Photo by Brian Mercer
Following is a story written by cat dad, author and senior editor at Author Magazine, Brian Mercer. I have communicated with all 3 of his cats including Emily and am amazed by all the ways his beloved Lucy showed Brian that she was still with him after her passing. I'm thrilled Brian graciously agreed to share his story of Lucy who came back to him as Emily. Please enjoy this wonderful reminder that our beloved animal companions never really leave us and often actually do come back to us again.
The Story Goes On
by Brian Mercer
Lucy died in my arms.
For months I'd looked on helplessly as she withered. I watched her lose weight, watched her fur grow dull and matted, watched her get weaker and weaker. Lucy was weeks shy of her seventeenth birthday, but I didn't think she was going to make it that long.
The vet had diagnosed her with pancreatic cancer two months before. On some level, I must have known she was sick. Six months prior to her diagnosis, when she was apparently well, I had been reading ebooks about animals and the afterlife. Lucy was getting old but had always been relatively healthy. Until now.
The night before she died--a Sunday--she slipped into a sort of coma. Every once in a while she twitched or cried out, as if to let us know she was still with us. I had hoped she would pass away quietly on her own, but she was hanging on. It was becoming clear that we would have to help her along. Unfortunately, the vet wouldn't be open until morning. There was nothing to do but be there for her and wait.
That night a thunderstorm passed through Seattle. A rarity. The room would suddenly fill with surreal bursts of light but without any succeeding thunderclap. I half-expected Lucy to slip away during one of these brilliant flashes, but she lingered on until morning. As soon as we could, my wife and I took Lucy to the vet one last time, where she passed away in my arms.
Coming home without her was almost more than I could handle. For nearly seventeen years she had always been in the house, and now she was gone. Our two remaining cats, Mrs. Claws and Wilson--Birmans both--didn't seem to notice at first, but Wilson, who had rarely left her side during the weeks she'd grown weaker, took to looking for her at nighttime. After lights out, instead of playing with Lucy, the way he had always done, he wandered the basement. His forlorn meows as he searched in the dark were heart wrenching.
The day after Lucy died, I was on a flight to New York to attend a writers' conference. It had been tough to leave so soon after her passing, but simultaneously good to be away from the sense of emptiness that filled the house.
Late on my second night in New York, I returned to my hotel and pulled out my iPad. I had meant to open the iBooks app to look up some of the novels published by the authors I'd met that day. When I opened the app, an ebook I hadn’t read for months inexplicably opened. The book was Animals in Spirit by Penelope Smith.
This didn't seem possible. Yes, books opened automatically when you opened iBooks, but only books that were currently being read. I’d read a half-dozen books since Animals in Spirit, yet it opened without my intervention. I looked down at the page: Chapter 7: Guilt and Grieving.
“When animals enter our life," it read, "we start on a journey filled with adventure, learning, and love. The animals reach deep into us and change us in ways that can hardly be described. We grow in love. And upon their leaving, we are lost, devastated. Over time, we explore the story and see the meaning, and stand in awe of these remarkable beings. What an honor they give us when they walk a part of our lives with us.”
The chapter went on to describe the death and dying process from the animal’s point of view and suggested exercises for coping with and letting go of the experience. It was just what I needed to hear, almost as if Lucy was trying to send me a message and help my grieving process from wherever she was.
A few nights later, shortly after I'd gone to bed, I was in that state between dreaming and waking, when I heard an inner voice repeating again and again. I’m always with you. I’m always with you. I’m always with you.
I woke a little startled. The voice was in my head, but it didn't seem to be mine. I closed my eyes, exhausted, drifting off again. The inner voice was back. I love you. I love you. I love you, it repeated again and again and again.
I opened my eyes. Part of me wondered if this might be a message from Lu, but mostly I was too exhausted to think much about it. Again, I plunged to the edge of sleep and, again, the voice returned: I’ll be back. I'll be back. I'll be back.
I had read dozens of accounts of beloved pets being reborn to be with their people again. The first was in Richard Bach's memoir Bridge Across Forever. One night Bachman had an out-of-body experience shortly after falling sleep. Gazing down at the two cats curled up next to him on the bed, he realized from his out-of-body perspective that they were two cats that he had had before.
The books I had read more recently also mentioned this phenomenon, especially Animals in the Afterlife by Kim Sheridan. Frequently, when owners contacted their recently deceased pets via animal communicators, the pets would announce their intention to reincarnate to be with their owners again. This always excited the grieving owner, but invariably the owner would ask the pet, "But how will I find you?"
The answer from the pet was always the same, "I will find you."
The next spring found my wife and me on our way to the breeder were we had adopted our last two cats. Despite my sense that Lucy would find us, it seemed logical that she would try to meet us there.
We had been waiting for this moment for months, but on the way to the breeder's we encountered an unexpected traffic snarl. Seattle is known in part for its traffic, but not on Sunday mornings. It only became an issue when we arrived late to the breeder's house. We had thought the appointment to view the kittens would just be the two of us, but when we pulled up to the curb there were several cars parked near the breeder's driveway.
Two families had also shown up to look at the kittens but, unlike us, they had arrived on time. There were six kittens in all, three boys and three girls. When we walked into the house, someone was already writing a check for one of the male kittens. In another part of the living room, a second family--grandma, mom and two young girls--were examining two of the three females, trying to decide between them. Kittens crisscrossed the room like billiards on a pool table after the first break. I felt a terrible sense of unease. How were we going to find Lucy now?
I needn’t have worried. At that moment a kitten walked directly up to my wife and let us pick her up. We had found our cat. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that she found us.
Right away our new kitten, Emily, began exhibiting behaviors and characteristics similar to Lucy. Anyone who has a close relationship with a pet knows that all animals have a distinct personality and even if a breed shares general qualities, they all have different habits and a unique energy. Emily definitely shared Lucy’s spirit and the more time that went by, the more examples we’d get of how similar the two cats were.
It wasn't just that they liked to sit in the same places, do the same things. There were very specific episodes that led me to believe that Lucy and Emily shared the same soul:
It was so nice to be reunited with Lucy, yet there was one thing I wasn't prepared for. Before we adopted Emily, when I’d thought of Lucy’s return, I’d expected the crusty old cat that I’d grown to know and love, the cat that was losing her hearing, who would patter silently up behind me and meow loud enough for her to hear her own voice, scaring the crap out of me.
What I didn’t anticipate was Lucy-as-kitten. Little Emily was so much like the little kitten that my wife and I had picked out at the animal shelter eighteen years before. Emily was the same yet not the same, an old soul in a new body. And as much as she is like Lu, this little furry being is a new story, having new experiences, making new memories, creating new relationships with her housemates, cats and humans alike.
Though physical bodies fail, the story goes on.
For info about Brian Mercer's books, his blog, interviews and other projects click here: www.brianmercerbooks.com/ For the luminaires reading, check out Brian interviewing Jamie about her book With Love and Light.
I would like to discuss instinct. All animals have it, including humans. When we choose to incarnate, our bodies come with certain innate behavior patterns according to our species. For example dogs feel a desire to dig in the dirt. Cats "bury" their food by swiping their paw on the ground even though they are not actually burying it. Horses are technically "prey" animals and are very sensitive to their surroundings, even when there are no predators nearby. This also includes how we humans react to things, like perceived threats or real danger. Consider how our heart rate goes up when we narrowly avoid being in a car accident. We are ok, but it takes our body a moment to calm down and realize it. This is a reaction we have no control over.
Instinct is something we have to take into consideration when asking our companion animals to perform certain behaviors. When I communicate with them (& their "higher self", & their guides) and their message comes across in words or images and it can "feel" like they are also "human" since the telepathic connection is translating the energetic message through my brain. They are aware of everything going on and the situation their humans are asking about. However this does not mean they can always immediately (or ever) change their behavior and when they are willing to try it often requires compromise and willingness on the part of the human to make certain changes.
For example many dogs have a strong desire to protect us and they feel a need to bark when someone approaches their yard. If your fence is solid and they can't see through it, this may cause anxiety because it is an "unseen possible danger" they hear going by. There are now small "portholes" that can be installed in fences that are like tiny windows so your dog can see who goes by and this is reassuring. Cats are very territorial and there are several steps that need to be taken to introduce a new cat to the household. Few cats will respond well to a newcomer simply "showing up." This would be like when we come home if we found a stranger sitting on our couch and eating our dinner. Imagine how our bodies would react to this-fear/danger, confusion, anger? Probably all of these.
So if our cat companions indicate that they would be willing to accept a new cat into the household during a communication (with yourself or with a professional animal intuitive) we still have to take into account the fact that they are in cat bodies and be patient with them as they allow their bodies to adapt to the new situation. There is a lot written about animal behavior and great guidelines for many of these situation.
I believe the ideal course of action is to combine direct communication with your animal companion with education about the particular behaviors and needs that are instinctive to their species. Sometimes they will mention these instincts during sessions with me, for example puppies explaining that their bodies are not quite ready to "hold it" & wait until they are let out to go to the bathroom. This takes time for them to build up to. Of course if your adult animal companion has this issue it is important to have them checked out by a vet first to make sure there isn't a medical issue.
An interesting point I recently heard on an interview with one of the authors of "The Trainable Cat," Sarah Ellis, is that instinctually dogs tend to associate safety with their person while a cat's sense of safety is strongly tied in to their home/territory. This is why it is harder for many cats to travel to the vet (or anywhere) than it is for dogs. One suggestion the book offers is always having their travel crate out, so that they use it as a cat bed and that way it smells like home (and safety) and when they do have to travel somewhere it will offer more comfort. This also explains why the dog in the photo above, which I took at a holiday parade event, appears comfortable in his dad's arms despite the chaotic situation around them.
With every single situation, the absolute most important thing to remember is to be loving and patient and to only use positive reinforcement. It is so helpful to connect with them and find out why it is happening. Some behavioral techniques out there mention "scaring" your animal when they are doing something you don't want them to do, with for example a loud noise, or spraying them with water. This will make them afraid of you. Please never do anything to intentionally frighten them -this is not the way to try to stop a behavior.
Even though we are their parents (or best friends, caretakers, guardians) and they are our equals in every way, they have different instincts than human kids so it is helpful to understand this and try to see situations from their unique individual and species perspectives. We can love them as our family members while acknowledging & honoring their species-specific instincts.