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, June 11, 2014

To Love What is Mortal

Bella the Bearcat  April 1, 2002 – June 11, 2013
 I’m not sure what it is about the first anniversary of a death that weighs so heavy. One year. It’s not like I stare at the calendar and count the days down. It’s more like the day comes around, and life has carried on, but there is a niggling reminder in my brain that the date is important. Only I am not sure why. Then, when I remember, it’s always different, and yet always the same…
Suddenly I remember exactly where I was, how the room smelled, how my heart felt. I remember sitting on the floor of my office with Bella, willing her to lift her head and watching her try to roll her eyes to meet mine instead, holding my partner’s hand. We both remember the moment we knew what was being asked of us. One year ago, today.
Bella wasn’t ready. We weren’t ready. But death and time didn’t much care. It was the right thing that we did, because we loved her.
Yesterday I found a bit that I wrote before we made the phone call last year: For the last two days I have seen small flashes of light flitting about my field of vision. I didn’t think anything of them until this morning. Last week, when my father had unexpected surgery, I prayed hard to our ancestors to see him through it all right. I threw a door open to Spirit. When I saw my cat this morning, my baby, I saw those flashes of light surrounding her and I knew deep down in my gut that something was wrong. As I type this, she is dying. You can see it in the absence of her gaze and the listless limpness of her lounging. She is not in pain. She is not in distress but her light in this world is dying none the less. And we are watching, sitting death side with her. We put on her favorite cello music and brushed her with her favorite soft bristle brush for as long as she wanted. We tempted her with soft food, and she ate some, but not all… which is telling.
And then I couldn’t write anymore. All of the words that wanted to come out were a shadow of what I was experiencing. Again.
For every pic in focus, I have 20 blurry ones.
I remember how she felt beneath my hand. How she was bristley, not soft. When she was a kitten, she slept across my throat at night, her tiny breath dancing against my chin and neck. I raised her, taught her, watched her grow. The thudding slap of her feet against the floor as she stomped around the house always echoed. She did not see well and was easily startled into straight-up-in-the-air armadillo mode. It hurt her feelings when we laughed, which we did, and she’d cry/whine at us in response before hiding from whatever scared her in my lap. I was her wooby. I can recall with perfect clarity the sound of her voice. I used to tease her, calling her cranking cries “dulcet tones”. She understood sarcasm. She wasn’t terribly bright or brave, but she was the sweetest friend. And I know that she will always live in my heart. I know because I hold Luna there, too, who died three years before Bella.
I still call out for her. I look up when I see her ghost out of the corner of my eye and for a moment, I forget she is not corporeal. I live for the nights she visits my dreams and I can smell and feel her again. I think of us as a four cat household, even though two are gone. So, I guess, in reality, death has not removed them from my family. Death did not remove her from my heart.
We are a four cat family. Love adds. Love multiplied my family into something greater than it was. It is that awareness Bella gifted us with in her death. More than the sorrow and the loss and the tears I shed while writing this, wishing I could hold her one more time… more than the sadness, today I feel that love.
What I remember about that day now is the strength I found to step outside of my selfish human heart and let her go. To answer the vet when they asked the question of why we were putting her to sleep. I remember the strength I found to hold her head and her gaze as she died, so the last thing she saw was the love on my face for her. The last words she heard were us telling her what a good girl she was and how much we loved her.
I remember how strong my arms were when I picked her dead body up afterwards. She was still warm and yet the feel of her was gone. We stood at the window and watched the murder of crows in the field, the ones who came to shepherd her transition. I remember how hard it was to just lay her body down and walk away from it, knowing I would never hold her again, my hand hesitating on the door before I closed it shut behind me.
Love multiplies. At night now, I tell Mara stories about the sisters she didn’t get to know. I tell her how much it meant to us that she picked us, how heart-lifting her appearance in our lives was. And I think I understand now, what it means to know that neither Zami or Mara will be with us forever. There are no guarantees.
I could feel angry at the losses of Luna and Bella at such young ages and barricade my heart against such sadness again. I could. I could do that. But I can’t.
I think I’d rather be grateful for the time our lost friends gave me. I’d rather carry that gratitude into continuing to be grateful for the time our living friends give me. I am grateful for all the little lives I have woven into my own, each one so very different from the next. I will love them all until they leave me, and then I will love them still. Surely the best way we can honor those we lose is to continue to share our love. To take that love and share it with the living who need it.

excerpt from In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver (28-36):

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


  1. What a wonderful post and memorial to your beloved fur baby. I read it twice. My little fur baby is not so young. She's 22 years old and I am seeing the signs of deterioration. She is still eating, but I watch and it breaks my heart as I see the weakness in her back legs or the signs that her kidneys are shutting down. I know the day is coming and I can only hope to have the strength you showed.

  2. Thank you, Mary. I miss her terribly, but I am so grateful for all the memories I have. I don't think it ever gets easier. I do believe she will let you know when she's ready. When it comes, may it be an easy transition. My thoughts are with you and your baby.


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