We moved to Oregon on Friday, March 17th. The following Tuesday, I dreamed of Drake, whom I wrote about a few entries ago. I don’t remember what exactly, but he said something in it that made me insanely angry. I woke up and my first thoughts were, “Fuck you, Drake. Fuck you and whatever you said.” I felt dumb at being angry at someone who’s passed over years before, with whom I’d made peace before he did. I figured he must have been a symbol for something in me and moved on.
Two days later, things were pretty normal. Both of my cats woke up by throwing themselves at the bedroom door. They demanded food. They fought. Lilith managed to sneak out onto the patio with me when I stepped out, and I caught her before she got under the fence. She walked around the seeds on the Ostara sigil I’d made. She always knew when I was doing Magick and couldn’t resist getting in the middle of it. Then, she took a nap with my husband and climbed on his shoulder, as she liked to do. But that night, we found her laying despondent on her side. We rushed her to an emergency vet who found a nasty, aggressive cancer all over her stomach and intestines which had caused massive internal bleeding. The vet listed our options, none of which promised anything but to prolong our little cat’s suffering in exchange for a small “maybe.” She was in such a weak state, the vet wasn’t even convinced she’d survive five minutes of treatment.
My instinct has always been to try every option in every situation to make something work. I push until I hit cement walls, and then I look for dynamite to blow them up. I started to gird myself for a commitment to an enormous vet bill and a night of prayers just so that I could say that, ‘I tried.’ Then, I remembered the dream about Drake, and the anger at whatever he’d said. I hadn’t dreamed of that man since the night he died, himself. He loved Lily. He was the one who encouraged me to adopt her…or rather, to let her adopt me. Now, I believe he’d come from the grave to warn me about Lily’s passing. Maybe he’d come to take her home.
My husband and I agreed it was time to let her go. We knew in our hearts the blood transfusion, the possible surgery, all of it was prolonging a goodbye we didn’t want to make and that she would likely die alone, connected to machines. We would be there with her when she passed. We petted her, we sang to her (she loved when people sang), and we told her we loved her and that she could come back whenever she wanted to. I felt her life pass out of her tiny body. She was gone.
Some cats are cats. And some cats are people. Lilith was people.
The moments when we meet the people who dig deeper in our hearts are louder than others and the moment I first saw the black pointy ears in the door-window of the restaurant Drake and I frequented was loud. The little kitten was trying to get inside from the porch as it was cold outside. A waitress caught her and gently set her back outside. When Drake and I went out to smoke, the little black kitten sat with us under the heating lamp. The next time we came, she was there again. The waitstaff called her “Mittens” and fed her shrimp, but none of them could take her. Drake said, “You know, you can have a pet in your room.” I thought about it and then called out, “Lil….Lilith?” The little kitten turned and looked at me. “I guess that’s your name.”
I took her home to the tiny room at the theater center. She walked around and seemed to approve of the place, then curled up in my lap and went to sleep.
Despite that sweet little beginning, she became an aggressive little thing. She attacked my feet and hands, sinking her teeth into them so deeply I thought she’d bite straight through, her eyes locked with mine the whole time. “Maybe she’s just a mean cat,” my cousin said when I called to ask what to do. I’d never had a cat before. The vet said “Just scruff her and tell her no!” but Lilith would just look at me like, “What are you going to do about it?” and would sink her teeth in deeper. She was mean. But at the time, so was I. I was also an aggressive soul and looking back, I realized we were both fresh out of survival mode, just this side of feral. We were both trying to adjust to a tiny, containing environment and dealing with claustrophobia and anger at the circumstances that put us in our place. And just like Lilith, I lashed out at those who tried to show me kindness and care.
Witch-lore talks about Familiars as being animals, often black cats, who do the bidding of Witches. Contemporary Witches talk about Familiars frequently–animals they love, animals they’ve had a long time. I can’t go around and judge who is a Familiar and who is not, but I can say this: I love my surviving cat, Matilda. She’s hilarious and adorable and honestly, she was most people’s favorite of our cat-pack when we had three. I can pick up Matilda (most of the time) and hold and squeeze her however I want. She’s always up for a cuddle. Matilda is my beloved pet. Lilith was my Familiar.
It wasn’t always an easy relationship. I loved her, but she was quick to tell me to fuck myself in her own cat-way. She would cuddle with me, when it suited her. I could pick her up, but only for a few minutes. She bit. She scratched. She destroyed things. But she would come to me when I cried. She would run to my side whenever I practiced Magick or even lit my candles on my altar. She would meow when a strange energy came into the room. As I grew kinder and more trusting of people, so did she.
Our first year together, when the weather got warmer and I broke my dependence on Drake, I would go into town and make friends at parties and concerts. She played in the woods–stalking groundhogs and deer. Yes, deer. One day, she came home and although her paws were clean, I knew she’d killed something. There was a confidence in her big green eyes. It probably wasn’t a deer, but she was proud of it. I could click my tongue at the end of the woods and she’d come bounding out and would let me gather her in my arms. No matter how much she explored outside, she came home to eat and sleep in a bed.
She would walk with me some nights. I took her out when it was a full moon and she’d keep close beside me along the path. I’m sure it was super creepy to see the already creepy office girl walk along at night with a black cat at her side. She didn’t wear a harness. She didn’t need one.
One night I did a ritual with some friends in the woods. Lilith came with us, and circle us, standing by each one of us as we offered our intentions in turn.
When we lived with the GlamMa, , she hunted waterbugs. One morning, I woke to find one injured but still alive smack in the center of the archway. Lily stood nearby, watching me collect it–a gift for me. “Nice job, Lilith, but could you kill it next time?” I said, and wadded up the bug in toilet paper and flushed it. When I came back from the bathroom, she’d already found another one. She’d ripped its head off and set it exactly in the same place as the last one as if to say, ‘A dead one. Happy now?’
When I got my own place, she helped me dump a guy. I said, “You can’t come over anymore. This is done.” He said, “But….but….” Lilith jumped into his lap and started kneading his nuts with her claws, looking directly in his eyes. He said something like, “OW! FUCK! OKAY I GET IT! I’M LEAVING!” In that moment, I got a terrible pre-menstrual cramp and cried out, myself. Immediately, Lily jumped to me and began kneading my uterus *without* claws as if to say, I do know what I’m doing. You stay. He leaves.
She loved singing. When people sang in my place, she would rub against them, or even climb to where she could stick her face in their open mouths.
When I had clients come to the house, Lilith would often hide. But if she ran out and jumped into the person’s lap, I would immediately ask, “How long have you been having psychic dreams?” and they would look shocked. “How did you know???” they’d ask. “Lilith told me,” I would explain. Lilith was only interested in naturally Magickal people.
She hated the vet. She got fired from one for being too aggressive. Her second vet knew to sedate her as soon as she arrived as she didn’t only do the kitty-cower-hiss-and-slash routine most cats do. No, she would go on the offense and launch attacks against all techs and vets. She was seven pounds, but it once took three techs to hold her down for a rabies vaccine. “I’ve worked with snow-leopards, but your cat is a hellion,” one tech told us.
Once she helped me realign a friend’s chakras after he’d been through a traumatic period. As he lay and I did the energy work, Lilith curled up on his lower abdomen. Afterward, we both agreed she’d done most of the work.
When I received my Initiation as a Priestess of Brigid and Brigid turned my messed–up life upside down, Lilith knew. I was in Ireland, but my housesitter told me that one morning she’d waked up to find all of my altar items pushed off onto the floor and dragged all over the room. I asked her what date it had happened, and she said the same date as my Initiation, which the housesitter had not known was happening. She also had not known the heartbreak I’d also suffer the same day. But Lilith must have known. She overturned my altar and dragged things everywhere just as Brigid was overturning me and dragging my pieces everywhere, too.
As I fell in love with the man who was to become my husband, so did Lilith. In the end, she preferred his company to mine. I know she loved me, but she danced for Brian when he would come home from work, prancing around on the bed and purring for his attention. Her favorite thing to do was ride his shoulder around the house.
Lilith surveyed every environment looking for a way to escape if she needed to. At the vet, and even in the first apartment my husband and I got together. She was NOT happy about the new place or the addition of a third cat. She sat on a pile of boxes and watched my husband lock the deadbolt. When he walked away, we saw her LITERALLY REACH FOR THE DEADBOLT WITH BOTH HER PAWS, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO TURN THE THING.
When we came to Oregon, we arranged to bring our cats in the cabin with us. We put harnesses and leashes on them because we had to carry them through the body scanners while their carriers were x-rayed. I carried Lily and the symbolism of bringing home the Magick I’d gathered on the East Coast was not lost on me. Of course, Lily tried to run away. Hence, the harness. “No, little girl. You are not running away from me,” I think I said.
If I’d known I only had a few days left with her, I would have let her play all around the patio. I’d worried about her getting away, getting into rat poison, getting into a tangle with a dog. She’d survived in the woods of CT, but she’d been a lot younger. Now, if I’d know, I’d have been like, ‘Live it up, Lil. Enjoy Oregon.’ I would have let her in the bedroom and not given a damn if she clawed the air mattress or knocked my glasses or phone around, which she would do when she wanted me to get up. What will piss Courtney off the most? Ah, yes. These two things…. I would have given her sushi-grade tuna and salmon. I would have skipped the dinners out and eaten sushi at home, sharing with her instead of constantly trying to keep it away from her unabashed fish-thievery.
There’s a hole in my heart, a piece euthanized on a Thursday night. I don’t want this pretty box of ashes. I don’t want the sweet paw-print. I don’t want the fur clipping. I want Lilith–my friend, my Familiar, the seven pound witness to my time and work on the East Coast, black and slinky and beautiful. I got my life together because of her. I couldn’t make stupid choices that would make me homeless or broke. There was someone I had to keep it together for. She was the chorus or maybe the narrator of the journey I had out East-through the fleeing, the anger, the dead-ends, the ecstacy, the Magick, the carousel of identities, friends, lovers, and finally, the love of my life who became the love of her life, too. She saw me home. And then she went home, too.
A few nights ago, I dreamed I took her out of that harness. I know what that means. She is no longer tethered to my soul, but like she used to run through the woods, I hope she will sometimes come back for a respite. There are no woods she can’t run through, now. No groundhogs she can’t chase, no doors she can’t open. And no matter where she goes, I will be here to scoop up that little Spirit whenever she needs it.
Thanks for reading. This is really hard.