The second Sunday of September is National Pet Memorial Day and this year is especially poignant. For over 40 years, longer than most of us have been cat lovers, the International Association of Pet Cemeteries has designated a day to honor pets past and present.
Usually, I take time to honor all the many pets in my life but this year, at least at this blog I’m focusing on Merlin who passed in May 2016. I’m nervous and worried. Not only have there been way too many losses in my world, but thousands of cat lives will be lost from all the recent disasters from earthquakes, floods, fires and hurricanes. As I write this, Hurricane Irma is poised to unleash her fury on Key West and the 54 cats at Hemingway House. They’ve weathered other storms but we’re crossing all paws and praying for a positive outcome. There are dozens of shelters and sanctuaries dotted across Florida and many like Brigid’s Crossing in Naples that visited a few years ago, have hundreds of cats used to roaming freely without a solid commercial building.
All I can say is please purr, pray or petition the cat gods for their safe survival. Share this graphic if you like.
Merlin’s memorial garden burial mound grew tropical lush this summer. Yesterday I weeded and cut back the overgrown vines. Enough time has passed for the raw ache to pass and warm memories soothe the jagged edges of pain. It took me a year before I could look at his funeral photos and see his scrawny old body without wincing. He’d been ill for so long in a gradual decline of kidney disease, I didn’t realize the toll it took on my own health. Now I can see him at peace and wonder how the hell did he manage to live almost 22 years. During the life altering grieving process that nearly killed me, I learned how to live. I’m still learning.
Every grieving journey is as unique as a fingerprint and this one surprised me more than any of the others. At first, it was deceptively easy, gentle as an angel’s kiss and I honored the process. Little did I know, the journey would unravel layers of unprocessed emotions to my core. Just when I thought, well that’s done, another layer of the onion revealed something new, deeper, darker and scary. It didn’t feel like grieving only because I didn’t have a language to define or categorize it. I questioned everything in an attempt to understand the stages, phases intellectually. Meanwhile, the answers eluded me but my body was spilling secrets and screaming at me to listen. I listened and said, nevermind, not now, I can’t go there. Denial is not a river in Eygpt but lives in my emotional neighborhood. One with a big sign: DO NOT ENTER.
Cats enter and exit our lives for any number of reasons but if we’re lucky, they bestow wisdom, insight and just about everything we need except maybe the winning lottery numbers. Being curious as a cat, I trespassed in the familiar but unfamiliar territory. And being as stubborn as Merlin was it took much head bashing and teeth gnashing to learn the lessons he so patiently dished out while alive and from the great beyond. Even the lessons I thought I’d aced, came up for review. I’m still going the process which is why I’m not blogging much. but I am writing. Grieving is a remarkable opportunity for personal growth if you’re willing to dig in and peel that stinky onion.
Haiku from a Zen master is fitting. Death is no different than a train ticket. The train might be late but most run on a timely schedule of arrivals and departures. Once the train has departed, there is no going back. You might be able to catch a connecting train but that’s a story for another day. Today is about pausing to honor the cats we love or have loved.
The casket shown above is a biodegradable one from Paw Pods and perfect eco-friendly choice. Our organic garden is an everyday reminder of impermanence. The seasons change, the birch logs are rotting, the leaves are drying and the ink is fading Merlin’s name but not his memory. And of course Merlin has to have the last word.
Message From Merlin
I thought that you might like to know I got here safe and sound
Though you must feel rather strange not having me around;
Of course, I am not really gone, I’ve just moved out of sight,
And I don’t need that old body, things had stopped working right.
Sometimes I’m sorely tempted, to pop back down and see,
Just how you are managing, without any help from me,
But I’m sure that you will understand I can’t come back to stay,
Though I have it on good authority that we’ll meet again some day.
The chow up here’s delicious – Ambrosia brand, it’s named,
Once you’ve tasted this stuff, Fancy Feast is a crying shame,
And holy cat gods, there is a nectar as thick and creamy as it comes,
It’s not like other dairy products and doesn’t give me the runs.
I haven’t found the litter box, and THIS perplexes me,
That however much I wolf down, I never have to pee.
But there are other plus points, which cannot be ignored,
My legs are made for leaping way higher than before.
Another little oddity, that leaves me quite astounded,
Underneath my tail end are two lumps, furry and rounded –
I can’t remember having them when I lived down there with you,
And up here, all I can say – I’m a real mancat, how do you do.
Oh yes – I’ve got a comfy bed, just like mine down there at home,
So things here are quite delightful, I cannot gripe or groan;
But while I’m up here waiting, in my cushy cat bed in the sky,
I’ll regularly look in on you, and keep a watchful eye.