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  • Writer's pictureAldona Birmantas

Gifts from the Afterlife (Feline Friday Series)

You may have been initially thrown off by the title- “The afterlife? What? I thought this blog was supposed to be about cats!”. Not to worry, I haven’t strayed into new territory. I’m still going to discuss our favorite creatures on the planet.

This week, my family and I got together for the one year anniversary of the passing of my stepdad, Frank. On my Mom’s side, we *always* had animals in the house, always. We had one cat (Olive) at the time they met in 1989, but it didn’t take long for “the zoo” to begin to grow, from hamsters to birds to a new kitten, Sandwich (the one I’d gotten for my 9th birthday, mentioned in a previous blog).

It soon became a joke that any time Mom went to a pet store, a new animal would come home and that was largely true. Every time, Frank would roll his eyes and say, “No more animals”, but it seldom worked. We eventually adopted another cat (Tuffy), some rabbits, a few small birds, a couple of dogs and later, two Peking ducks. I also went through a smattering of hamsters, most of which were met with an untimely demise, courtesy of Sandwich, the hamster serial killer.

Frank always acted like the animals were a nuisance and didn’t really care about them, but it didn’t take long to figure out that that couldn’t have been further from the truth. He was the true definition of a “softie”, as Mom always called him. Whether that was an already-existing-yet-previously-unveiled trait or whether it was an affection grown over time, it’s hard to say. Eventually, though, through the course of nature, the “zoo” dwindled in size and soon after, life changes occurred and geographical locations changed.

After moving to an area that is chock-full of stray cats, Frank’s ability to say “no” and turn away an animal in need truly became a thing of the past. First was Spooky, a long-haired black female cat rescued from a nearby trailer park in NW Indiana about 12 years ago and more recently, in the last couple of years, he took in a big orange dude named “O”. Both are still alive and doing well since being re-homed with another family member. Those were just the cats that were brought to live inside, though. There were some feral cats that learned the news about a guy who feeds cats outside his home and doesn’t charge them dime, so soon enough, he also had a clan of feral cats that he took care of, too, and did so until his final days.

Of course, everyone has their own set of beliefs regarding what happens after death and personally, I am not always sure I even have a solid belief but I very much to do believe in “signs”, so to speak, as well and the idea that loved ones never really completely leave us after they’ve passed. Mom has her own set of feral cats that she takes care of, but in the last year, new ones have shown up here and there. There is a tabby that started coming around, though has yet to be photographed or named. Then, there’s OJ, a portly orange and white guy who you can clearly see from the photos has made himself quite comfortable on Mom’s property. He showed up last fall and has been around ever since. Also, interestingly, this past Tuesday, the day before the anniversary, my sister (his daughter), looked out her window to see a curious tabby that she’d never seen before, looking into her window. She went outside and he let her pick him up, pet him and she even brought him into the house for the day to hang out, before he disappeared back into the trees again.

My Mom and sister both like to joke that these cats are being sent to them by Frank during their mourning process partly to mess with them and also just to say “hi” and we wonder how many more have yet to appear. It’s quite a thought to entertain, but I firmly believe that this is what is happening, as well. Besides, what better gift could one send than a cat?

**Proceeds from this blog are being donated to Harmony House for Cats on behalf of Frank T. Marmo, 7/7/60-7/4/17

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