We said goodbye to our beloved Clio kitty on February 17, 2016 at 11:44 p.m. She lived a long 18 and a half years for a tough girl who had her share of health woes along the way. Clio was named after the muse of history and for a kitten born to a couple of lower north side strays, the story of her life takes her far beyond her humble beginnings on the corner of 4th and 4th north.
She was the first born of the tiny litter of four and from the moment I laid my eyes on her I wanted this cat. John and I were getting married and had just found the sweetest little pumpkin shell house right on the edge of town. We had about a ¼ acre yard which was completely surrounded by a lilac hedge. The yard would be perfect for the kids to play in and a kitty would be perfect for our family as we began a new chapter of life together.
The small litter of four was born in the wee hours of early June on the very same birthday of our friend, James who rescued their mother! Three gray kittens surrounded by one gorgeous brown tabby, who was clearly the Queen of the heap. Their mother, Persephone was a Siamese looking stray so the Siamese boy and two gray tabbies were to be expected, but Clio stood out like something extraordinary. There was a fluffy jet black cat with huge emerald eyes who hung around the old row house apartments where the kittens were born. I’m pretty sure he was the papa, all the girls got his eyes.
I had first pick of the litter after James who had already said that the brown tabby would be his. I went to pick out my kitty and Luna, a gray tabby who was the runt would squirm up to the top of the heap every time I went to visit. She had clearly laid her claim on me and who was I to argue? I was in love with these little cuties and perfectly happy to take Luna home after we returned from our Honeymoon. When I arrived in mid-July to pick her up, James informed me that he couldn’t keep the brown tabby, after all. I made the executive decision that two kittens were better than one and scooped up my brown and gray tabbies.
Clio became the true joy of our family. Everybody loved Clio. Her classic tabby cuteness coupled with her big green eyes drew people in, but it was her inherent sweetness that stole their hearts. Her purr was like a DC10, a loud, steady humming of happiness. She looked like a bruiser with her broad shouldered stance (and probably some Bengal in her cat-mutt blood) and her gravely meow which sounded like she hit the whiskey and cigars quite heavily. The juxtaposition of her alley cat pedigree with her sweet personality was something we laughed about a lot. Because as anyone who knew her can attest, she was a being of pure love.
Our cats, Luna and Clio were born in my hometown and I moved them to Bozeman where we lived happily in our pumpkin shell house for about four years. They made the trek to Oregon with us and we all enjoyed 10 rainy years between Eugene and Portland. Oregon is where we all learned what fleas were and forgot what snow was. Through the discontinuity of shuffling between homes and summers away in Minnesota, the cats provided a fluffy homecoming to the children every time they returned to Oregon. Eventually we moved back to my hometown in Montana and the cats took up residence a mere five blocks from their birthplace, but what is more they wound up living right next door to the other two cats from their litter, their brother, Frankie and sister, Princess!
I always vowed not to upset the pecking order of our pets and when we adopted the cats it was understood that they would be filling our families pet quota. No more kittens or dogs or whatever until the cats had lived their hopefully very long lives. We did wind up acquiescing on a couple of ill-fated hermit crabs for the youngest and the best of these intentions came quickly crashing down about five years ago when my mother died and we decided to adopt my parents toy poodle, Boru. Our now three senior pets were absolute champs at adapting to one another.
Clio was a fortunate cat who knew the value of a warm patch of sunlight and she could often be found basking joyfully in the garden. She had an uncanny ability to comfort the saddest of souls with her purring sounds, no doubt emitting some kind of healing frequency with their vibration. There were times I am sure she was talking to me, passing on her own messages, as well as those of others I know beyond the veil.
Her health had known ups and downs since she was a kitten. Our vet bills were so high in the first year of her life we called her the ‘Golden Cat.’ A hip operation left her quite klutzy for her entire life. Her weight went up and down as a result of her physical problems and until we finally adopted a strict carnivore diet for our cats she was always struggling with grain in her diet. Unfortunately that discovery came too late to prevent diabetes and her eventual renal failure. What we were able to provide her with were several new leases on life along the way. God love her, Cleo was definitely a cat who used up all of her 9 lives.
I thought she might really die on Chinese New Year. I prayed that she wouldn’t. I wasn’t ready to let her go and this year is supposed to be luckiest for Rabbits. John and I are both rabbits (some systems say cats, too) and Clio dying right then seemed like not such great luck. John really thought that she would die on Valentine's day. Thankfully she didn’t. That would just have sucked. My deceased mother’s birthday was the 16th and that already being an annually bleak one, it seemed like a good day for her to go, if she had to. In retrospect I know the signs of how close she truly was. I’ve never actually seen anything or anyone die before Clio.
Clio claimed the downstairs hall closet when we moved into this house. She was happiest here and that’s where we always went first to find her. I had slept downstairs the night before, after deciding she should have a last night in her closet. I was actually kind of praying she would just peacefully pass in her sleep as much as it disturbed me to think of putting an alive kitty in the closet and finding a dead one there in the morning. At dawn she wobbled out of the closet, but it was just too much exertion and she toppled over onto her side. She had spent her last night in her favorite place. I knew it would be her last day.
I read about how to make a bed for her and try to keep her as comfortable as possible. A nice big box on its side, lined with a heating pad and blankets to keep her old bones warm seemed to be the consensus. The most heartbreaking thing was watching her once mighty roar of a meow silenced to a hoarse whisper. I struggled to find the right way to keep her comfortable as she seemed to want to get up, but truly couldn’t move more than a step. I held her on my chest many times throughout the day fearing each time I set her down would be the last.
As the sun was setting on her last day John and I wrapped her up and took her out on the front porch. I spoke to her about her fantastic journey and how happy I was that she was here where she had started her journey on earth. What a fun ride we had with our sweet Clio Catra, Queen of the wild frontier!
We came inside and I laid her on the soft window seat away from the other cat and the dog. Throughout the day I noticed that although her eyes were always open she was more often than not really present when I looked at her. On that bench, just after sunset we shared our last truly connected moments when she could still look into my eyes, or ‘hold my hand’ like she would when I touched the pads of her feet. We had a few fleeting moments of connection and so much was relayed in those mere seconds. Her body was worn out and she was tired, but she didn’t really want to leave us any more than we wanted her to go. It was so hard for all of us to let go.
I had been crying so hard all day I think I was upsetting her, I thought to myself that I would probably be really awful at anyone’s deathbed because I seriously couldn’t stop crying all day and it just got worse the closer she got to death. When I knew she was really leaving I began smudging the house and her body. I lit candles and cleared the energy around her body. I called upon three of my most important mother guides: Mama Bear, my ancestral mother and the mother of this land. My prayer to them was to help Clio’s physical transition to be quick and peaceful, to protect her spirit on her journey and to guide her safely through this portal.
I literally felt the last breaths of her body escape into the palm of my hand as I was stroking myf favorite little patch on her forehead and she looked up, gasped twice and then quit breathing. I had read not to get up and leave their body right away as their hearts haven’t stopped beating and it is confusing and upsetting to them. In other words, she had stopped breathing, but was now dying. John and I both surrounded her and petted her and called her name and just told her over and over how much we loved her. John noticed the light around her body glowing a faint silver color just before her heart stopped beating and then she was gone.
We sat with her body for a few moments and then wrapped her in the purple scarf she claimed with the closed she’d moved into. We set her up in the window seat and decided to sleep downstairs again. I just couldn’t really imagine leaving her body so I lit candles and burned more palo santo. I sprinkled white sage around her sweet little body and adorned her with the geranium flowers that were blooming in the house. We held vigil with our little sweetheart all night. I slept fitfully, knowing we would have to bury her in the morning.
We were able to give our Queen a royal burial and I am comforted knowing she is nestled into her bed, cradled by tree roots, surrounded by feathers, shells, flowers, crystals, magic and medicine. We laid her to rest in a beautiful impromptu funeral which honored her body thoughtfully by preparing the land physically and energetically to receive her body and escort her over the rainbow bridge. El Nino weather patterns have had the daily high temperature holding steady at around 50 degrees for most of February, a month in which we typically experience a two week sub zero snap (that means, like minus 50 degrees. below zero.) All of this to say the ground was not frozen and that was a small blessing at an otherwise dismal time.
When one names a kitten Clio they should expect her to have quite a storied life! Even in her death, Clio has taught me so much. Everything about her has been a gift, all along. In the moments and days after her passing we can already tell how changed our life is. This house is just not the same without her playful spirit. For one thing it’s just a lot quieter and we miss that raspy ol meow of her’s terribly. Rest in Peace, sweet girl. Thank you so much for all the joy and love you brought to our family.