Words and music by Sarah Pirtle
© 2006 Discovery Center Music, BMI
1. And that cat you named Indigo I must confess
When you needed a wheelchair no more sat on your chest.
For your arms could not move when you got ALS
and the cat missed the patting and scratching.
2. You stared at each other and you called her name
but without the chin chuckles it wasn’t the same.
“I am hurt you won’t snuggle,” was how she’d complain.
And you missed her warm fur as your blanket.
3. Then a new cat showed up in a blistering storm
and the comforting thing was he slept on your arm.
He’d purr by your ear as he kept you warm.
No complaints for the touch you can’t muster.
4. You called that cat Angel and angel he was
purring there by your side with his creamy brown fuzz.
Angel’s King of the Roost doing all that he doea.
Indigo has slunk under the sofa.
5. Now a moral decision ahead of you lies
as misery drips from Indigo’s eyes.
It’s breaking your heart to see her feel despised.
So you gave Angel up to a family.
6. Now with Angel as tutor, Indigo’s changed.
She’s back as your blanket and she’s purring again.
Says, “I’ll stay by your side through the wind and the rain.
I’ll be there as you make your transition.”
This is the true story of what happened to Karolka Rottenberg during the time she was dying of ALS, which is also called Lou Gehrig’s disease. Karolka made a difficult cat-centered decision when she was immobilized, and that was exactly like Karolka to do something in integrity even in the midst of preparing for death. Indigo not only slunk under the sofa but hid behind the refrigerator when the new interloper, the cat called Angel, took her place.
Karolka determined that the most important thing was to respect Indigo even though she was losing the comfort of Angel, and she gave the new cat to another family.
I was a friend of Karolka’s, and part of a group of caregivers lending support to her and to her husband Bob. Another caregiver, Kathy O’Rourke, suggested that I write a song about the miracles--first off, the arrival of Angel, and then the change in Indigo after Angel left. I said I had no idea how to do this. Then one morning I started to hear the melody in a dream. When I awoke and grabbed a pen, the whole song burst forth in about a half hour.
Here’s words Karolka said that I cherish:
I believe that we are surrounded
by the help that we need
and just to tune into that brings comfort.
I sometimes will visualize a hand on my shoulder.
And I will visualize whatever image comes to me --
the wings of the Shekhina,
Jesus, Quan Yin, whoever is there.
I’m open. Be with me now. I need you now.
That’s what imagination is for,
and when there’s nothing else you always have your breath.
Sometimes I just put on music and I’m amazed.
-- Karolka Rottenberg, December 1999
I like to remember Karolka sitting outside on a snowy day, bundled up in her wheelchair,
when she still could speak. She said that she believed like Anne Frank that all people are
really good at heart.
Describe the connection that you feel still to friends and family who have died. What connections have you had with people in a dying process? What are your beliefs about death? What is the most positive death experience for yourself that you wish for?