The Magic of Merlin’s Forest

Can you die of a broken heart?

How are our thoughts manifested in our actions?

In my thoughts I live alone.  I and the universe are one.

I am not the center of the universe but what I know about the universe is centered on me.

I/me is an artificial construct, a set of states of energy that has circuitry which reflects the set back upon itself like a funhouse mirror.

Over the past few months, I have consciously made choices about where I sleep at night.

During the cold months of winter, I slept in the sunroom, closing the door to the house to keep the cold out.

But closing the door also kept Merlin and Erin from seeking me as a nighttime companion.

I could sense they were upset, easily so — they started pooping near the sunroom door.

Merlin gave me what I can only describe anthropomorphically as pouting looks.

Then, as Erin got sick and I paid extra special attention to him to try to get him well, Merlin seemed to enter a longterm depression.

He, too, got sick.

He seemed to have given up.

But in the last two weeks of his life, I devoted more attention to him and he perked up a little.

However, he was too far gone at that point.

I knew it and he knew it.

He drank a lot of water and ate less food.

Then, in the last week of his life, he could barely jump up on the sofa to sleep with me.

In the last few days, he could only walk a few steps at a time and had to rest.  He plopped down in front of the water bowl and laid his head on the lip of the bowl to dip his tongue just enough to wet his whistle.

Yesterday, he had to drag himself up on the sofa.  He looked sad.  I knew it was only a matter of hours before he died.

I cleaned his ears with Q-tips one last time.  I wiped the dried mucus from his eyelids.  I wet a paper towel and cleaned the dried cat food from his chin.

He did his best to purr.  A tiny rattling sound.

He rubbed the top of his head against my chin or, rather, attempted to, jerking his head from side to side.

His hind legs began to stiffen.

Erin tried to join us one last time but Merlin’s spasms made it difficult for the three of us to settle down together.

I sit in one of Merlin’s favourite spots on a sofa in the sunroom, sunshine touching the edge of the sofa where this time of year Merlin used to drape his head over the edge to warm his ears and top of his head.

Erin sleeps despondently in the living room, wrapped in the fleece blanket in which Merlin died yesterday.

It is a very quiet day.  Not a bird singing or a car passing by.  Just the clicks and pops of the expanding roof and walls of the sunroom.

A goldfinch checks out the empty bird feeders, trying to find one last seed to eat, no felines perched on the cat stand to chatter and stare.

I piled rocks on top of Merlin’s grave this morning.  Between burying him in the dark last night and the rain shower this morning, a large limb broke off the giant oak tree under which I placed Merlin’s body in two small cardboard boxes taped together in the shape of a child’s cash register toy, a printed copy of Merlin’s purchase receipt listing birth and death sealed in a plastic sandwich bag and taped to the box.

As I arranged the rocks, I noticed black beetles and black flies around the burial site.  Fresh food for them and their offspring…the cycle of life continues.

I felt like I was in a horror story or movie last night, a battery-powered lantern hanging from a tree limb as I shoveled forest soil to make a hole, black humus mixed with freshly-fallen leaves covering the first few inches I dug, followed by Tennessee Valley red clay, rocks and roots.

I retired from an office job in 2007 and have spent the better part of my life since then living in this house with two cats.

One of them is gone.

No more my wife and I keeping open containers of drinking water out of reach of Merlin’s head.

No more Merlin curling up into the crook of my left armpit in bed on a cold night.

No more Merlin stretching out in the sunny spots of the house, his brother joining him.

No more soft fur like a velveteen rabbit, a unique smell up against my nose when he decided to sleep on the pillow next to my head.

My daily house companion of the past seven years, a part of my peak work years, happy to see me when I got home, is gone.

No matter how miserable his life had been the last few months, Merlin looked into my eyes at the end and fought to stay alive a little longer.

Why did I shut you out so much lately, Merlin?  I was not tired of you.  I was tired of myself having given up on my life that I couldn’t bear to let you see me this way, an unpleasant house companion.  Yet, you asked for me at the end.  You chose to die in my arms, no one else’s.

I was the world to that cat, a set of states of energy just like any other that became life, a bundle of cells symbiotically attuned to keep on living no matter what.

We qualify the meaning of life.

In fact, when I returned to the house after burying Merlin, I saw a horse fly on the ceiling in the kitchen, minding its own business, cleaning its wings and I killed it because I abhor the stinging sensation of a horse fly’s bite even though the fly gave no indication it was going to bite me anytime soon.

But is the life of a human with celebrity status any more important than my cat in the workings of the universe?

I think not.

Life is life.

I shan’t punish myself for the times I pushed away a seemingly healthy Merlin recently when I thought Erin needed attention in his weakened state as he vomited up large volumes of blood.

Erin no longer vomits blood but he wheezes when he breathes and sneezes blood droplets sometimes.  By feeding him small portions of deli-sliced turkey along with regular wet cat food, I have brought his weight back up from malnutrition but he is still a skinny cat (he was always thin).

How long will he live now that it’s just the two of us most of the time and alone in the house by himself when my wife and I are not here?

I do not try to know.

All I can do is provide him the same love and attention he got when he was seriously ill before Merlin’s health started to decline.

I don’t want my imagination of two cats dying of a broken heart on my conscience.

I struggle enough as it is, sometimes, trying to find reasons to live.  I don’t need another reason to want to die.

It’s almost two p.m.  Time for my afternoon nap.  I’ll see if Erin wants to join me or wants to take my sleeping spot, either sofa or bed.

Watching Merlin waste away the last two weeks has been tough, knowing he was rapidly declining.  Whether the decline was caused by breathing the heavy dust of a new cat litter we tried, the cat snacks we gave or a spider bite, we’ll never know.  Running my hand over his body, feeling his rib cage beneath the guard fur of a Cornish Rex, noticing a nub that was either a broken rib or a cancerous node.  Seeing parts of him swell unusually, like a paw, a forelimb or his chin.  His body getting colder day after day as he finally gave up eating…well, Erin says enough typing. Pay attention to him!

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