CATS: AND THE LESSONS THEY TEACH US

We have two cats. Both adopted us in 2001.

 

My husband and I were traveling in a motor home from Arizona to Florida.

 

MinkaAt a KOA in Texas, as we pulled onto our site, a homeless Tortie kitten raced across the campground, sat, and meowed outside our door. We let her in and named her Minka.

 

Three days later, a handsome grey shorthair did the same thing at a campground in Orlando. We named him Bailey.

 

Over the years, Minka and Bailey have given us many gifts and life lessons. They’ve shown us how to play, be silly, stretch, be flexible and graceful, cuddle, snuggle, nap, be present, savor scents and all our senses, stay nicely groomed, and more.

 

Last week, Bailey was diagnosed with widespread carcinomatosis. Our vet saidBailey that our sweet boy cat has perhaps two months to live. Probably less. Among the hard things: we are going to have to decide when to say when.

 

We’ve never had to put a pet down. We aim to preserve life. In fact, in our home we’ve had a catch-and-release program (for spiders, mice, and other unwelcomed house guests) in place since the 1980s.

 

But we must consider Bailey’s comfort and quality of life.

 

Among the good things: facing death hurts, and yet it can lead us toward greater love and compassion. 

 

Knowing that Bailey’s days are numbered reminds me that life is precious, every creature is valuable, and the days are numbered for us all.

 

This “near death” lesson reminds me to forgive myself and others of everything I have ever judged and to be of service in ways large or small, however I am called. Right now, it is giving gentle care to a dying creature.

 

The gift of this is feeling deep reverence for life itself.

 

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(Added on May 26) On this Memorial Day, while I am especially focused on my dad and his service in WWII, with gratitude for him and for all who have served as well as for all who are now serving, my heart is expanded with appreciation for all my departed loved ones, including animals. And so I want to add to here that we said good-bye to Bailey on May 9th. 

 

It seems to me that there are pockets of stored emotions in us. At least it is like that for me. As I continue to feel the loss of Bailey, it’s like I’ve tapped into the pocket of grief where there is still some residual pain for every loss I’ve ever experienced. Over the past few weeks, in addition to hurting because Bailey died, I’ve been missing my parents, all my departed loved ones, and so much more… things not even remembered. At times the pain has been profound. I’m keeping the pocket opened. Not to stay stuck in grief. But to have this opened pocket place be touched by light , love, and self compassion. Grieving is a sacred time for letting things be, letting things go, appreciating, watching for lessons, healing… without hurrying ourselves or others though it. Love to all who are grieving for any reason.

 

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