Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Song of Norm

I can never begin to express my thanks and gratitude for the messages of love, support, and shared grief that I received here at the blog, over on Facebook, in my personal e-mail box, etc. Those messages, along with the people who sent them, mean the world to me. While we "hang in there", continue to process the week's events, and try to move on... The Song of Norm still sings in my head. I'm still not ready to discuss the end of Norman's song. That will come soon. Today is for remembering him with happiness (and gratitude that such a gentle loving soul entered my life).

Remembering Norman

When I first began haunting the shelters and their websites in late 2011, I was looking for a senior female kitty... a torbie to be exact. The late, great Madame Einstein left a hole in my heart that I was looking to fill. I spent quite a bit of time at the humane society's outpost in a local Petco store, so much so that I was known as an unofficial volunteer who worked on cat socialization. I hung out with the older ones, the "strange" ones, the long timers who never seemed to get enough attention. There were two older ladies there who never showed me the time of day, a calico and a torbie. No matter how hard I tried, they weren't interested. Someone else, however, made an instant connection.

This was the day that Norman came home with me. He had already been through the wars. The shelter said he was "at least" 10. My vet felt more like "at least" 11 or 12. We never got a full history or idea of his true age. The vet and I think he was probably a few years older, not that it matters. His body told the story of a complex life, one of struggle and fight. He had scars on his muzzle and on his ears and toes too. His eating habits revealed something of his previous life as well.

I would bet my life that Norman spent more than a small portion of his life as a street cat. He regarded food as if it was a temporary luxury... something that should be taken advantage of in that exact moment because you never knew when food would be unavailable. He was cunning, ruthless, and quick in his ability to stalk and take his prize from anyone he targeted. And he was cute and sweet enough that I generally let him have whatever he wanted.

But for all of his suspected history as a street cat, Norman was also the most gentle, sweet, loving, and patient cat that I have ever known. He had no time for grumpiness or irritation. There was only love... even for the other cats.

During the long stretch of time when we had four felines in the main part of the house, Norman paired off with Abby while Simba partnered with The Roo. He played the part of "Uncle Norman" to perfection... indulging them in their nonsense and only occasionally raising a paw (which he never brought down on either of them). To the very end, Ruby enthusiastically greeted Norm by launching herself in full rub to his chest, tilting her head for a quick lick, and purring her fool head off. While I'm not certain how much her gesture was appreciated, Norman unfailingly tolerated her love and patiently accepted it.

Even with macho man Simba, Norman had a perfectly patient and genteel relationship. Norm was the only adult male cat that Simba ever accepted into his domain. From day one, Simba regarded Norman as "part of the clan". They had an occasional dust up, but it never went any further than waving paws at each other while waiting for breakfast to be served. Their paws never made contact with the targeted heads. These two formed their own gentleman's club... they were here for the location and the food, but not necessarily for each other.

Norman exuded the same patience, gentleness, and respect for the people in his life. While I wouldn't say that he "adored" the kids, their noise, and their quick movements, he did love them dearly. In the early morning wake-up times and late night settle-down times, he always found a still and willing lap. He wasn't necessarily a "snuggler", but he could always be found close by... sharing the sofa while I watched television or worked on the laptop, sitting a cushion over from me or hanging out over my shoulder. He purred all of the time, as if to tell me that he was just happy to be finally be home. 

He was only a part of this home for 17 months, but the rooms feel quiet and empty today without him. 


The photos in the tribute above and the ones below are some of my favorites of Norm during the time we knew him. As I went through the pictures on my computer, I was struck by how much he had changed physically from the day he moved in until the day he left for the bridge. I don't have many pictures of him at the end and I won't share them here either as it is painful to consider how much his dear, sweet body endured for the sake of staying here with me. I think tomorrow I'll be ready to discuss the end of Norm's song. But for today, please enjoy our Norman retrospective. 

His song lives on in the hearts of those who knew and loved him.


  1. Whenever you're ready, we're ready to listen (errr... read). And if you change your mind & choose not to, that's okay too. We all understand.

    We're so very grateful to you for letting us into your life and sharing in the joy & the heartache that comes with loving our pets.

    It's painful to lose them but most of us adopt again because the time we have with them is so rewarding, it's almost a disservice to their memory NOT to do it again with another special soul.

    Uncle Norman will forever be in our hearts & memories, all because you went to that shelter for a Torbie and he decided to take control of that situation! Cunning, indeed.


  2. My monitor suddenly got blurry, reading your touching tribute of your beloved Norman. I am so sorry for your loss, Norman sounds like he was a wonderful CAT. Norman was lucky to share your home, and bask in the warmth of the sun, and your love for him. He never had to worry about where his next meal came from, or doing battle with a competitor. All animals should be so lucky to know what he shared with you at the end of his life. Bless you for saving him, and making such a difference in his life. He was a beautiful boy and your pictures capture his essence and personality. Godspeed Norman.

    Mary M.

  3. I am so, so sorry. Norm was a very special guy, and even though he wasn't with you long, you gave him the wonderful life he deserved.

  4. Every house needs a Norman. I LOVE the picture of him with the crazy bread bag on his head. ;) It doesn't matter how long they are in our lives, it is never long enough. But what a wonderful life he had with you.

  5. You tell us what you want and when you want to. This was a beautiful tribute, to such a good boy. And how wonderful you are, to take him home and love him so much and let him go when he was ready. Many many hugs.

  6. Kelly-more ((hugs)) for you and the rest of the house. It was a wonderful tribute to the kind sir Norman. He was so handsome. When you're ready to move on to the next chapter we will be right here waiting to hear about it. If it takes a while that's okay too.

  7. What a beautifyl tribute! I am glad Norman was a part of your family at the end. He passed on to the Rainbow Bridge knowing he was loved, and will be loved and missed.

  8. What a lovely tribute to that sweet and wonderful guy.

  9. I'm bawling as I write this.... What a beautifully written piece about Norman. I feel as if I know him too. And what beautiful photos you have of him. They do capture something of the wonderful, loving personality he had.

    I was on a couple websites yesterday where I found these quotes and essays that made me cry all over again for a beloved kitty I lost more than a year ago. But the words were a comfort even though they made me cry. I'm sharing them with you in the hope they'll do the same for you.

    "Unable are the loved to die.
    For love is immortality."
    Emily Dickinson

    "I have felt perpetual gratitude to heaven for having given me, in you, a source of so much pure and unmixed happiness."
    Thomas Jefferson

    CS Lewis said, "The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal."

    One lady's experience of grief written very shortly after her cat, Gus, died after 15 years together.
    "I still have peace, but peace does not have a cold nose, a pink tongue, whiskers or a warm purr. Peace does not use the litterbox, hurl hairballs or wake me at two in the morning because it got lonely and wanted to crawl under the covers. The sure knowledge that I did the best I could does not demand fresh running water in the bathtub, lose its toys under the living room couch or chase moths. And even that wonderful sense of love I knew after my kitty-cat crossed, does not meow when I come home late or interrupt me at the computer with a warm paw on my leg, asking for a lap and a cuddle. And though a fresh new set of paws will one day walk into my heart, the here-and-now, day-to-day presence of a creature who knew me better than I know myself, loved me better than I love myself (and let me know that on a regular basis, conceited little creature that he was), is gone. Peace is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't wear fur.

    "And when I miss that fur so much, when the grief swells and threatens to consume me, the memory of my bond with my fur-person grounds me. It tells me to look forward and celebrate the joy that bounded into my life so many years ago; to pause and ground myself, let the love that was there surface and know that the love is still there. It's lonelier on this side, but if I ride out the grief I come full circle back to the peace. It doesn't wear fur and it doesn't stop tears, but it does bring the memory of love and changes the tears from those of desperate sorrow to those of healing and of hope."

    1. I have always loved that C.S. Lewis quote -- it's truer than true, isn't it?!

      And I love the quote below it too... it's very well put (although of course now I'm crying buckets...!)

  10. Also this one, which wouldn't fit with the others because it's long. I think that the penultimate paragraph expresses EXACTLY what it is that those of us who are left behind feels:

    "During the course of my lifetime (as of November 2009), I have lost three dozen cats... Each one rips a piece of me away when they leave. BUT, each one leaves a piece of themselves with me to hold onto until we meet again.

    "At first all I feel is the missing piece. I feel as if, as my cousin puts it, I am Living Inside a Scream. It's like something reached in and grabbed a huge chunk of my soul and brutally yanked it bleeds, it hurts, and there's this HUGE empty spot where it used to be. And I think, "How am I supposed to live with this big empty spot? I'll just cave in."

    "However, as time passes, that piece my kitty left me starts to grow in the empty space. It's almost like a skin graph--there is something there to cover the hole, but the scar remains and sometimes it aches, sometimes it Burns. But sometimes, more and more often, it gives me comfort. S/He is STILL with me...and Always will be. I can talk to that little piece of kitty and s/he WILL hear me.

    "I am also comforted by KNOWING that there is More after we die. The cats know this too.

    "I don't think they fear death the way people do. They are FAR more spiritual than the highest yogi, priest, is no accident that witches have used them as familiars and the Egyptians welcomed them into their homes in a similar capacity. They see between the worlds, and they KNOW there is something more and they do not fear it.

    "My cats, all of them, are obsessed with closed doors, closets, cupboards, anything that they know there is something more behind...they are naturally curious and want to see more of what they can only glimpse. I think they look at death as no different than going through a door that was formerly closed.

    "Have you ever watched a bird fly? Actually, not just fly, but in the spring when they play on the breeze that is bursting with the scents of waking life? The JOY they must feel! The freedom! The exhilaration! I can imagine how they feel, but my only glimpse of it was when I set Bunny free. He went to the Bridge in my arms. There was such a profound feeling of peace that washed over me as he passed and the expression on his face was pure joy, like when he saw me take out the nippy jar or the milk jug...Peace and Joy is what he felt. He gave that to me like a good night kiss. I hold that close to me. It is a treasure.

    "We weep not for them, for they are FREE. We weep for ourselves because we miss them. We miss the joy and love they gave us. NOBODY, no person, EVER loves you the way an animal does. The Love is Pure and thus so is the Pain.

    "Gentle Hugs to all who have lost..."

    1. Living inside a scream.. yup, I've hard that before. Wonder if I 'met' your cousin online..

  11. Some times, they are here for a short time on earth but always stay forever in our memory and hearts. Sure doesn't make their passing any easier though. Norman seems like he lived every day to the fullest and will forever be in your memory and heart. Hugs!

    I remember when I lost my first cat. His name was Chewy. He was 4. One day he was fine. The next day, in diabetic coma. No warning signs at all. It was horrible. That cat slept on my head every single night. If I saw a spider and screamed, Chewy would swoop in and eat the spider, then come prancing to me purring. We'd play fetch for hours! I couldn't sleep for the longest time after he passed away. Then one day, I went into the animal shelter and there was Monty. 5 weeks old. They let me have him as long as I showed proof of neutering. They were awesome. My vet called them for me as soon as it was done when he got big enough. It's like the spirit of Chewy was in him. He slept on my head that first night. Oh man did I bawl too. I'm crying now as I type this. I feel like my cat Chewy, found a way to help me. It took me 6 years before I could say Chewy's name out loud without crying. I know people thought I was some kind of nut to be attached to a cat that much. Chewy was the first real heart cat. I had never experienced that kind of love before. I feel so lucky that I got to again with Monty. I love all my cats, don't get me wrong...but Monty, he's my soul kitty.

  12. Oh Kelly I am so sad for you. I must have missed when this happened. I am feeling your pain in two ways. One because I have a beautiful black cat named Lillith (2 y/o, so I have "hopefully" a long long time left with her) and an elderly 14 y/o cat named Penny, who I treasure and know her time with me is getting shorter.

    Those sneaky fur babies have such a way of burying themselves deep in your heart. My heart is with you in your time of sorrow.

  13. My heart is breaking for you. I know he is up there frolicking with Spanky, though!!

  14. Just checking in to see you you are doing. Sending purrrrrrrrrsss and headbumps to you all.

  15. I have to say that in my house you are known as "Norman's mom." When I told her the news that he had crossed over the rainbow she said remember his crazy bread bag moments (I showed her the video). Thank you for sharing more about your special boy!

    1. Meant to say "when I told my my mom". This is what happens when I post too late.

  16. What a wonderful and lovely tribute to a wonderful and lovely cat!!