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Norwich Bulletin - 10/25/2009

All Hallows Eve

The year was 1943, and the place was Vienna, Austria. My aunt Angie was going to leave her apartment and run to the food bank and get some much needed formula for her baby. When she left her apartment and started down the hall, her old dog Rexie was standing in front of her, barking frantically. She tried to go around him but no matter what she did, the dog jumped in front of her to prevent her from getting to the stairwell.

It took her awhile to remember that Rexie had died over a year ago on the family farm. That was when she knew it was a warning – she ran back into the apartment and got him downstairs when the sirens started. She made it into the bomb shelter and when the raid was over, her apartment building was nothing but rubble. Rexie had saved her child’s life.

On the night of Samhein, also known as the night of the dead or Halloween, it is said to be the one night that it is easiest for those who have left us to cross over and “visit,” There are many stories such as the one above, and I am a fervent believer that my past cats have caused many things to happen in my life that would not have necessarily come to pass.

Last year I was wakened by a cat crying. I got out of bed and followed the sound to the closed door of my computer room. No cats are allowed in my computer room and I thought that perhaps one of them snuck in and got stuck in the room and wanted to come out. I opened the door and there was no cat.

I thought I had been dreaming and went back to bed. Shortly thereafter the crying began again and led me to the computer room. Now I am beginning to think about Milo, who spent his last few months in the computer room so that he could be alone and rest. Was Milo trying to tell me something? There was no cat in the computer room and totally freaked out I went back to bed and waited.

I didn’t have to wait long and the next time the crying began, I woke my husband up. “Do you hear that meowing,” I asked him. Clint looked at me and told me that I was dreaming because there was no meowing, in fact, no sounds coming from anywhere in the house. And yet I could hear it while he was talking! So now I know it is Milo, but what I don’t know is what he is trying to tell me.

I called my good friend and communicator Barbara Mariano out in California and told her what had happened the night before. She immediately told me that Milo was going to send me a cat that needed special help and he know that I would be able to provide it, but I was going to have to open myself up to allow the cat to communicate with me. I am not quite sure I believe that at first, but for about two weeks I had this deep depression for absolutely no reason. And then I went out to Wisconsin to judge a show.

The feeling of despair was all over me as I began to judge, and then I saw her. A cat in the household pet class who had been burned so badly it hurt me to look at her. And when I went to take her to the judging stand , she cringed and hid inside my arms. She didn’t know why the people who took her out of the fire and brought her to this place because everyone could see how ugly she was.

I told her that she was beautiful and that the people brought her because they wanted to find her a forever home. Believe it or not, this cat truly communicated her despair to me. In fact, I had been feeling it for weeks. She also told me that her name scared her and she wanted to be a jewel. When I asked the volunteers at the shelter what her name was, they told me they had named her Flame! No wonder her name scared her. Thank goodness the volunteer did not think I was crazy.

Her name was changed to Jewel that day. The following day she was a different cat. She did not communicate with me further, but the despair I had been feeling had lifted and I knew she was going to be allright. A week later I received a card from the shelter. Jewel had been adopted into her forever home. Now I wait for Milo’s next chore for me, and I have no doubt one will surely come again.

I know that during Samhein dogs and cats I have lost can and do easily come home for an evening. But only those who have been invited in previous years. And so, it has long been a Knapp ritual that on All Hallow’s Eve, to set an empty bowl at our table for any pet that may have left us during that year, and invite them to visit home whenever they would like to.

This is my way of believing that Milo, Karma, Mouse, Merlot and all the others we have loved and lost, are still a part of our lives, and they know they can always come home. It is a beautiful tradition no matter what religion you follow and many of my friends have taken this ritual on as their own and subsequently have told me their own stories of visits they have had. Whatever after life beliefs you may have, Halloween is a magical night for everyone. And so all the Knapp cats and dogs, past and present, wish you a good Samhein.

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