In Memory of Isabelle

There’s a line from a William Butler Yeats poem:  “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold…”  With Isabelle’s recent death, our house is painfully empty, though filled with echoes of everyday events and sense memories that haven’t yet fully made the transition from “aching” to “fond.”  Little Isabelle was central to our household in ways we’re only now discovering with her absence.  She was certainly central in our hearts – as was her older brother, Gus, gone only six months prior.

It was a joy over the years to watch Isabelle blossom and open up while living with us.  Our first glimpse of Isabelle showed us a timid, tiny ball of black-and-white fur curled up so tightly in a dark corner of a Humane Society cage that we almost overlooked her (twice!).  From that beginning we saw her become a relaxed, calm kitty who loved belly rubs, lap snuggles, sleepy-eyed morning visits at the foot of the bed, and exploring the neighborhood with her brother.  We watched Isabelle mature into a feisty, confident “she who must be obeyed” who, in spite of her diminutive size, nonetheless patrolled our property daily, running off any interlopers she deemed unworthy, and who told her humans in no uncertain terms when to go to bed and just who could snuggle whom.  And we were thrilled to witness her late-in-life manifestation as “Adventure Cat,” the only one of all our cats to see the Pacific Ocean and walk among the California redwoods.

And it’s been an equal joy to realize how deeply Isabelle impacted us.  The idea that cats train their humans certainly isn’t original with us.  But in our household we’ve added a twist:  the notion that cats not only train their humans, but mark them with a paw-print on the forehead — invisible to humans but readily apparent to cats, like the feline equivalent of a hobo’s mark on a house during the Great Depression.  The more cat-accomodating the human, the deeper the paw-print.

My paw-print is quite deep these days.  Though it started forming long ago, it was Isabelle who refined it, deepened it, lovingly and dutifully polished it over more than 14 years.  Even though I can’t see it myself, I’m proud of this paw-print.  It’s a mark of the reciprocal love Isabelle and I had for one another.  And it’s a reminder of the lessons I learned from her, such deceptively simple, zen-inflected lessons as  “Take the time to relax and do nothing:  be a cat.”  And I know that my wife Mary bears a similar paw-print herself. 

Thank you for your time with us, Isabelle Dolores.  Thank you for choosing to live with us, for calling us your friends, for gracing us with your poise, your calm dignity, and most of all your love. 

We will always miss you, little one.  We will always love you.  We will always treasure your memory, and wear your paw-print proudly.

– Colin and Mary Cameron, Portland OR