We Learn to Heal Together

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“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”  ~  Carl Sagan

I don’t know what got into me this morning. Mind all over the field, seemingly detached from the cold. I keep this room in the low 60ºs. It’s there now but  .  .  .  I feel the chill but because it is natural it is pretty much alright with me. There’s a mild level of dissociation having its way with me, which is when “I am beside myself” goes clinical. It has been that way for me, on and off, and on and off, and now, and again, ever since the head trauma, 30-some years ago. Dang it. If you ever see me moving just a bit too deliberately you are seeing me like I am this morning. Please do not tell me it is like this for everyone. You will have misunderstood me, and I will probably just walk away. It is best, most kind, to not downplay mental illness when an active episode is in process. This morning I am well aware what triggered this mild spell of what I might call “else-ness”. It’s one of those infernal crowd herding algorithms of theirs. It’s that memories thang. ‘One year ago today’ sorta thang. Geez, I need to step outside and get a blast of really really cold air. Bisy backson.

It’s sweet this morning. I feel flush full of beauty. It is a coping mechanism, for sure, but it is also a fact of life. The Beauty Way. Those memories that Facebook dropped in my lap are from my cattery days, just one year ago. I followed Facebook and ended up reading some of my blog posts from around last New Year. I rarely go back that far to review posts. But what it provided me with is a manner of clarity that I welcomed with open arms. It gave me a sense of continuity. I so often lack that. As Grandma Preston, the maternal granny, sometimes said, “no sense, no feeling”. So, I was able to lay out the period from New Year to when I was discharged from the animal shelter, as if on a workbench, or a photographer’s studio table better, and the images on the light box made the path clear, which it most certainly did not feel at the time, leaving me with verification, veridical confirmation, of the trail that brought me where I am today. That means more than it might seem.

Today’s opening photo, today’s spokesmodel, is Stella. When she was first brought into the shelter, on a Saturday, all I could manage was a sense of wonder and astonishment at having the single most, largest, female cat I have ever seen delivered into my hands. My coworker and I did the compulsory examination then put the cat into an intake cubicle while we decided what to do. Usually, if you can, you do an intake procedure. We were honestly too intimidated to do the procedure. A major rule of caregiving is that if you are uncomfortable handling an animal you get someone else to do it. Cats sense your feelings. This was a 15lb. black cat, with eyes that spoke of things only a cat would know. And she had in her eyes a faint bit of that fibrous growth that some rare cats have from birth. In Stella’s eyes the fibers looked like distant stars. Thus her name. I named her. Memories. Thanks, Facebook.

I’ve included, after the tagline on this post, an excerpt from my book. The passage is written in the third person to emphasize the mythos that runs so deep and strong in this anecdote. Hermes, the cat in this tale, brought out in me one of the seemingly miraculous after effects from my NDE. This tale is from within a year after the NDE. In her amazing book, international bestseller, The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences, Dr. Penny Sartori referred to this tale as an example of the healing powers that came from the NDE. This excerpt was not included in Penny’s book, but she read my book and she told me that this was one of the more impactful things, as it related to her research into the after effects. But back to the cat – Hermes was totally incontinent after his accident. In spite of the stench I had him sleep at my side each and every night, stretched out full and pressed against my body. I was not even one year off a traumatic head injury and Hermes was fresh off of a trauma of his own. I felt compelled to meld with him, to fully engage, to bring us together in symbiosis, so that my internal wisdom toward healing would be fully available to the animal. We had both friggin nearly died. I reckoned it was something we could do together. The point of my telling here is that this incident, this anecdote, displays clearly where my skill with cats came from. Sure, I was born with it, but this event took it up to a whole new level. Hermes was named after the Greek God Trickster and messenger. The cat ended up being true to his namesake. He and I walked into the land of Mythos together. It did us both some good, right? We learned to heal together.

Peace out, y’all. Goof gloriously.

Hermes was born in an oceanfront house trailer that was well on it’s way to rack and ruin. His mother was a young mackerel tabby whose own mother was a truly remarkable cat. The grandma wandered in through the open door of the trailer one oppressively hot August afternoon, no doubt looking for some food and shade. Beyond all doubt she had found the accommodations to be acceptable, up to and including the man who lived there. 

Unlike his mother and aunts Hermes was born with a coat of ginger and white. He had the kind of amber eyes that always looked sleepy. His grandma was the stunner in the family, coat of sleek French blue-gray, green eyes, with a lithe demeanor. And Hermes was the first male in the clutter of cats.

Coming up on his first tom-season at around six months of age Hermes wandered off as some tomcats do. The man didn’t think much of the absence, reckoning that the young tom would return of his own accord when he was damn well good and ready. One day passed. Then two. Then three. The cat did not return.

On the fourth day the man was sitting on the rattan couch inside the trailer, reflectively deep into reading, as was his preference in the heat of the day, when he heard a very strange sound in the distance. It was a faint shuffling sound, reminiscent of  a balloon made of sand paper being blown up, steadily and surely. At first the man thought that he was imagining the sound, or interpreting some run-of-the-mill sound in an odd way, but he soon noticed that the four cats who were lounging about the living room of the trailer all came out of a logey slumber at the exact same moment, clearly aroused to sharp wakefulness by the tiny sound that had pulled the man’s attention away from his book. All four cats turned their head to gaze intently in the exact same direction.

The man was quick to rise to the occasion, having been thoroughly flushed with chills at the cats’ unified awakening. He ran out of the trailer, barefoot, down the ragged wooden steps of the porch and around to the side where the cats were gazing. Something was moving sluggishly through the grass on the other side of the clearing beside the trailer. Of course it was the young tom! Of course!

Hermes was dragging himself through the grass using only his front legs for propulsion. His hind quarters lay like of lump of meat being pulled along by the sheer willpower of the young cat, eyes glazed and vivid with agony, and lungs huffing with power. The man was sickened by the sight but he did not falter as he scooped the cat up into his arms, urine trickling from the tom’s seemingly inert rump, and carried him urgently into the trailer for examination. 

One look deep into the animal’s imploring eyes convinced the man of the gravity of the injuries. The stench became unimportant in light of the expression of the cat which came as a low moan that made it perfectly clear that Hermes was unsure of his own survival, on the edge of death, asking for help. And he got his way. The man took the cat to the veterinarian where he was held overnight for observation.

When the man called the vet’s office the next day to check on the cat’s condition the veterinary assistant said, “Hold on, Mr. Ebert. I think the doctor should talk to you himself”. Was the cat dead?

Soon came the news: “Ken, I had a dream about your cat last night. I rarely dream of an animal so I wanted to tell you myself – your cat will be okay, but it will take him a very, very long time”. 

Somehow, the man took the news as if the doctor was speaking of him, the man, and not the cat.

Weeks later one of Hermes’ aunts took to capturing and killing seagulls which she would then carry back to the trailer from the shoreline, wings spread, over which the cat stepped carefully in dragging the carcass, the body nearly as big as she was. Hermes returned to walking fairly soon but he walked with spastic shivers, a heart-wrenching sight. Still, his nose worked just fine when his aunt brought back the gull. Hermes followed the smell and wandered, jerking and wobbling, to find the dead bird. As the cat approached the carcass, the man watched. Presently, the man realized that he was beholding a miracle! When the cat’s instincts kicked in, as the animal began to cautiously stalk the prey, all signs of spasticity vanished. The cat became graceful in perfect well-managed motion. 

Yes, when instinct kicked in it overrode the effects of the recent traumatic injury, overrode the jerky carriage of an animal that survived being hit by a car, and replaced sad frustration with quintessential grace.

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