It’s surprisingly heavy – after all he did have a belly on him — but the 4×4 size seems hardly big enough to contain his ashes. Certainly, it can’t hold his spirit. Nothing is big enough for that.
He died while I snuggled on him three weeks ago. Some days I’m fine. It was time. Long life. Good years together and all that. But then I think I see his shadow in the corner where he laid, and I just want to rub my fingers along his broad head and down behind his ears one more time. His fur was like black velvet. So dark you almost couldn’t see him unless his gold eyes were open. His attitude, well, he was a bit like Archie Bunker. Intolerant, opinionated, aloof. Except with me. Never with me. I was his person. And, I’m missing all of it and all of him.
As my friend, who recently lost her beloved dog wrote: “grief sucketh.”
The Shock of Missing
I’ve lost loved ones before. My grandparents, whom I adored, some good friends, and amazing animals, and each time, each freakin’ time, I’m surprised again by how much grief smacks. Not every loss has been a surprise. My grandmother was in her 90s and very ill. I had time with her at the end. My cat was not going to recover from his ailments. I knew it was coming and I was there. But the end is, so, well, endish.
There is a moment, right before death comes where the energy in the space changes and for a split second there is room for awe as you watch the body letting go. There is a second of peace and a beauty that comes from being a part of this profound experience. Then it just all becomes dark and quiet and empty. Feels like swimming alone in a deep quarry pool and you’re not sure how you’re ever going to get out.
Even as I get back to the routine – and you do in your own time, you pay bills and go to work and make dinner — the grief jolts me like a power surge, blinding me to everything but the missing part. That longing means I’ve forgotten the milk when the only reason I went to the store was to get it. Some days, I’m in bed by 8 p.m. already exhausted. I’ve forgotten to pay the bills. When my grandmother died, I found it hard to open the mail. Too much to manage when I was barely able to get through the sadness.
Grief is so demanding and that annoys me, too. It’s impractical, unproductive. Whole days when I don’t get anything done. There is so much to do yet when we grieve, it’s tough to do any of it with any kind of focus.
I can be going along just fine and then I see Boo’s cat dish, or I hear his phantom pushing open the office door to come hop on my desk. But he never comes and the grief is so surprising in its hardness it’s as though I’ve walked into a closed sliding glass door. It knocks me back. It’s breath-taking, equilibrium-messing, memory-stifling, habit-changing.
Big Grief and Big Love
Now a few weeks in, I’m getting used to Boo’s empty bed in the corner and the absence of pressure against my chest where he used to sleep. I don’t like it, but it’s real and okay. I even miss the vet — The compassionate woman whom talked to me almost every day for months while we tried to help The Boo Cat. I might just give her a call.
But this grief is also so reassuring. I feel better knowing that I am capable of loving this big and this much and this long – despite the risks. It reminds me of who I am and what matters here. We are not the routines, or the jobs, or the titles, or the money. We are the way we connect. The way we love. And, we are creatures capable of loving so well that it has the power to animate everything.
I’m relieved too that I am capable of feeling so primal and vulnerable and open because of this cat and all of the other people and creatures who over the years used the time they had here to love me too. I feel cracked open and grateful and that feeling is expansive, despite the sadness.
Really, how much sadder it would have been to live with this astounding and brilliant, beautiful and difficult (despite the loss I am not delusional he was very demanding ) creature like my Boo Cat and not have his fur all over my pajamas and his paws imprinted all over my heart. To not feel grief over his loss would have devalued our time together and diminished his purpose and the gifts he gave.
I am not comparing my loss to yours. Each is personal and complicated and raw. No loss is trivial to the person doing the losing. But each time we encounter it, we also get to encounter love, admiration, gratitude. Course, I’d prefer to love Boo while he is here and healthy, but that’s over now.
Still, the knowledge that to grieve him, means that I also got to love him helps me settle in with my sadness. He made a difference in my world. And so did the others, the people and animals whom I’ve loved and lost before. And in the end, they remind me of the greatest lesson of all: I am capable of loving in a big way and that means I am also able to live in a big way.