Friday, January 25, 2008

from the vault 3: the one about my uncle the cat

August 4th 1984 was the day my Uncle Don passed away. I was close to him, not only because in fact I only have 5 uncles total, and not only because he was my God-Father but because I genuinely like, no, loved him. He was a kind man, and would do anything for you. Sadly within a couple months of retirement he was diagnosed with lung-cancer. Within a few months and after 2 surgeries and countless treatments he could no longer hold on and slipped away from us.

That night I had one of the most intense dreams of my life. One that I'll never forget. It started innocently enough.. there was myself and the son (Ross) of one of my Mother's childhood friends - why he was in this dream I'll never know - We were looking around a house - not one I recognize as having been in before or that even in the dream we knew who it belonged to. It did not appear to be inhabited at the time, there was little to no furnishings. There were some boxes and crumpled up papers but otherwise empty.

After a while we come across a sort of trap door in the floor of one of the rooms. We pull open the door and are able to see a basement underneath the house. Having no other means of going down, we drop through the opening in the floor and begin to look around. At first we don't see much except for pile after pile of old cardboard boxes. Then, through a doorway we somehow had missed we hear a cat's meow, and then more cats. A few moments later 3 cats emerge from the room. One cat is white, one is all black and the other is a mix of black and white.

The cats don't seem to pay any attention to us. Then after a few more minutes of us looking around the black and white cat jumped up on a box in front of a window opening to another room. When I looked through I could see my Uncle sitting in his favourite armchair with his and my Aunts deceased grey cat. I called through to him but he did not respond.

I searched for a way to get through to the room where my Uncle was sitting but could not find a door that would lead me there, so I finally crawled through the window opening. Once inside the other room I again began to talk to my uncle, but still no reply. I walked closer and tried to get his attention but still he looked straight forward. I reached out and took his arm, but could not move it. I then reached out for the cat, and ended up picking him up by his tail. His body was ridged and I was holding him like a tennis racket.

In the dream I am at first unaware that both the cat and my Uncle are for lack of another term, deceased. Once I realize what is going on I go into an insane rage and begin hitting my Uncle with the cat. With each and every hit I scream out in anguish. It's at this point that I wake up, and as I gain consciousness I realize I am screaming out loud in my bed. I stop and just lay in terrified awe at my dream and hear my screams echo as loud as my pulse that I hear pounding in my ears. No one came to my room even though they surely would have heard me scream.

After what seemed like an eternity of reviewing the progression of the dream, as I lay in bed I eventually drift back off to sleep. The dream now continues, or rather a variation of the dream. The setting is the same, I'm still in the basement, but my Uncle is no longer there, nor is his cat. Also now missing is Ross. I appear to be alone and then I hear another meow and when I look to the sound I see the black and white cat again, now sitting in my Uncle's chair. Only he is different. In the dream I know it's the same cat, but now, instead of being a real cat, he now appears to be a toy cat, made our of pom-poms. He is the same dimensions and shape as a real cat, only his fur is not fur, it is yarn. Once I realize the cat is 'alive' but not a 'real cat' I again, begin to yell and scream. I don't hit the cat, but that is likely only because it races off into the first room where the opening to the floor above is.

Knowing this is the only exit from the basement and this hell I seem to be in I chase after the cat. Once in the room I can hear the cat's meow but no longer can I see it. Ross having heard my screams appears above me in the opening and offers to pull me out. I reach up and take his arm and after a moment or two and some struggle I am now out of the basement. As soon as I can get to my feet, I am headed out of the house and thereafter wake up again.

I again begin reviewing the events of the dream(s) in my head and after a while, and no doubt because of exhaustion, I again fall asleep but thankfully the dream does not continue.


When I awake in the morning I get up, speak to my parents but no one comments or asks about my screams from the night before.

Later in the day as we are driving to the funeral home I confront my father and ask if he heard me screaming the night before. He confirms that he did but said he did not want to upset me further by barging into my room. He then asks why I was yelling and I say because I had a bad dream. (I don't want to tell him why I was screaming... basically because I was hitting my dead Uncle with his dead cat. I figure that's just too messed up and don't want him or others to think that I didn't love my uncle.) He persists in asking for details however and I guess because I really didn't sleep well and was tired, aside form the shock and lose of losing my Uncle and the disturbing details of the dream, which have worn me down further, I actually tell him the full story. By the end I am in tears. He tells me not to be upset that I wasn't in control of my actions and that I was just upset about losing my Uncle.

When we arrive at the funeral home I avoid my Aunt because I'm still feeling very guilty about my dream. After a short while however she approaches me and tells me my Father told her I had a dream about my Uncle and that she would like me to recount it for her. I protest and protest and am in tears telling her I cannot. (How can you tell a person that the husband they lost not 24 hours before was in your dreams and you were beating him with their deceased cat?!) Now there's all this attention on me, people are looking at me and now my Aunt is crying, begging, pleading for me to tell her. I finally relent and tell her all. I supposed I figured if I didn't tell her my Father would, so I spare no detail.

When I'm finished, again still in tears. She reached out and hugged me. Through her tears she tells me not to worry and not be upset that I reacted as I did in the dream. She said it was only natural that I was so upset when in the dream I realize he is dead. She said I'm not mad at him, I'm mad that he's gone. And to that she added that I really was indeed the lucky one, because he came to me to say goodbye, albeit not in the best of circumstances or delivery.


While I am slightly comforted by her words, I still to this day feel tremendous guilt for not reacting in a more dignified and positive way.

This was actually the first dream that I was able to continue although perhaps not as consciously as I later developed, through patience and practice and many many many other dreams.


Four days after his death, on August 8th 1984 we buried my Uncle.

At the funeral service, my Aunt and some other family sat in the first row on the right side of the church. I along with my immediate family sat in the second row. I sat directly behind my Aunt. The casket was in the aisle, the head of the casket just about alongside my Aunt.

As the service began you could hear the occasional meow. It was not clear where it was coming from as at first it was too faint. After a while the meows became more frequent and a bit louder. And I knew it was not in my head because others were looking around (politely) to find the source of the sound.

A few minutes later and it was now possible to determine where the meows were coming from. From the far left of the alter, an open door to a side chapel a cat walked out. a black and white cat. The Priest stopped the service, not so much because he was interrupted by the meowing but because he, like everyone else was just amazed at what was unfolding.

We all watched in amazement as the cat, continuing to meow, walked straight up to the coffin, looked up to the head of it and then looked at my Aunt and then to me and then back to her. He sat down and just kept looking at her and occasionally to me and let out a few soft mews.

After what seemed like an eternity, one of the alter boys came over, picked up the cat and as he was about to walk away my aunt reached out, gave the cat a gentle pat on the head, then looked back to me and smiled.

Once the alter boy had removed the cat and closed the side chapel door, the service continued to it's conclusion.


No one discussed the cat, not myself, not my parents, not my aunt. But both she and I know who the cat was.

On many occasion, and often when I am feeling most vulnerable or afraid, if I am out and alone, or indeed on occasion with others, I will hear and or see a black and white car appear. Not out of thin air, but from around a building or from under a car and so on. Instantly I am no longer afraid. Often I say quietly "Hi Uncle Don. Thanks." I've seen my Uncle the cat on occasion in Halifax, where the events of this post and the one previous took place, and also in Montréal, when I currently reside - and where in fact my Uncle was born.