We’ve had a lovely morning here with good breakfasts and lots of play, time in the kitchen and time to watch the birds, time for the human to let her mind wander, unfocused, while she absently photographs and sketches a clowder of inspiring cats. The morning has turned mild with lots of sun and a feeling of spring, recalling other such mornings in this kitchen. Sunday mornings, especially in the kitchen, are always a time for remembrance and reflection.
This afternoon I’ll be attending the Healing Hearts Pet Loss Workshop sponsored my friend, customer and the woman to whom I entrust my cherished animal companions, Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation. I attend or participate in most of the events and gatherings Deb organizes and always remark that it’s because she is my customer, but in truth I need just as much support in my own grief as anyone else. I’ve been thinking about the event since yesterday, acting cavalier as if it won’t affect me, I’ll be helping Deb and providing support for her by being there, and I will indeed be helping but I also know that once I’m there I’m also another human who’s grieving the loss of a pet and all the changes in my household and my life that are part of that loss.
As I remember, especially, Cookie and Kelly, above, I also carry with me all the others who’ve shared my life. Below is a list of links to an article I’d written in 2010 and republished in 2011 after I’d also lost my mother, and the tributes or stories I’ve written and posted about others—not all are sad or even about their passing, just my memories of the times we spent.
In any living being, living is an act of will, because without it a being does not thrive and eventually dies. But death is not the lack of that will to live, rather it is part of the same will as a being accepts that this physical body can no longer sustain and the body and spirit must part, but living does not necessarily end there. I make no conjectures about what happens after the body and spirit part, but for those of us who’ve felt the touch of a loved one no longer present, however brief or peripheral, I find it hard to believe that living is only accomplished in a physical body.
I’m always browsing back and forth through my photos for design projects, though typically they are just the more recent digitals; I’m a little lazy about this sometimes. But in the past few months I’ve been telling the stories of my own cats and also writing my rescue stories and to illustrate I’m digging out photos of rescued cats from as long as 25 years ago. I’m also working on design projects using my artwork, so I’m digging back through recent digital photos and farther back into the years of film prior to that to find my shots of the artwork as I work on my layouts.
Our animal companions and our communications with them are so deeply intertwined with each moment of our day even when we’re not together, and in every moment we are thinking of them even when we don’t realize it. Is it any wonder, than, that these random moments cause us to build emotional attachments to random objects?
I have at times felt such an intense loneliness from Kelly since Cookie died, and while I’ve felt sadness now and then from Kelly through the years, it’s been present constantly since then. In the past five year she’s never grown accustomed to Mimi and the kids, she lost all her friends, and even with me doting on her she is one kitty who loves me but loves other cats better. And that’s always been fine.
Another star watches over me tonight. Cookie is with the rest of my feline family in the heavens, but her love is with me forever.
When I was growing up, we called Memorial Day “Decoration Day” and planted flowers on my grandparents’ graves. Being all immigrants there was no extended family to memorialize, and my parents’ generation, “The Greatest Generation”, were still around but had no interest in memorializing their service in that war, enjoying the holiday for remembering their own parents and then having picnics and enjoying all the elements of freedom they had fought to preserve.
One of the most frightening things in life is facing the unknown, and in losing your animal companion you take a big scary step into a lot of unknown territory even if you’ve been through the experience already. You may know your animal companion has a chronic illness and their death is eventual if not imminent, and you will literally have life and death decisions to make about a being very dear to you, but you have no idea where or when or how their loss will occur or what you will have to do. Your companion knows, though, and you only need to use your own human intuition and trust your bond of love.
And sometimes a public event marks a time or a circumstance in your life, in fact stands as a metaphor for your circumstances, even though it has no connection with you or your life at all; yet, whenever you encounter a remembrance of that event, it brings back that time in your life as if it was a slideshow playing for your review.
Namir trots in anticipation down the length of my desk because a car has pulled up in front of my home and studio. He leans far off the edge and looks out the door at our guest, who is now approaching. Oh, the hopeful expression with ears cupped forward and whiskers at attention, practically on his toes and his tail waving, looking straight up into our visitor’s eyes.
But I heard a cat meow.
Nonsense, I thought to myself, you always hear a cat meow. There’s no cat here, this bank is at the end of the world, all there is after this is graded mud all the way to the highway, winding development roads, not a single house, not even another human being. There is no way there’s a cat anywhere around here.
Sweet Stanley, on one of his last mornings, enjoys the winter sun to warm him and perhaps remind him of younger days. He was just about 25 years old.
Eager for her bowl at each mealtime her humble and reserved personality had other cats served first, but that gave me the opportunity to appreciate the anticipation on her face as I lowered her bowl to the floor in front of her, as if she still couldn’t believe she was actually getting another bowl of food, just for her. A starving feral kitten, probably a day or two from death, Moses never forgot her beginnings.
For the first time in a very long time my household felt full again, though counting Sally I had eight cats in the house in a physical sense and it should have felt full already. But it felt complete that I could sense the presences of the three who had passed as if they were just in the next room and that wonderful group who had moved here were once again together.
One night in early April, 1988, still with patches of snow on the frozen earth, a very small, very pregnant cat politely but confidently asked me if she could come into my home to give birth to her kittens. Of course I said yes, and I witnessed the entrance to this life of four independent and individualistic progeny. The last one born stayed with me after the others were adopted; the “runt of the litter”, the little cat with the big attitude, a torbie, my Fawn.
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