Monday, April 19, 2010

The Purr in the Dark

In the dark and silence of our nights, I would wake up and find two intense eyes right in front of mine, staring benevolently; once the shock was gone, I would listen to his purr and smile.  He would sit on my chest driven by some obscure interest and watch me sleep.  My dreams were alive in his eyes with the mysterious exchange of our two psyches merging in the middle of the night.

We named him Mimi, a short for Minet, the French nickname for cats.  Pretty generic but so natural to me and pleasant to the cat's ears. He came to me when he pleased with the wonderful independence of cats imbued with a sense of self that inspired me always to be only my own person.

Who gave them this complete sense of personal ease, of simple pleasure like finding the plushest cushion or the place in the morning sun to lick his fur and, pleased with the world, fall asleep, ears in tune with the wind?

Mimi thrilled me with his elegant form and the simple grace of his movements as he went about living like a regal self all over the house. I watched him move to the innumerable places he liked. I could not have chosen better. The higher ones were best.  He was  a red tabby, big, an orangey shade that I loved with the amber eyes that seemed to echo some of my most hidden dreams and whiskers forever moving, in tune with the days. 

My husband and I had to leave once and my niece found a
coworker to come and check on him.  As they reached the top of my entrance stairs, he told her "I though there was nobody here!"  Mimi's steps resonated on our cushioned floor like the ones of an intruder pacing the floor.  The man was astonished.  How could a cat make so much noise? Mimi was taking his morning walk, strolling the house.

We got him in Miami, Florida.  After moving here in Colorado, he looked at our decks covered in snow with total disbelief.  A medium he had never seen.  He went out reluctantly and once in the white stuff, he shook his legs, looking at the snow in dismay and shaking it off his paws until he got totally used to it.  Since then he would go out in the cold and white garden as if it was his territory of choice.

I let him free.  I watched him from the deck while he roamed the outdoors, smelled the flowers, got an occasional bird, chased butterflies, established his territory and reigned like a benevolent monarch upon his land.

He oftentimes would accompany me in the garden while I pulled a plant from its roots or collected weeds in my basket.  He was silent and gentle but his strength was never in doubt.

I refused to put him to sleep.  I thought he should die in his time, like humans do, with dignity and the knowledge that he lived well and that his life had come to an end.  He came one evening to my studio and purred in a diminished body then went outside the door and was no more.

I wrapped his body in one of my shawls and stayed with him until my husband returned.  It was dark and I loved him.

We buried him in the garden but at night, in my dreams, he comes to visit, silent with huge amber eyes watching me sleep.  I know he helps in healing my body, straddling me like he did years ago when I was sick while his purr would absorb all the pain.          


  1. Dear Micheline,
    I love cats, but cannot have one because of alergies ...but to read the description of your life with Mimi is just wonderful. I have a friend that has 4 cats and one of them is sick right now and she thinks he might be close to the end and she has a hard time dealing with it; so I think I'm going to send her your article, it might help her.
    Micheline, in LC

  2. My dearest Micheline,
    What a lovely muse you had in Minet. Yes, I am sure he is with you. As a very small child I had a huge longhaired butterscotch kitty. He had white boots and swirls of white on his chest. His whiskers were at least 4 inches long on each side of his pink nose. He was majestic and gentle! I was always thrilled by his purr--his contented message. One day I picked up the scissors and gave one side of his whiskers a TRIM! My mother found me out and told me never to do that again because Scotty would never be able to walk straight with lop-sided whiskers! I believed her. Scotty was safe at last. Thank you for gifting me with this memory. I miss Scotty and I miss my beloved mother.

  3. Michou,
    Thank you for this beautiful narrative. My daughter is a "cat" person and she had few in Haiti. Moustache was the first one and we added Sphinx. Each litter we fell in love and kept one kitty. That's how we ended up with quite a large feline family. It was so hard to leave them behind when we moved to the States. They were given to various friends and neighbors and to this day they are deeply missed. I will share your story with my daughter.

  4. Your tender story of Mimi, from his purr and stare in the dark, to his nap in the sun and leg shake in the snow are word pictures that you eloquently share with others in describing your affection and joy in sharing life with a cat.

    "To die with dignity", a value which you extend to Mimi in his old age, tells much of your own beliefs and strength of character. A lovely and touching story not only for cat lovers but for everyone everywhere. Charlie

  5. Micheline, Your line: "He came to me when he pleased with the wonderful independence of cats imbued with a sense of self that inspired me always to be only my own person." resonates and reverberates in my soul because I know how amazing it would be if we as people were able to always inspire others to be only their own person. How can we be anyone or anything else, yet a major communication that we get through the media all the time is that we are not enough just as we are. Thank you for reminding me that I am entitled to be my own person :-) !! Sending you tons of love!!

  6. Loved the reflection on life with your kitty. It was sad, but made me smile, too. I've had a cat most of my life and love the great creatures that they are.

  7. That we outlive our furry family members is one of the hardest lessons we learn as kids—doesn't seem to get any easier as we get older. Sorry for your loss and thank you for such a lovely portrait.


  8. Fierce yet gentle, prideful, graceful, intuitive and lovers of all that feels good... this is a cat. They teach us so much just by being.. it is no wonder we have never lived long without one.

    Mimi, like all cats, was his own man, and I still remember how you called me all the way in Panama to tell me he had died, and where you buried him. I am so glad that he was able to go peacefully, in his own time - What a gift of love.

    It is amazing to me how we stretch ourselves for this thing We push ourselves to the very edge and venture into the uncharted, to love, for love, because of love.

    Thank you for sharing your heart, and thank you Mimi, for letting us be your humans while on this plane.