When stray cats adopt me and gradually win my heart, I don’t expect them to leave me quickly.
But sometimes they do.
How finally, after five months, she let me pet her. And how she eventually started to roll over and let me rub her belly. How little by little she became a pet instead of a stray cat who ate at my house.
I envisioned us having a long time together. I was sure she’d work her way into being an indoor/outdoor cat instead of just an outdoor one. I wondered what it would be like to have her white fur all over the house. And I wondered when she’d finally jump up into my lap to snuggle.
What I didn’t envision was that she would have only a little over a year with me.
But that’s how long we had together.
Friday evening I found her dead a few feet from the fence in my back yard. She had been fine that morning. She and my other cat had breakfast and then were at the door later for a second breakfast – which I gave them. Nothing seemed amiss.
So I was stunned when I found her body in the back yard that evening. I don’t know what killed her. She looked as if she were sleeping on her side.
This was the cat who taught me about birth and cat motherhood when she brought me her kittens.
And now she’s teaching me about death.
When I got up Friday morning, I had no idea I’d be burying her before dinner.
Life and death are like that. As much as we like to think we have some control, we don’t. Control is an illusion.
I’ve had this death put into perspective, though. In the last two days I’ve seen posts on Facebook about unexpected deaths. Daughters who died suddenly. Daughters who left husbands and children and parents and siblings and grandparents who never thought they’d be burying a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a grandchild. These survivors are more than heartbroken. They will grieve deeply for the rest of their lives.
And it’s not just daughters who die. Sons do. Husbands do. Wives do. Grandparents do. Aunt and uncles do. Friends do.
Everyone does at some point.
I leave tomorrow for a silent retreat, and with me I’ll take the knowledge of death. I’ll let myself be with that inevitability – that I will die one day. That I will experience the death of loved ones, of friends, of pets. I’ll be present with the fact that this world brings us both life and death.
Yes, it’s both and.
We live and we die. Even though we don’t like to think of the death part.
Does the fact of death diminish life?
I don’t think it does. Paradoxically, it enhances it. We know that life here on this earth is finite. That we are not assured tomorrow. And neither are those we love.
So we need to love well now. We need to be present now.
That little black and white spotted cat reminded me of a lot of truths. Her last lesson is painful. But I don’t regret knowing her.
I’m grateful for the time we had together.
Thank you, Cosette. I wish you Godspeed over the rainbow bridge.
And because I know I’ll join you on the other side one day, I’ll try to be more aware now.