There were seven crows making a cacophony in the trees overlooking the back field where I knew Gracie was lying in the tall grass. She hadn’t eaten in two days, and was prone when sick to finding quiet spots where she would not be bothered in her personal health struggle. I had nursed this cat back to health so many times over the past four years that I knew this was her journey to make, as it was my place to clean up after her vomiting and offer whatever solace I could that she was not alone. To a casual observer I knew that the crows making the fuss over her would seem almost cruel as she wasn’t allowed a peaceful repose, but I have had my experiences with crows before. I knew they were rejoicing her homeward.
My sister called back and told my mother that she would take Gracie to the veterinarian’s to be put asleep. This was a choice I had been trying to avoid for four years. I have spent many a sleepless night as she cycled from healthy full of loving life cat, to days of dreadful fatigue as her sensitive system wasn’t able to process all of the hair she ingested in her daily cleanings. Brushing her countless times would not have made a difference. I fed her the most easily digestible food in order to make it as easy on her as I could. She was my special needs kitty – high maintenance…but one look in her clear blue eyes, and no human could withstand that kind of beauty.
I brought Gracie home in my time of need. I was living in North Carolina, dying of some mysterious illness of my own. I had lost an enormous amount of weight, and in my fear of dying alone, I had made a trip to the animal shelter and brought her home. She had been terribly abused for her sensitive system. She was in the habit of vomiting several times a week. She had been discovered a walking skeleton with a belly full of unborn kittens. I think when the vet had forced the abortion of the kittens, her body was in too much a state of weakness to handle the operation…and thus she was subject to lifelong illness. She was also a hair producing factory – shedding summer or winter enough silky Burmese fur to clothe a small nation. It was one look in her eyes that had me surrender to her charms. She kept a month long vigil over me as I lay exhausted in bed, wasting away.
The first time she threw up on my carpeting, she quickly hid under a cabinet as far back as she could – so as not to be beaten. I knew she had been abused because she was terrified of being handled, and more so afraid of being confronted after vomiting. I told her that I was sick all the time, so she should know that I empathized with her. Over four years it has just become part of my life to clean up after her episodes of illness. She was very allergic to hairball remedies, so with diet and brushings we kept those nights to a minimum. In my time of need she had kept watch over me to make sure that I knew that I was not alone. Today, in her time of need I had finally reached the end of my rope of seeing her suffer, and made a momentary decision to put her down.
If my sister were not handling all the details, I don’t think I could of gone through with it. This cat had witnessed my life’s most formative years. She has kept watch over me as I awakened to Self discovery, and was the closest sentient life to my heart. She was at times my only friend, and my only comfort as I moved further and further out of the world’s ebb and flows…into the often terrifying inward journey through the darkest recesses of my psyche. I could always count on Gracie for a good dose of simple loving. All she wanted was an occasional petting, and a chance to lay down near me while I did my daily writings and contemplations. She was always keeping that vigil over me.
As I approached her in the tall grass, the crows stopped their chorus and flew off. Gracie meowed softly as she saw me, and after a few ungainly steps towards me, she sat in exhaustion awaiting me to close the gap. I crouched down beside her, and she gave me the sweetest look of innocence, tilting her head to be scratched. After making of her silently for a few minutes, I picked her up into my arms and held her close. She was so light and submissive. Normally she baulked at being picked up, but this day she didn’t have the strength. I whispered in her ear that I was so grateful for her companionship over the past four years, and that I hoped I was doing the right thing. I walked her into the house, and set her down facing away from me. I knew I would collapse if she looked in my eyes again. I quickly closed the door, went outside, got into my truck and drove off to the copper mines forty miles away…a place of solitude where I could mourn my decision.
I had held my father’s hand as he died. I had twelve days to get used to the idea that he was going to die. It was one of the most wonderful experiences in my life. The crows sang him homeward that day, just as they did Gracie today. But with her, it was a decision made in an instant, and there wasn’t the time to fully embrace what her absence was going to mean to me. I was going to lose one of less than a handful of close friends that I still had left in this world. I knew that the times of debilitating illness were becoming more frequent – but she was so full of light when she was feeling good. Was I doing the right thing? Was her down days worth this finality of an action? I drove to the mines in complete shock. I have lost many people, and many more deeply loved pets through my years, but for some reason this little sickly cat had a terrific hold on my heart.
After twenty minutes walking at the mines, overlooking hundreds of acres of estuary and wooded hillsides, a lone crow landed in the lone tree near me. It cawed in a very subdued manner. This was not the joyous song of the one passing over…this was the lamentation for the one left behind. The tears fell as I thanked the crow for letting me know she was free. And then Gracie gave me a precious gift, which still has my hands trembling. She had given me the gift of unconditional love and companionship in my time of need, and that alone was worth all the nights of cleaning up her waste. But just as my heart and spirit began to sink at saying my last goodbye, the world dissolved in all its sharp edges and lonely spaces, and I felt that forgotten embrace of the divine.
My chest expanded, the tears dried, and a deeply embedded cry escaped my throat as all the weight of the world was lifted from me. I saw only light. I felt only support. This invisible love embraced me for over an hour and every lonely moment of the past four years was cleansed from me. I don’t know if my feet were touching the ground, but I know that I was not being let go of to face all of my fears alone. I felt a similar all encompassing lift when my father passed over to the other side. I remember how hopeful it made me feel – a promise of something so beyond human comprehension…something so wonderful and healing…something worth fighting for. Something worth waking up to. Gracie released the grace of the divine on me this afternoon in her own passing. I remember now what it was to be loved and to know an existence without limitation. There is a home for all of us – barely a breath away. That is what we are here for – to remember. To be what we are while in the flesh. To touch those afraid of being touched. To remind each other that this touch is more valuable than all the money or ideologies of this world.
I drove back home to my little corner of the universe. A small clump of Gracie’s hair lies on the floor at my feet where she always laid watching me. I have to vacuum the house tomorrow morning, but I will skip over that small bit of hair. I know I did not cry today for her – I am awake enough to know she is liberated. I cried long overdue tears for myself. My dark night of the soul is over. The divine came back to me. It is present within and without, now in this moment, as I type this eulogy for the most beautiful Burmese princess I have ever known. Gracie keeps a vigil over me – I know…I can feel her now. But more than that, she has reconnected me to the knowing that the whole of the divine keeps that same vigil. The whole of the divine feels every lonely heartbeat…every feeling of loss. The whole of the divine held me close as I lay dying, and has rejoiced this day on the phoenix rising from the ashes. What wondrous things await us friends? The cycle of death and birth marches forward, and what shall we do with this new life? I am here to share the journey with all of you.
©2004 DC Vision