Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ritual for Luna: May 1, 2000 – March 4, 2010

Just two days before Luna passed.
A Year Ago
Two days from now will mark a year to the day that we took our 9 year-old cat to the emergency vet. She was listless, having difficulty breathing and hadn’t been eating or drinking. In three days she had lost enough weight to appear suddenly skeletal. At the vet she perched like a rabbit on the floor between us while we waited for test results, so normal that we thought we worried for nothing. Two hours and a drive across town later, she came back from an x-ray in serious distress. I stared at the abstract art they were calling the x-ray film, her body obscured by a black mass where intestine and stomach should have been. I marveled at the sheer size of the darkness that swam towards the boundaries of her tiny body.

I wish, in retrospect, that I could have carved time out of bedrock and stilled her pain for a few moments more so we could have said a proper goodbye. She was audibly gasping and her tongue was lolling out. The earth mother in me who is wiser than my heart knew what we had to do and my partner and I were in agreement. It took a moment. In between my hands I held her head and her gaze. I told her she was the best girl ever and that we loved her so very much with as much stability as I could muster. My partner cradled her body. In less than three seconds she was gone. It was the hardest moment of my life. But it was the first moment that I did not need to weigh my options or think about the situation before I made a decision. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about us.

We gifted Luna death. The separation of the spirit from the body is one of the hardest Mysteries for humans to work through and the way our society distances us from death leaves us little tools to help with the working of it.

Luna was the first Household Loss I have ever experienced- the kind of loss that affected and threw hiccups into my day-to-day routine. I didn’t realize until after she passed how much she spent my whole day moving through the house with me, talking to me, sleeping on me, so much so that my skin holds memories of her the way my heart does. There were hundreds of new firsts I was unprepared for, like the first time we didn’t fill her food bowl, the first time Luna didn’t come running for treats, the first holiday without her, the first of every night she has not slept curled against or on me… The first time we called her name out because we forgot she was dead.

We allowed ourselves to grieve when we were sad and to cry when we felt like we would break from the loss of her. By giving into those moments and not trying to repress them because maybe it wasn’t a good moment or might make someone else uncomfortable, they passed quickly and ebbed away for another reprieve. We took turns helping the other two cats through their own grieving, walking with the baby while she wandered the house checking all of the places where Luna used to sleep. My animal grief spoke the same language as their animal grief and we were bonded in the loss, stronger than before.

I’ve had dreams of holding her and feeling her weight against me and being able to recall perfectly the sound of her purr and the way she used to wrap her paw around my index finger like a baby- and not let go of it. And then I wake to morning, reaching for her, and remembering all over again. I have seen her running in the house when the other cats were sleeping beside me. I have felt her crawl into my lap and settle down only there is no cat there. I cannot say if it is her spirit or if it is the energy current and echo of a pattern she had established within our home, or both. Spirit visitations can be cruel when they remind you that you can never touch them again. Not the way you used to, skin against skin. And yet, the gifts she gave us in her life have not been diminished in the grieving.

We are all animals beneath the skin. Luna was my first experience in the joy, love and fear of being responsible for a defenseless living being. I discovered much of myself in raising her and accepting the bits of behavior that were her way of exploring the world, and not mine to control.

Darth Luna, she was a pistol.

Missing Luna
We go on the best we can. We move forward and keep our hearts open. I will set her ashes out and light my ancestor shrine. I will set her food bowl out on the altar with her favorite treats and toys inside it. I will write down all the stories I remember about her in the journal I have been keeping throughout the year. I will take a moment to reflect on the changes in our lives since she died without judgement or preference and I will acknowledge the gratitude(s) this year has brought me. I will cry because I feel like crying and I will laugh because she gave me such great joy.

The box for her was built by our friend Stone. I woodburned it with a bindrune for rebirth.

As a kitten, she was a bloody hellion who dug up the chicks and hens from Sicily every day. She chewed on all the electrical cords and liked to hold her catnip mice under in the water bowl. I found her curled up sleeping in my closet one day, totally cute, just before realizing she had chewed all of the buttons she could reach off of all of my shirts. One time, she somehow drained a tall skinny glass of milk dry without knocking it over, disturbing the table around it or spilling a drop. And yet, she always ran through a doorway at the same moment I was… I stepped on her tail a bajillion times. Which is funny because her totem animal was a Jackalope.

She was the first of the cats to catch a mouse and would leap off the back of the chair and catch moths in mid-air. Apparently, moth-wing dust was a special delicacy. She liked to bathe in the winter mornings in the fishbowl of warm water we kept on the grate for moisture. She slept curled in a ball behind my knees under the covers. If I said no to something she wanted she would sass at me with this staccato back-talk and I loved her for it. Her favorite two toys were this little gingham fabric mouse and a pink bouncy ball with a rainbow around the middle.
She ate through my plastic bag of valerian, before I understood it was like heroin to some cats, and I found her rolling in it in my office, her eyes glazed over. Luna always helped me sew by holding down the pattern pieces for me. She hated the wood floors and dreamt of a house lined with wall-to-wall sleeping bags. She always knew when I needed a break from work and would come tell me so. She sat with me through all my meditations and often appeared walking beside me in them. She was afraid of ants and plastic bags. In the winter time, she liked to sleep behind the bathroom door, where the v-shape trapped the heat in. When she was really mad at me she’d cuff me along the jaw with her cupped paw, no claws, and then run away out of reach- boy did she have a mean hook.

We have little prisms hanging in the windows and Luna used to run back and forth over the bed chasing the little rainbows. When I think of her now, even though there is still sadness at the loss of her physical presence, I see her chasing flashing prisms across the quilt and I know she loved us as much as we loved her and that she was happy, and the pain of loss is well worth the price of the time we shared together.


  1. I held it together reading this until the very end when you got me with that last sentence. She was, indeed, a special girl. I particularly remember her "kittenhood" when you lived in Dunkirk, and I remember wondering if she was going to live to see adulthood because of the holy terror that she was. I think of her a lot now...

    As I told you and Kelley recently, I was so moved by your actions following the time of her passing. You were so respectful of her spirit and of her honor, and you wouldn't have compromised that in any way. She was loved just as much through death, as she was loved in life. Unfortunately, that's not something that a lot of non-humans experience, but Luna did and she was fully aware of it. <3

  2. I treasure your friendship, for knowing that sometimes it helps to hear those things. I think the fact that we allowed ourselves a little time to decide how best to honor her physical vessel and determine what we needed from her death, allowed us to truly let go of wishing she was here and move on to missing and grieving her naturally.

    I know that what we did would have been hard for a lot of people. It was messy and gut-wrenching at times but it made her death real and forced us to work through it.


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