A New Sympathy Card, My Old Man

A new greeting card design, "My Old Man".
A new greeting card design, “My Old Man”.

“My Old Man”, a sleepy Stanley, on the rocker, on the deck, in the sun, in late summer of his last year with me, 2006. He was with me for 21 years and came to me well into adulthood, so my best guess is that he was 24 here; he passed the following January but enjoyed his time outdoors until December, demanding to visit the yard and download his pee-mail every day, sometimes before he had breakfast, but before his frequent dose of sub-cutaneous fluids for his chronic kidney failure and morning nap.

His tabby coat and white markings were so common but to me he was the most beautiful tabby cat I’d ever seen. I adored the little white diamond between his eyes and the little snip of white on his nose, and those precious white paws, always like white cotton balls, dangling off the edge of the rocker, a very typical pose for him all his life long as you can see in his signature portrait, “After Dinner Nap”. The racing stripes that outlined his eyes and the structure of his face turned to big marbled swirls on his sides, and his tail was very much like a raccoon. Even to the very end his eyes were very big and very green and very dramatic and he was the original melodramatic kitty. He wore his little kitty heart on his tabby sleeve and loved me and his feline brothers and sisters and from the door defended his home passionately, though sometimes with a little too much…moisture, against any intruder who dared stepped a paw into his yard.

The scene for this is my deck, which you’ve seen in so many other photos of my cats, though typically in color for the brilliance of the turquoise rocker Stanley sleeps on, and the pinks and purples of the flowers and green of the herbs I always grow in pots.

This photo was taken with traditional black and white film using my old Pentax K1000 with the 50mm lens and the 1.5X teleconverter behind the lens for a shallow depth of field. I set the f-stop and shutter speed so that the highlights and bright sun in the background would flash out but the details in the mid-range areas, such as Stanley’s face, would hold. I scanned the print and applied no filters to it.

It has always made me think of summer, of morning, and old memories.

"My Old Man", the original photo.
“My Old Man”, the original photo.

I’m preparing my thoughts for my presentation on Pet Memorial Sunday, this weekend, speaking about the joy of living with pets, and adopting again after a loss. I began my set of sympathy cards with designs that featured a sentiment on the front, and a “design” of image and background, a setting that others could use to convey their thoughts. I also appreciate, and have had requests for, simple image cards with no sentiment, and black and white photos, especially with a particularly intimate focus, are introspective and say much with no words at all. They can also be used for other reasons in addition to sympathy, and I’ve received many black and white photo cards that have inspired me through the years. This won’t be the last, but is rather the first of a new series of the special portraits I’d captured of nearly all my cats through the years.

Gray "Granite Recycled" envelope.
Gray “Granite Recycled” envelope.

Envelope choices

I truly believe in the old-fashioned method of sending cards in the mail for certain reasons, and sympathy is one of them. The privacy of receipt, the grieving recipient finding an unexpected greeting in the mailbox, opening it up when they are ready and reading the greeting and your words, an intangible embrace when one is needed, a tangible message they can keep until they are ready to let it go. It’s always been comforting to me, and I still have many of mine.

I also think it should look special when it arrives, but not with something that announces grief and sympathy. A simple colored envelope will do, and I offer colored envelopes with most of my sympathy cards. While I’d really prefer just a plain pale silver gray envelope to complement the black and white photo in addition to standard white, the gently threaded pattern of the “Granite Recycled” envelope coordinates well with the gentle shadows in the photo.

You can find this card in my Etsy shop.

Read more about Stanley too, and later today I’ll share more photos from this particular morning. The choice was difficult, but in the end the whiskers won me over.

. . . . . . .

About my sympathy cards

animal sympathy cards
The set of sympathy cards.

As an artist I turn my emotions into creative output. Thus it is with the grief I’ve felt at the losses of my cats through the years. After receiving many sympathy cards I realized that not too many are focused on the loss of an animal companion, and I vowed to create a line of sympathy cards drawn on my own experiences that would feature photos and paintings of my cats and others’ animal companions as well as artwork and photos not focused on any species.

It wasn’t until after I’d lost Namir in July 2009 that I was suddenly moved to start designing, and when the task was done I had a dozen different sympathy cards. Each of the cats depicted was or is one of mine and the dog, Tika, I came to know through a friend and her animal memorial project.

Since then I’ve designed four new cards, for Lakota and Emeraude, and for Kennedy and now for Namir. I’ve also found that other cards outside this series are also used for sympathy cards, and as I mentioned above these sympathy cards are used for other greeting purposes. I’m so pleased to serve six veterinary hospitals around the country, four of them cat-specific, with wholesale orders of my sympathy cards. It also brings me joy to know the cats I loved are still out there doing their magic on others.

You can all the original designs on my regular website, and you can also read about all the cards individuals and animal professionals choose to use for sympathy.

You can also find the original set of a dozen sympathy cards in my Etsy shop. With the additional cards I’m going to organize different sets and take the time to list them each individually.

Tabby cat on table by window
A rather young and handsome Stanley.


Namir on my drafting table when my studio was downstairs.

Take a look at other new merchandise and featured artwork.

Once a week on Thursday I feature something new in my “shop”, whether that’s here on The Creative Cat, in my Etsy shop, on my main website or even at one of the bricks and mortar shops that carry my work.

Read about creating custom items

Find out more about creating custom items for your own home using the images you see here. Visit the “Ordering Custom Art” page to see samples and read bout how to order.

Find out about events and festivals where you can find me and my work.

Sign up for my e-newsletter (below), check the widget on the sidebar on my home page, or sign up to receive posts on Portraits of Animals Marketplace. I plan on plenty of events this coming summer in the Pittsburgh area.

It’s all done under the close and careful supervision of my studio cats!

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Browse some rescued cats and kittens!

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

© 2015 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!



Inspire Me Monday on Create With Joy

Inspire Me Monday
Inspire Me Monday



From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

3 thoughts on “A New Sympathy Card, My Old Man

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  • September 10, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    That is a beautiful card. Thank you for visiting us and leaving kind words for my Lucy. I am still praying for a miracle.

    • September 10, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      I hope you do have a miracle, Pilch92. I hope things are beginning to change already.


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