working in my office/studio one evening, I heard the door of my refrigerator open—you know how you recognize these everyday noises—and I didn’t think too much of it. Until I remembered that I lived alone and I had not opened the door myself. I slowly turned my head to look into the next room where the refrigerator was plainly in view, and the door was indeed wide open, and…Kublai was standing right in front and looking over the contents.

Kublai, my first black kitty, was a real creative thinker, and between his strength and able mimicry of my movements—opening windows and doors, pulling lids off containers—and my tiny refrigerator, he just decided he’d open it one evening and help himself to the contents.

If I’d had a video camera he surely would have won a prize for the way he’d flip open the door, stand there with all the other cats ranging behind him and “humph”, his message: “There’s nothing good in here to eat.” Well, I was a vegetarian, but he was also a feline garbage dispose-all and stopped at absolutely nothing. He’d eat cooked carrots as well as anything else.

This was cute and funny, but also a great worry since it could be fatal if the door swung shut with him or one of the others inside. A new refrigerator was out of the question because of space, so I tilted it slightly forward so the door would not swing shut if opened, and added a bungee cord wrapped around from the side to hold the door shut for, oh, at least four years. Sometimes I would forget the bungee cord, and the door would always be open the next time I entered the room.

A few months after I’d lost Kublai I finally decided to rebalance the refrigerator, replace the seal and remove the bungee cord. None of the other cats was inventive enough to try to open it. One day soon after, I returned home to a wide-open refrigerator door and laughed, the first good laugh without a twinge of sadness, simply knowing Kublai had gotten one over on me. I’d been thinking about him all day, smiling at all the incredible things he’d done.

How did I know one of the other cats hadn’t opened it, or it hadn’t simply fallen open on its own? I didn’t. I didn’t have any proof, but I trusted my intuition, which Kublai had helped me to hone.

Taking their places again

sketch of two tabby cats

They Miss You When You're Gone, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

From the time I’d moved into this house I’d had a foster cat in the spare cat room, right on the landing between the bathroom and my bedroom. I’d visit the spare cat and dole out some more food right before I went to bed, and the rest of my household caught on to this and quickly convinced me they should have a midnight snack, choosing places in a circle around me. This turned out to be a great idea because they’d all come to bed and settle down for most of the night and one of the things that brought this group of cats, and me, so close together.

I actually lost Kublai and our orange boy Allegro two weeks apart. They were nearly my first losses, I had had no idea Allegro was ill, could barely mourn Kublai who’d been like my life partner, and was totally lost. I was still doling out the nightly snack though it was a constant reminder that two of the nine were missing, and the remaining seven had begun to fill in the open spots.

A few days after Allegro passed I was getting the container of food and visualizing all nine of them on the landing, actually forgetting there were now only seven. I turned around to see they’d arranged themselves as they always had before any losses leaving Kublai’s and Allegro’s spaces open. I was surprised to see they weren’t there, then I remembered, then I smiled. “Thanks for stopping back, boys, I’m glad you’re still together,” I said.

Light as thistledown

pencil sketch of cat in bag

In the Bag, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski, inspired by Sally

Sally had pure white long hair, was genetically deaf and as free as the wind. She awoke every morning, gathered all her abundant energy and made every moment of the day the best it could possibly be, never spending time on what she didn’t have or couldn’t do. I lost her at 15 to cancer.

thistle seeds

"Let Go", photo © B.E. Kazmarski

As I got into my car after work a few days after I had had Sally put to sleep, a thistle seed borne on the wind by its long white down flew past my face, circled around in my car, then flew out the passenger window, and I had the strongest sense of Sally being near me. She was on her way to another life, still the beautiful free spirit she’d been with me, carried where life took her.

With all the time I spend on trails and outdoors I encounter more than my share of thistle seeds and usually they are just thistle seeds, but every once in a while I still enjoy a visit from Sally as she spins and whirls around my head, sometimes landing near me before again taking flight, borne on the wind.

The hummingbird

painting of cat in sun

Warm Winter Sun, oil pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

On the Wednesday afternoon one week to the approximate hour after Namir’s death, Cookie and I went out in the yard to remember him since we three had enjoyed much time together out there. I hadn’t sensed him around at all, not seen him out of the corner of my eye, not forgotten that he had died and went looking for him, all very strange for the cat with the big personality who had monopolized so much of my time.

Cookie jumped up on the picnic table before I even got down the steps from the deck. At 17 Cookie was very dignified, but not known for her speed. She knew exactly what we were doing.

As we sat there, I heard behind me familiar buzzing and slight chirping sounds, though I couldn’t place them until I turned around and saw a female hummingbird visiting the bergamot, newly blooming right next to the picnic table. I normally have groups of hummingbirds visiting my feeders and all the geraniums and other attractive flowers in my yard, but this year it was July and I hadn’t seen a single one yet.

bergamot flowers

Bergamot flowers © B.E. Kazmarski

In most cultural and spiritual traditions, the hummingbird is known to be a messenger. While it is bound to the immense needs of its body to supply enough nourishment to support its high energy activity, it still transcends this burden to find joy in each day as they always spend some time in play and even seem to play practical jokes. It has adapted to reach far into a flower to find its nourishment, and so we must learn to reach far into ourselves to fulfill our needs. These tiny birds migrate a huge distance, and so tell us that we must persevere, no matter the conditions. Their wings beat in the symbol of infinity.

I was so happy to see the little bird, admiring her olive green against the deep red of the bergamot. And I realized it was Namir visiting us, as all my other cats had done in one way or another, to let me know he was free of his limitations, that I needn’t worry about him any more. No one but me knew all the health burdens Namir carried; like the hummingbird he had transcended the weight of his body in life, and now in death.

She soon left the bergamot to hover around the yard—in all the places Namir had loved so well for observing wildlife. As I pondered the deep significance of this visit I heard a scuffle in a tree and I saw her being chased by a sparrow in the air above the yard as she had apparently annoyed it. I laughed. It truly had to be Namir. As she sped off, I whispered to the sky, “Bye, guy.”

At Twilight

pastel painting of a cat on a bed

Afternoon Nap, pastel © B. E. Kazmarski

But my favorite visit is at the end of twilight, when the sun has gone down and the only natural light is that reflected from the sky back to earth, the twi-light being the mixing of day and night together. In this half-light the human eye, strong on color, can barely distinguish shapes from the dim background and the veil between day and night seems to thin as does the veil between this world and the next.

I carefully walked through my bedroom to turn on the lamp on the other side of the room, but just as I reached for the lamp I simply felt lots of cats in the room with me. This was no surprise, I’ve always had six or more, usually nine, and they often follow me as I do things and also hang out on the bed in my room.

But I could actually see and hear the cats who’d come in the room with me, and as I glanced around the room to see what other cats were there, they shifted around and I couldn’t see a single one, though I could swear there’d been more than one on the bed…I stood there, not focusing my eyes on anything but simply sensing that I was sharing the room with a good number of my feline family, past and present, on the bed, on the windowsill, on the floor, even rubbing on my legs in the darkness near the floor.

This last light fades very quickly no matter where you are at this time of day. Full darkness came in just a minute or two, and with it all our visitors faded and left, leaving only my current family settling on the bed for a bath and acting as if nothing unusual had happened. I turned on the light and thought about the last few minutes, glad I’d been able to experience it.

And I have again a few other times through the years, always in the same conditions of deep twilight. While one might think I’d plan to be there at that magic time of day every day just to be with them again, it really doesn’t work that way; even when I’ve come a little early and realized the time was soon and I would wait, they don’t show up on a schedule.

But when I have no inkling of the desire, when I am emotionally ready, I sometimes find myself walking through the softened shadows of my room, and sense all around me my precious companions as if they’ve planned that I would appear at exactly that time, when the edges disappear, the veil thins, and in those few moments when day and night mingle, so does past and present and our loved ones can once again share an existence with us, however brief.


Taking Sally Home

pastel painting of cat bathing

A Warm Bath, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Second in a series of stories about visitations for the Halloween season.

So many visitations happen around the loss of an animal companion that it’s difficult not to dwell on the loss itself—but that misses the point of the visit. They’ve returned to tell you not to dwell on their loss, and to know of their peace and happiness. I’ve yet to hear of a single visit where the pet was unhappy.

But some visitations happen before the loss, or just at the time of the loss where you may sense another presence and understand it’s somehow related to your animal companion.

Sally had developed a bony tumor on her lower jaw, and after six months she was in such discomfort that she simply told me one evening that she couldn’t take it any more. I had scheduled an appointment for euthanasia for the early afternoon of a Saturday in June.

We had just lost Fawn in March of that year, and she was still on my mind. Two years previous, we had lost Kublai, my first black cat, the household leader and prince to Sally’s princess and my best friend, and Allegro, our gentle, silly orange boy, two weeks apart. They were my first rescues and the first of the group who had moved in this house with me to leave us, and as Sally neared her end I thought of them more and more.

The day came but did not feel heavy or sad, it was instead a beautiful day, feeling strangely full of promise. I thought perhaps I had prepared myself for this well enough, I knew that Sally was ready, but I had no idea why I wasn’t on the verge of tears, thinking it would hit me all at once at some point in the day.

A butterfly

tiger swallowtail black form

The black butterfly with blue spots

On that lovely, sparkling June morning, Sally and I took our last walk around the garden she had loved, then sat on the deck while the day was still cool. Butterflies were not unusual, but I had noticed a certain black butterfly with blue spots on its wings that kept flying around Sally as we walked, and now that we were on the deck it was visiting all the flowers in the planters and even flying around on the deck. Now and then it would land and slowly spread its wings wide then fold them, and fly off again.

Sally soon tired and the summer heat began to build up on the deck, so we went inside the house.

An exchanged identity

As we walked in I saw Namir on the kitchen island cabinet, and as most of us probably do in greeting our cats I simply said, “Hello, Allegro,” as I gave him a quick pat on the head and walked on behind Sally for a few steps before I realized I had called him by the wrong name. Except that I had seen Allegro in him as I looked at him and felt Allegro’s presence and even then was ready to call him “Allegro” again.

pastel painting of cat on windowsill

Suncatcher, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Namir was a foster who’d arrived two years before, and one year to the day after Allegro had died, and I had always emotionally connected him with Allegro for that coincidence and because he kind of reminded me of Allegro with his quiet silliness and amiable sociability. I had never in two years called him by Allegro’s name, though, and no one would confuse them physically with Allegro’s large rangy build and rich red tabby fur with white patches compared to Namir’s slighter, slender build, dark gray tabby fur with white patches.

While I stood there petting Namir I caught sight of movement outside the door and saw the black butterfly flitting around on the flowers once again.

Sally went to lie down on the cushion next to my desk which she’d been inhabiting for the past few days. I headed for the second floor for a clip to pin up my hair in the increasing heat.

The joy of sunshine

The sun was shining brilliantly through the tall narrow casement facing east, filling the small landing and the stairwell with a cascade of sunlight. Even though it was heating up the house I still found it beautiful and welcoming, and was that a cat I saw playing in the sunbeams and dust motes? Moses perhaps? no, she was downstairs.

cat in sun

Fawn in sun on the landing.

As I walked up the stairs looking into the sunshine I remembered how Fawn had loved just this, the sunlight on the landing, how she would dance around in it, roll around in it, talk about it and call for me, which she always did when she found something she liked. And I realized the kitty I’d seen in the sunlight was Fawn.

And then it all came together—Fawn was there, and Allegro and Kublai too. They were here to welcome Sally and escort her on.

The black butterfly was Kublai’s lustrous black fur, the light blue spots like his light blue-green eyes, hovering around Sally, leading her around the garden then continuing to flutter around her favorite spots when we’d gone inside.

I had called Namir “Allegro” several more times, even when I consciously tried to remember not to. Namir had simply become Allegro for the time.

And the sunshine at the top of the stairs was Fawn, just as surely as anything tangible I knew she was there.

For the first time in a very long time my household felt full again, though counting Sally I had eight cats in the house in a physical sense and it should have felt full already. But it felt complete that I could sense the presences of the three who had passed as if they were just in the next room and that wonderful group who had moved here were once again together.

My regular veterinarian was away that weekend, but I had found another who agreed to make a housecall. She soon arrived and we followed the procedure there on my office floor. Sally, who had always been a very free spirit and resisted being touched or handled willingly submitted to the first shot and quickly fell into a deep sleep, seeming to welcome the relief it would give her.

Leavetaking

I sat with her for a while after the veterinarian had left, quietly stroking her lovely silky white fur. The other cats wandered in and out and took in the experience in their own ways, and I thought about the butterfly, Namir’s identity sharing, and the sunshine, which I could see was waning in the stairwell. I sensed Kublai, Allegro and Fawn in the room and Sally too, then as suddenly as the sun in the stairwell faded they seemed to all sweep up the stairs together and leave. No inkling of them was left. My house felt empty again, Namir was Namir, and I was aware of the quiet of a hot summer afternoon.

Had I really experienced these visits? Was it just the product of wishful thinking, of deeply remembering those recently lost and the comfort of that particular group of cats who were my first teachers? Reality can be a fluid thing in the midst of strong emotions and a certain amount of denial as we tend to be at the time when we accompany one of our beloved animal companions in their transition from this world to the next.

But from that point little visitations continued to happen, reinforcing what I had experienced. Why wouldn’t the bond we had all shared, they with me and, more importantly, they with each other, continue after death? The idea that Kublai, Allegro and Fawn were still around in some form, and that they had come for Sally in forms so joyful and free, was such a comfort to me that I can hardly help but believe it.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


The Balloon

cat peeking out from under bed

Waiting for Mom, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

For the days prior to the Feast of All Hallowed, Samhain, the Day of the Dead and other celebrations of the dimming of the veil between this world and the next, I am sharing a few stories of visitations, the mysterious returns of my cats after they’d transitioned. None are scary, unless you’re afraid of something that isn’t physically there, but all include elements I can’t explain and only accept…and am glad to have experienced.

torbie cat

Fawn

One night in early April, 1988, still with patches of snow on the frozen earth, a very small, very pregnant cat politely but confidently asked me if she could come into my home to give birth to her kittens. Of course I said yes, and I witnessed the entrance to this life of four independent and individualistic progeny. The last one born stayed with me after the others were adopted; the “runt of the litter”, the little cat with the big attitude, a torbie, my Fawn.

Ten years later, a friend sent balloons to my workplace for my birthday. The whole bunch was too big to take home, so I took one home and tied it to a lamp in my studio.

My birthday was also, sadly, the day an exam definitively diagnosed that Fawn’s cancer had come out of remission, and the chances of it responding to treatment a second time were slim.

On the morning I had Fawn put to sleep at home, my veterinarian brought her one-year-old daughter, not having day care accommodations that early in the day, and a friend agreed to babysit the little girl down in the studio while my veterinarian and I were upstairs. They untied the balloon from the lamp and played with it all during that time, then let it float freely around the studio. My other cats didn’t respond to the balloon aside from a few swats at the string, and it came to rest in a corner of the room.

Eight days later, I awoke once again with the daily dread of remembering that my little girl was gone and had not let go very easily, but I didn’t feel the deep sadness which had been with me all that time, especially upon waking. By habit looking over at the jewelry box on top of the chest of drawers where Fawn had spent many sleeping hours during our time in this house, and most of her last few weeks, I noticed the balloon hovering over that spot. Either it had been carried upstairs by one of the other cats or it had made quite a circuitous journey on its own because it was roughly exactly above where it had been hovering on the first floor.

This meant it traveled about ten feet along a wall to the foot of the steps, dipped down a foot to get through the archway, made a u-turn into the stairway and floated up the steps, made a right turn and moved about a foot in that direction while not floating up to the full ten-foot ceiling height so that it could make a jog through my bedroom doorway, turned left and floated about three feet to a spot where there was nothing to hold it in place.

My heart was in my throat, and a little tingle of joy in my heart. I had a sense of what it meant but was not fully awakened to its meaning.

balloon and photographs

The balloon over Fawn's photo

When I came home that day the balloon was still in its spot. I replaced a photograph of Fawn, which I had been carrying back and forth to work, on the sewing machine across the room where I kept photos of family and all the cats I’d lost. Instead of the sadness I had felt in that room I felt a capricious and happy spirit; that had been Fawn’s room since the day we had moved here, and my “yittle girl” always waited for me under the bed, pouncing out when she thought I least expected it and prancing around the room, playing hard to get.

I returned to the room later that evening to find that the balloon had moved across the room and was hovering over Fawn’s picture with the ribbon touching it, where it stayed, on its own, for two weeks until it was completely out of air, lasting much longer than all the others in the original bunch. None of the other cats ever touched the ribbon or the balloon, though they’d normally grab it and run.

pencil sketch of kitty on chair

Fawn wants the ceiling fan.

When Fawn discovered “up” as a kitten, she got “up” on everything as often as possible—narrow shelves on the wall, inside open transoms, on the top edge of an open door, she even had her eye on the ceiling fans. Balancing in place she would call for me to come and see her and gaze down smugly as I praised her, even if she needed my help in getting down.

Fawn was not ready to leave, and I wasn’t ready for her to go. For those eight days I felt her unsettled unhappiness and my own grief would not ease. Fawn chose to return to me as a symbol of cheerful celebration, an object which freely floats as high up in its space as it can, and I can only be reassured that the bond we had when she was here carried on to the next existence, that she loved me enough to let me know she had finally accepted and was enjoying the same antics she always had while here. How else would I be sure it was her, silly human that I am?

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.