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Adieu to the Lion




He is old and tired. His right leg drags behind him. His bony skeleton shows pink through the white fur. It is hard for him to jump on the bed or onto a chair beside us.



In May and June, I traveled for a month in the USA, and coming home, wept on seeing our little lion so weak, so sick. You can see it in his eyes, his fur, his slow movement. He has a tumor, inoperable because of his age, and we grind six medications a day into his food. He is 19.


Street art by Miss-Tic (c) 2013 

Richard and I lie on the living room floor, and sing to him. We bring his small statue of Bastet out of her basket, and she blesses him. Marley’s voice is a peep now instead of a roar.

Macho cat, King of the Block, calm, afraid of nothing, no one, resourceful (he adopted us after interviewing everyone on the block), confident, outspoken. He was Richard’s muse and mine, he gave us equal time. He was the familiar of our writing group for six or seven years.



He was seriously pissed at us twice, and both involved moves. Once when we moved from Venice, California a few miles to Playa del Rey. There were so many feral cats in the neighborhood, and he came home beaten up and bitten (and turned into a Cone-head for a few months) that we had to keep him indoors after his years of roaming Venice. (How would you feel? Exactly.) But he did have a sunny inner courtyard all his own in the center of our Spanish-style house.



And then on moving to Paris, because he was ONE pound over the weight limit and so could not ride with us upfront, he was banished into cargo limbo for the plane trip. He hissed at us like a cobra when we picked him up in the fret section of Charles de Gaulle airport. Fret? We did. And later learned it meant freight.  He wouldn’t look at us the whole taxi ride into town.



And then he became a Parisian chat. He learned to modulate his voice, not to be yelling all the time like an American. To trim down. (A friend, Frederic Tuten, tells us that when he lived in Paris, someone told him the only serious crime here is being fat).



Marley learned to be a flâneur. He disguised himself as a fur scarf, and strolled around Paris on Richard’s shoulders, as cool and leisurely as any Parisian cat.


Street art (c) 2013 by C215

In all essential ways, though, he did not change on moving to Paris. He still loved being as close to us as he could get. Either one of us would do, but both of us? Purr-fect.

He was still psychic. When friends Mort and Jeannette were last here, visiting from their houseboat, he sensed Jeannette’s grief at losing their sailor chat, Miranda. In a room full of a dozen people, he stayed close to her, wove around her ankles, comforting her, and who knows, maybe even speaking to Miranda’s spirit. 


Street art (c) 2013 by Fred Le Chevalier

He approved of physical vigor. One morning just a few weeks ago while waiting for my tea water to simmer, I was inventing Hindu ballet moves. Marley nudged my calf and purred. This is more like it, he said. All that sitting around putting marks on paper. Stretch those limbs! Let’s dance!

Today I found him splayed like a frog on the tile near his litter box. I picked him up and placed him on his throne, a big pillow on the floor near the open window he used to jump out of to sun himself on the fifth-floor ledge.

I called to see how late our vet would be there on a Saturday. Till 3:30. I showered. Tried to reach Richard, who was out photographing a parade.

Marley was having trouble breathing. I kept checking as I dressed. He was panting. I lay beside him, talked to him. Tried to give him water. He couldn’t drink. I ran back to the bedroom to grab my purse. Checked again.



Marley was still.

Deeper than words, silence. And tears.




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Reader Comments (60)

Oh, Kaaren, Richard, mon dieu! The post I had been dreading. And still, even in the palm of sadness, you made it lovely.

Hotspur was my muse, Eric's and mine, an enormous Himalayan, and Marley reminded me of him in size and in spirit. Now they're both wandering, wherever beloved cats wander, waiting to be reunited with us again. I don't believe every animal we've ever known will be there — just the ones, like Marley and Hotspur, who proved remarkable, larger than life, larger than death.

Goodbye, Marley, the beloved. And hello someday.

Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 23:36 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

It is hard, always hard, no matter how much we prepare, to say goodbye and leave something or someone who has been an integral part of our lives and our stories. Marley has featured prominently in your art and in your lives and his memory will always be floating around in and outside you. And, by extension, through all of us who have felt Marley's presence through your writing. My sympathy to both of you in this transition,

Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 23:41 | Unregistered CommenterVarya

Oh dear Kaaren and Richard, I have tears for you. I'm so sorry for your loss; I know how very special dear, beautiful Marley was to you. And to so many in your life. How I looked forward to his big beautiful blue-grey eyes, his purr, that plume as he entered a room, the way he sat on our pages at the table. He had a beautiful life of love with you both, and what a long and adventurous life at that. My heart is with you at this difficult time. I know he will not be forgotten, dear little lion, writer-cat, sweetest and most sophisticated cat in all of Paris. Rest peacefully, dear Marley -- xo

Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 23:42 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Genest

Very sorry for your loss, Kaaren & Richard. Marley was such a lovely little lion. Big hugs from all of us.

Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 23:51 | Unregistered CommenterSheyene

So sorry to hear about Marley. I'm honored to have met him. This tribute does him justice. Big hugs for both of you. xoxo

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 0:03 | Unregistered Commenterliz

My prayers are with you. I too have a beloved "chat" whom I value beyond measure so I empathize with your pain. This was a very loving "Ode to Marley" from both of you with pictures and words. He knows he was treasured! Hugs and love....

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 0:32 | Unregistered CommenterNina Gustafson Anderson

What a lovely tribute to Marley. I am so glad you were back home to say goodbye. Much love from Catherine and Tom

PS - we are on our way to Denmark and Norway - on layover in Denver. Come visit us in Oslo - we have a huge house starting on the 18th.

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 0:34 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Jim and I remember our fun times with Marley, his soft luscious fur, contented purr and his comical antics while we cared for him in our home. We offer our heartfelt sympathy at this very sad time for you.

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 1:24 | Unregistered CommenterRita Akers

Oh my dears, my heart grieves with you. There is so much of marvel and mystery in those cats that choose us. In all these years I have only met Marley through words and pictures. But what words, and what photographs! He lives on in your love. Blessed be.

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 1:30 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

Kaaren & Richard:

Your words and picture expressing your feelings for Marley are touching. I don't know if cats can tell when they're lucky, but if they can, Marley surely knew he was the most fortunate cat to ever cross the Atlantic from the American side. I'll long remember his white cotton candy mass fluffed in my lap in your living room in Playa.

Pets endure the best they can. Dachshund Hammett (Dash) is blind now, but he still makes his way around our little cottage and yard in Culver City. He still loves to play fetch as well, though we have to roll the ball across our hardwood floors toward him. Dachshunds, like all good spirits, are comfortable in the dark.

Be well,

Steve, Sheyene, Truman, and Dash

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 1:41 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Heller

Oh Kaaren, my heart goes out to you and Richard. We had to put our beloved Mr. Toes (22-toed cat) down in December after 18 years. He appeared on our deck in LA as a kitten when I was pregnant with Mollie and slept on my belly for four months, got me ready to be a Mama again. His picture is beside my bed. We have two new kitties whom we love, though I still think of him all the time. May Marley's spirit live on in the land of brave and wonderful cat souls. How lucky you are to have had him in your life. xo

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 2:20 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

Dear Marley,

Animal spirit, allay, companion and muse, farewell for now and may you be lifted up to a heavenly realm, a great "chat O" of feline fantasy.

A saddened day of heart-felt loss dears Kaaren & Richard. Your lovely lion-hearted friend whose purr and clever ways was your comfort and joy shall be missed and fondly remembered. I know he shall live on in your hearts.

Big Hugs,

Kaaren...I'm glad you were home to be there with him and have your Hindu dance dance together, and to say goodbye.

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 3:49 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne Warfield

Oh, I am so sorry, doesn't it seem impossible that kitties could die? Aren't they the very essence of immortality? Your post is so moving, and the photos with it....make me cry. I am missing my kitties already, and they are only middle aged. I can't think of a cat that has had a better eulogy than this. Love you both!

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 4:58 | Unregistered CommenterFrances

Kaaren & Richard....I am so sorry. Kris

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 5:14 | Unregistered CommenterKris sister cousin

I am so sorry to hear about Marley. What a lucky cat to have the two of you in his life. He was loved.

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 5:22 | Unregistered CommenterSister Ann

Goodbye, Marley.

Welcome to cat heaven.

Where the Cat Goddess is welcoming you and taking care of you in her ample arms.

Blessings to you on your way.

Goodbye, Marley.

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 6:09 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Moody

Dearest Kaaren and Richard:

Rotten! We had two cats for about fifteen years, a black one, Raven, and a coffee-colored tabby, Coffee. Yeah. Coffee was always, we thought, "the kitten," came after Raven and was, we thought, just tolerated. But when Coffee, who was fat, got tumors and died, a few weeks later, so did Raven, and that's when we realized it was Coffee the Alpha cat all along... We had to watch them dwindle all alone wishing privacy... dwindling away. We now have Lutfi, after vowing never to have another cat... and she's absolutely a heart-solace and deep companion.

I found this poem from Laughing Buddha Weeping Sufi, 2003, and because of the Lion aspect, hope it's somehow appropriate.

With all love always



Laughing Buddha and Weeping Sufi
have a cat

Actually it’s a lion

OK sometimes a cat sometimes a lion

And they don’t actually “have” it the way you
have a cold or own a piece of furniture

It would be better to say “they feed a
cat ”

The lion they feed themselves

By which I mean they feed themselves to the lion

Laughing Buddha looks his old regal self
riding the lion in the Assembly Hall of the Buddhas

Weeping Sufi is one of the Chosen Near Ones as well so he
often appears astride the lion
in peoples’ dreams signifying a high state of attainment

The cat will curl up in their laps and they
have to stay in that position until it wakes up

They also curl up in a lap from time to time
the way a wind curls up inside a tempest
or a curve curls up inside a wave until it

The lap of a Self greater than themselves

An absence Who is a Greater Presence than any known

Feeding the cat is often a matter of
doing nothing since they also have many mice
in the same way they “have” a cat in that their fallen crumbs
feed the mice who live just behind the walls

Feeding the lion is another matter but it is done
periodically invisibly and often

When one of them isn’t there he is
off “feeding the lion”
and by “not there ” I mean he might be there visibly

The lion who roams freely from world to world
and whose roars between worlds alert its modest citizens both
human and otherwise to be on guard

and who is docile in between worlds and
fierce in either one once he’s fully entered them

No self is exempt from this feeding in fact
but Laughing Buddha and Weeping Sufi offer themselves
voluntarily beforehand knowing that in so doing
they cause less trouble in the world and

less trouble in the world even by just the power of two
is actually a formidable improvement if only we


Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 8:02 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

Thank you for sharing Marley's life with us. He will not be forgotten and will be missed.

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 8:12 | Unregistered CommenterTristine

so sad. what a tribute to your beloved chat.
hug each other.
sending hugs.

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 8:29 | Unregistered Commenterlisa

Kaaren and Richard,

So sorry about Sir Marley. I feel him licking my head. He was a wonderful kitty.


Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 15:24 | Unregistered CommenterJim Akers

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