Dreams of cats. Jung had a good time with that symbolism. I’m sure Freud did too, but my dreams resonate with Jung’s dream analysis much more than Freud. This was the best dream of a cat I had ever had. I’m not going into the other dreams because that’s way too personal. This was a
dream of my boy, Grayson.
He was a cat that adopted me. Never much of a cat person, somehow I told a local I would find him a home. It was never my intention for his home to be with me and my wife at the time. We already had cats.
Grayson had other ideas.
As you can see from the picture, he was a handsome boy. Though he lived to be eight, he was always a boy. He loved to play, loved to love, and loved to give kisses. The stance in the picture is where he is asking for kitty kisses.
He really was a lovy dovy cat. In fact, in the dream last night, he came to see me. All he wanted was to be near me. He sat in the dream much like this photo. Then he curled up on my lap; rolling like a big fuzzball.
“You’d say this is all there is
And every time you’d blink
You’d miss another piece of this wondrous world…”
Good Goodbye by Lianne Le Havras
The dream stays with me though it’s hours later. Between the dream and the cloudy day, there’s a sadness that lingers like smoke from a smoldering fire. He lived to be eight, but I had to put him down because of kidney problems and he was in pain. He was such a good boy, he didn’t deserve to suffer so.
I spent most of the morning trying to understand what he was trying to tell me. I know what Tony Crisp would say in his Dream Dictionary because I’ve had enough cats in my dreams that I always get nervous when they appear. In the past, the dreams weren’t good and belong more to a collection of sci-fi thrillers.
But this dream was about Grayson. I called him my shoeshine boy because he loved to fall on the floor at your feet and then rub his head all over your shoes. Yes, I know that he was marking his territory and it’s true. WE belonged to him and nothing would change that. Perhaps not even death. He died years ago. I haven’t gone through his photos in a long time, so his appearance in my dream was interesting. Today I’m going to choose my own meaning. I believe he came to tell me he loved me.
“All these memories too much to lose…” sings Lianne La Havas. The song fits the mood of the morning and somehow the dream. It’s true to say I miss him. I think he’s saying he hasn’t left me. He’s just in a different dimension. I can feel all the love that cat held even now, across the years, beyond life and death.
As I listen to the song on repeat and type this, the love this cat gave changes the meaning of a song that I thought was about loss. Instead of loss, now I am hearing the message of presence in the song as La Havas sings, “…No one ever leaves you….” The song talks about a “good goodbye” because the truth is, love always changes us. It was Grayson’s time to go when he did. I gave him a good goodbye by not keeping him where he had to suffer. Maybe he’s telling me that too. He knows. He was always a smart cat anyway. He realized that I was too allergic to let him stay near my face long. He learned to stay on my lap or sit near me.
He loved everybody but strangers and he wasn’t fond of dogs. He always hid when new people came over. His greatest concern (other than dogs) was that we might give him away. In truth, at first, I really did try to find him a home elsewhere. One of my wife’s friends took him…and I cried my eyeballs out over missing that cat. I couldn’t believe it as it was happening because I “wasn’t a cat person”. My wife felt the same and fortunate for us, the friend let us have him back. Grayson belonged to us as much as we belonged to him. He quickly adopted my mother-in-law and couldn’t wait to see her each morning when she came out. One of my favorite pictures of the two of them together is where Grayson had been looking for his milk rings (his favorite toy). The picture shows both Grayson and a 94-year-old woman on the floor looking under the kitchen stove.
Before running errands into town, Birdie keeps trying to pull me into the woods. She’s not barking, so I know it’s not a squirrel or
chipmunk. I look up finally to see what attracted her attention. Staring at me is a deer standing still as a tree. Birdie stops pulling once I see where attention goes. I excuse us from the deer’s wood and we go back on the way. Birdie is proud of herself because she didn’t bark and scare the deer. The deer looks far away in the picture, but in person, it felt that it was almost under our nose.
The clouds are on our side of the mountain today. The dream and the dreary day cause me to think all day will be one of melancholy. As the dog and I drive to Banner Elk, I listen to the song “Good Goodbye” and wonder if the dream caused me grief. There is sadness for sure, but not the soul-wrenching grief of loss. My thoughts keep turning back to the cat, Grayson. I replay the memories of him loving us, loving the other cats, tolerating the dogs (though he didn’t want to).
Being present to sadness can teach us things. That doesn’t mean we choose to stay in the sadness or grief, but that we listen to it and see what it has to say to us, about us, about those we love. The message I hear at the end of the morning is love. Why love? Love doesn’t hurt. Well, love never intends to hurt, but sometimes it does. This is not an excuse for another to be abused to stay in an abusive relationship. This is about the power of love to move us forever. I hurt because I lost something, someplace, someone I love. It hurts because I know they loved me back. I know that although circumstance has changed, love remains.
The story of The Velveteen rabbit teaches us that love wears us down sometimes, but more importantly, LOVE CHANGES US. Though I have lost love in the past several years through death, a move, differences…I do not lose and will never lose the experience of love. My grandparents have been dead for over eighteen years, my dad for around three. Although I have lost them, I will never lose their love. As I have moved to live where my work takes me, I lost co-workers, colleagues, congregations, but not the love. Once we are loved, we cannot be unloved. When love changes us, it even changes our brains (The Brain in Love).
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu
Last summer, as I grieved the loss of my marriage, a friend recommended Lianne La Havas’ CD as one I might like. This song, “What You Don’t Do”, made me happy. I thought it was the melody, because melodies can change your mood; give hope. The more I listened to the song though, I realized I love the lyrics too. I began to sing the song almost as a prayer. I kept telling the counselor that my divorce was hard because my wife was the love of my life. Each time he would add, “…up until now.” After he did it several times, I told him in an annoyed voice that I wasn’t going to ever be in a romantic relationship again. I was done.
Months have passed. They feel like eons after such a cold winter. The divorce occurred. That made me both angry and sad. At least the questioning had moved into acceptance. That always helps pain to heal. Today, I have a dream of a cat long gone whose love in my heart consoled me. I look back on all the love in my life and I realise that for me, love never dies. All of the people I loved in the past (exes included), are still loved. We grew to another place. My life is forever changed, because I have been loved and because I choose to love others. As I listen to the love songs now, I know I will love again. The love may or may not be romantic, but I’m never giving up on love because love changes us for the better. My life is better because I’ve risked heartbreak. My love is better because other forgave me my mistakes and reminded me to never stop loving.
“Once you are real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
― Margery Williams Bianco,