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I Learnt About Death from my Cat


1 Minute Read

Why I Wrote a Book Called Kahuna – the Cat that Didn’t Die

Imagine standing in the hustle and bustle of Kings Cross station when all of a sudden you notice the air around one of the pillars shimmy and blur, and you can’t help yourself because you’ve seen all the Harry Potter films – you run towards a pillar very close to Platform 9 and find yourself rushing through into a different dimension of reality. Not to Hogwarts but to Catwarts! The Feline University of Life and Death.

Who would have expected to learn so much about death and beyond from a cat? Then again, who would you learn from?

It started way back when I lived on a small boat on the Thames in the heart of London with my first cat. I had always been a dog person until one day the opportunity arose to be the proud ‘parent’ to an adorable black and white, half Persian, fluff ball kitten. She gave me one of those long cat stares and I was smitten! When she came to live with me on the boat, which rocked sometimes gently and sometimes quite violently, I wondered if I had made the best decision. She was so tiny and fragile-looking but I was unable to let her go. She filled a void in my life and I was selfish. After a few months, I was getting more confident in her ability to leap from boat to boat successfully. After all, she had nine lives didn’t she? Maybe she used eight of them up when I wasn’t looking, because one very early morning, with the sun glinting off the incoming tide, she drowned. I was lying awake in my bunk wondering where she was, lulled a little by the lap of the water against the hull, when I felt a whoosh of vital energy rush through my body. Its impact was that of a strong draught of champagne; heady and uplifting. I knew in that instant she had either returned home safe and sound or she had died. I realised if death felt like that it wasn’t so bad and I was in no doubt that I had felt her soul leave her body and kiss me goodbye.

Over twenty years and three cats later, this experience of death and beyond began again, this time with my ginger moggy, Kahuna. He’d arrived in my life as a Christmas gift with his gargantuan purr, his wide rib cage and his long long tail which hung over his back like a question mark. I’d never had the magical closeness, I’d had with my first feline but he was still my ‘boy’. As he approached his sixteenth year, we ended up together far away from London in the wild and enchanted landscape of Powys in Wales and everyone thought he’d experience a whole new lease of life having always lived in suburbia. But it didn’t quite work out that way.

Having had a fairly uneventful life, he came to this extraordinary place of beauty and experienced a number of firsts – his first hill, his first pond, his first stream, his first waterfall, his first rabbit, and then his first (and only) attack by a bulldog. He escaped but damaged one back leg so badly enough he had to have surgery and then was cage bound for weeks. During this time, he became diabetic. However if he hadn’t had to have this rest and seclusion, and nursing by me, then we would never have travelled on such a profound journey together.

I had just turned 61 and on top of Kahuna’s health crisis, my life was chaotic. I had lost my only client and along with that my only income. Without savings and an alternative revenue stream, my landlord gave me notice. However, I am a firm believer in the magic of life and that when there appears to be a breakdown, it’s usually followed by a breakthrough. Which is just what occurred. An unexpected business idea dropped into my imagination fully- formed – although maybe it’s less of a business and more of a vision, mission, and legacy. And a new home was offered to me for a few months as a breathing space where Kahuna would also be very welcome.

So my few possessions were stuffed into the car and we embarked on our next adventure together. I discovered a protocol called ‘tight regulation’ that helped cats to come out of diabetes. It is a very challenging protocol and you have to be fully committed to the well-being of your cat before you start this procedure. I had to learn to let Kahuna’s body be the expert and tell me what he needed and when. After four weeks of testing his blood glucose levels every few hours day and night, feeding him and dosing him with insulin accordingly, he became non-diabetic. It was a moment of triumph but by no means the end of his health challenges. But you don’t go through this kind of intense experience without deepening your relationship substantially.

I was sure Kahuna knew I was doing my very best for him even while I had to stick pins along the edge of his delicate ears to tease out those essential pearls of blood.

We moved again to what I hoped would be our long term home on a beautiful Welsh hillside but his health continued to be a problem and we faced numerous journeys to the vets to sort out a chronic constipation problem. I knew there was only so much that beautiful tiger-striped body could tolerate and I watched him lose his vigour and his eyes told me that he was on that final furlong.

With hindsight, I had this strange thought that we had made an agreement for me to be his student. I thought back to the death of my first cat and how she died because of the selfishness of my decision to keep her with me on the boat. I was worried that my selfishness at this time would result in me keeping Kahuna alive no matter what and against his own wishes. My trust in my ability to understand his thoughts was minimal even though I had been on an animal communication course years before and felt so close to him. I was too caught up emotionally with him so I sought for someone to speak on his behalf.

‘Did Kahuna attract your attention just then?’ This was the query from Lucy Jordan, an animal communicator based in Greece.

‘Yes he did,’ I responded with great surprise. Kahuna was sitting regally in his favourite corner between two windows behind my back. I’d just heard a sound I couldn’t place from that corner and had literally just looked round to see him watching me.

‘I asked him to do that so I could check I was talking to the right cat’, said Lucy.

‘Have you a message for me from him?’ My heart was beating rapidly in my chest as I asked this question.

‘He says he is getting tired but he’s not ready to go yet. He will let you know when he needs help from the vets by knocking something off the table. He also said that he thinks about death differently to you. For him, it is simply leaving his cat-suit behind and popping through a membrane to a different dimension.’

This was the start of many dialogues with Kahuna through Lucy and step by step we walked together towards that final frontier where he would let me know he was ready to leave his cat suit and pop through that membrane. I like to think we navigated this route well together.  As he got weaker and was less inclined to go out for a walk I asked him to let me know every day if he was happy to stay in his cat suit. If he wanted to stay he was to ask to go outside. There was no cat flap in the door so he would stand patiently until I noticed.

One day it was very clear, we were oh-so-close-to-that-moment. He hesitated near the door and then walked on by. His back legs were almost too weak to hold him up and his quality of life had leeched away in the previous 24 hours. I asked Lucy to check in with him after noticing a puddle of water on the table where somehow my water glass must have been nudged. Had this been his sign to me? ‘Yes’ came the clear answer.

I went with him every step of the way. The vet came to our home and Kahuna received the injection as he lay in my arms. Effortlessly, he unzipped that beautiful cat suit and popped through that membrane. And I was lost in my grief.

‘You’re getting lost in your grief Francesca!’ said friend Jeanette Kishori McKenzie as I responded to her call a few days after Kahuna’s departure. ‘Every time you feel his loss, choose to feel his presence,’ she counselled. I always took notice of Jeanette as she has the most extraordinary understanding of life and death.

‘Okay!’ I said, excited by the thought even though my rational mind told me it was never going to work. I remembered back to when Kahuna was diabetic and on Jeanette’s counsel, I had learned to tap into him to feel a bolt of life force flow through me. But he had been alive then.

Moments later I felt his loss, and the descent into grief arriving. But I caught myself and chose to dive deep, beyond that sense of loss until I felt his presence. It was a deep dive, it took all my will power not to lose focus and weep, and then all of a sudden there it was… a kind of tickling deep inside and a whoosh of energy ran right up through my body, out of the top of my head and a huge smile spread across my face. Kahuna!

I have no idea how many times I did this – but I was determined I would keep going. Every time I sensed his loss I would choose to dive in and sense his presence. My sadness would evaporate and be instantly replaced by joy.

One night, I spoke out loud to Kahuna and asked him to give me proof that he was not gone. I woke in the middle of the night hearing a scratching sound. There is nothing around my home that makes that sound except when Kahuna was with me. Whenever he needed my full attention, he stood up on his back legs and scratched whatever was in front of him. It was his signature sound I could recognise anywhere. I lay there with the most extraordinary feeling of warmth spreading through my heart and slipped back to sleep.

I connect with him regularly now as he has not gone anywhere – in fact, he is within me, in my heart, an intrinsic aspect of me. He helped me write my book Kahuna – the Cat Who Didn’t Die. He helped me write this article and he shares with me profound wisdom. One of my favourite examples is when I realised we were not going to hit the book launch date I’d planned to coincide with Kahuna’s passing. I was so sure that a launch on 6th January, a year on from him popping through the membrane as well as being epiphany was a perfect date. But it was not going to happen. I asked him what that was about and his response had me laughing. He said basically ‘Dates are completely man-made things and have no real meaning other than what we assign them.’ He went on to say that every day can be as profound and meaningful as we want, so not to be concerned. What a beautiful reminder that we are not bound by anything other than our imagination!

Asking what he’d love me to share with you, he reminds me of something he shared in the book – that cats are often considered aloof, but this is not the truth. Cats expand to feel everything and be part of everything. They understand we are all One. So aloofness is not as we perceive it, it is their state of being one with everything. He suggests we slow down, enjoy our environment, and expand our awareness out until we are all at one. His advice for all of us is this – be more cat- lke.

Kahuna is certainly a cat that didn’t die.

If you would love to read more about this journey with Kahuna to death and beyond please follow the link: https://francescacassini.com/books/kahuna/ Kahuna – The Cat Who Didn’t Die is for sale there.

The Story Behind Silver Tent – A Movement for Post-Menopausal Women


12 Minute Read

The Christmas after I turned 59 was my dark night of the soul. For the first time, I honestly faced the nagging concern I’d had for so many years – I’d messed up! I’d messed up by choosing not to take my place at university all those decades ago. Fear had kept on stopping me going across the years – fear of being back in an environment where I was not in charge, fear of having to conform – so I didn’t.

I didn’t get married, didn’t have children, didn’t have a career, didn’t have a house, and didn’t create any sort of nest egg. I seemed to lurch from one inspiring project to another but wasn’t able to build any firm foundations and each crumbled one by one. I went from being immersed in a frenzy of activity to crashing and burning. At 59, my lifelong failure stared back at me unblinkingly. I thought all there is left is for me – is to go downhill and die.

Yet instead of sidestepping all of this as I normally would, I allowed it to be. I allowed the possibility of it being true. I stopped resisting, stopped denying, and just stopped. I was holed up in bed with a bad chest infection and I lay there until I was motivated to move again.

Then something unexpected happened. Unexpected as I’d learned that to create one’s own reality you had to focus on it. However, all I was focused on was this barren landscape of a life less lived! At least, that was how I saw it during those few weeks.

Out of the blue, an ex-flatmate got in touch from Peru. He offered me a job, a paid one, writing for his spiritual tour company. Within a few weeks, I was on an all expenses paid trip to experience his signature bucket list tour, which included Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Amazon jungle for a week’s Ayahuasca retreat. I was rooming with another ‘elder’ woman and a seed of a thought emerged that maybe we ‘elder’ women have wisdom to offer the world. It came from some of the quiet thoughts she shared with me about the world.

Much of this magical tour was an ordeal because I was far too unfit for the Andes but it was still an incredible journey. And even though I am at my worst in hot humid environments surrounded by insects, I fell in love with the jungle. I loved the noise – the drumming rain on the roof of my roughly hewn wooden cabin on stilts, the orchestra of bull frogs and other wildlife which escalated during the frequent rain storms. And then there was the beautiful sound of the shaman singing his songs of protection in the middle of the night as I journeyed with Ayahuasca on a deep exploration of my psyche. I had a vision of my birth – me with my feet braced at the entrance to this world screaming for all I was worth ‘Noooooooooo!’. It was an opportunity to let that resistance to being alive on this planet go. About time too.

When I arrived back in the UK, I just wanted to lie face down on the grass in the rain all the time. And as the rainforest had got deeply under my skin, I found myself choosing to spend four months in an off-grid yurt in a secluded Welsh valley during the wettest winter on record in Wales! It was like living inside a drum. And as I learned the rhythm and voices of the stormy winds I knew I might never live in a house again. Emerging out the other side of this womb-like existence – where it took an hour to boil a kettle on top of the woodburner for tea, and two hours to cook a stew or heat enough water for a wash – I realised I may be a worry wart but I was also a resilient and awesome woman!

The idea that we women over 50 are wild, wonderful and wise began to root more deeply.

Having discovered that this part of Wales is my spiritual home I stayed. I found myself a small caravan to live in which shook in the wild winds and where I could hear the rain hammering on the thin aluminium roof. Joy!

Francesca Cassini

An Intuitive PR course I did online around my storytelling – separate from my spiritual travel work – showed me that the people who would be most interested in what I had to share were women over 50. It was like a light bulb going on and it married so well with my increasing sense of us ‘elders’ sharing our wisdom with the world. And before you think you don’t have any – think again.

You can’t make it through 50+ years on this planet without gaining insight, understanding and your own unique perspective. I’d wager a bet on us all being far wiser than we give ourselves credit for. Somehow it’s easier in the ageist society we live in, to believe we’re not worth very much at all, particularly once we’re past menopause. After all, if we aren’t slim, young, fertile and gorgeous, we must be on the scrap heap. So speaks the masculine voice of authority through the press, through our peers and even through our own family.

Another out-of-the-blue opportunity pinged its way in to my inbox – the chance to participate in a shamanic retreat with Elen Tompkins, author of Silver Wheel – the Lost Teachings of the Deerskin Book. As I read the offer I burst into tears. And no matter how hard I tried to talk myself out of it, I knew I had to go. I had already committed to following my heart, but this was the first time I truly followed it without having any conscious sense of the reason for doing it.

A couple of months later, I was camping in a tiny tent during a massive storm under the stern gaze of a rock giant and his mate, with the deep rumbling roar of a waterfall nearby. It was a mystical place to be and perfect for eleven of us to experience thirteen shamanic ceremonies from the Elven Realm of Lemuria. I still had no conscious sense of what I was doing there except reconnecting with an ancient vow. I wondered what that could be.

A few days later, I lost my job and my landlord decided that he had better ask me to leave too. I also had a very sick cat, who was cage-bound for weeks. Did I have a Plan B? Of course not! But I do believe that when things become so chaotic, a breakthrough is just around the corner. So I stayed as calm as I could and allowed life to unfold, and for magic to happen.

Money-making suggestions started pouring in. But I haven’t been able to work purely for money for years. I have to work from inspiration and ideally a bonus is the essential cash flow. But something else happened – out of the suggestions emerged the idea of a community. A community of women over 50 who acknowledge they are truly wise elders with something of value to offer the world.

As I drove through a beautiful Welsh valley, I asked out loud what would be the name of the place where these wonderful elder women would meet? Our version of The Red Tent. At that very moment, the name The Silver Tent boomed out. I felt goose bumps race over my arms while energy shot down through my crown chakra and out through my feet. I burst into tears. Just thinking about this moment as I write is enough to make the tears flow again. I knew in that instant this was bigger than me. It was as if I had been the open-hearted goddess through which this could be birthed. My vow.

All of a sudden, I understood why my life has unfolded the way it had. I had been waiting to be 62 years old, in the right place at the right time – in order to bring this divinely inspired enterprise to fruition.

I saw this community as a crystalline structure, transparent, strong and deeply feminine. It would be a place where we would meet on and offline, learn from each other, share with each other, and discover that being wise elders is our birthright. In fact, it is in our DNA, it is what we’re designed to be. This stage of our lives, far from being a fading out is the most profound, magnificent and creative time of our lives. And above all, we’d take our wisdom out in to the world. I began to believe the Gloria Steinem quote that says ‘one day an army of gray haired woman will quietly take over the world’. Yes, yes, yes.

This was back in October 2016. Since then, almost 3000 women from all around the world have joined the Silver Tent Facebook Group. It is the most engaging and supportive group, I have personally experienced and the feedback is quite extraordinary. I was totally clear from the beginning that this was to be founded on the principles of conscious, co-creative collaboration and to be a place of non-judgemental support, nourishment and learning. What came through intuitively is that this would be the space to create a movement of women over 50 who would create this third stage of our lives imbued with meaning and celebration, as well as making a profound difference in our world.

I am in awe every day at the conversations unfolding in the group and the transformations, which occur. One woman shared her sadness and anger at her relationship ending. She allowed herself to be vulnerable. The wisdom and support from the community was way beyond what you’d expect in a FB group. Woman after woman shared their experiences and reminded her of how wonderful she is and that she didn’t need to settle for anything less than she deserves. She kept in touch with us posting her feelings along the journey -of failure and upset and of challenge – until she shared with us her excitement at enrolling in college again to learn something new. She changed her life and herself in the process and told me that her transformation was helped substantially by being a part of The Silver Tent and receiving such non-judgemental support.

Another woman poured her heart out about her ex-husband and his imminent death. As she posted, day by day taking us with her on her emotional journey, she called on our help and support, but what she didn’t realise for a long time was how much we received from her. Her growth shone through as she learned moment by moment to be more of herself through self reflection and forgiveness. She has been an incredible beacon to all of us. She has helped us understand that our most vulnerable moments can give others more than we can ever believe possible. We certainly don’t need to be perfect in order to share our wisdom.

There are many stories of how this growing global circle of women over 50 is transformational. The Facebook Group is giving people the space to be vulnerable and find support. Our online video meet-ups have taught us that even though we’re meeting in a virtual room, we actually feel as intimately connected as if we were all sitting round a blazing fire sipping mulled wine together. There is an oxytocin rush, which gives us all a wonderful level of deep nourishment. And from this, we’re developing offline meet-ups around the world as well as retreats and house parties.

One of the biggest visions of The Silver Tent is to create co-housing communities all around the world. A new Silver Tent member contacted me recently to talk about just this. She had been her mother’s carer for six years until her death about two days before we spoke. Depression had been her companion for a while and she believed there was nothing for her after this. But she came across the idea of co-housing and it brought some light back to her life. After we chatted for an hour or two about co-housing, we knew we were on the same page. She came to meet me and we are now working together to create the first community of this kind. We’re starting from scratch with no funds available so it is a fascinatingly big project, one that is changing her life… and mine!

There are so many plans to develop. Silver Sofas will be our version of AirBnB helping our women travel around the world feeling supported and safe. Our Silver Wisdom Portal along with Silver Tent Radio and TV will be where we share our wisdom within and beyond the community. Not to mention the quarterly bursary and the philanthropic foundation, which will emerge once we are more than breaking even financially. And there is always more.

It is fascinating to look back and see that the seeds of this have been within me all my life. Just like an acorn grows into an oak tree, I have at last grown in to who I have been destined to be. It is an amazing and magical adventure.

Francesca Cassini, Founder, The Silver Tent

The Silver Tent is creating a movement of post-menopausal women regaining their wild, wonderful and wise elder status to enable the re-emergence of the female elder in western society.

It does this by serving women to reconnect with their wisdom and re-ignite their dreams through an online community offering on and offline conferences, coaching and mentoring, luscious retreats and workshops, global travel experiences and peer to peer meet ups.

The current foundational team and faculty coaches/mentors are wise elder women themselves, are experts in their field, have great experience in running relevant events and in particular supporting women to recognise their value and wisdom through a number of modalities.

To join us: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheSilverTent/ and www.thesilvertent.com

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