A loud wail rent through the room, its anguish and sorrow piercing the whole apartment, unrestrainable. Surprised even me, the source, and I could not stop it.
I rarely see raw grief, uncontainable and wrenching – much less experience it myself.
I had just hung up the phone with the animal hospital and made the appointment to put Monkey, my sweet tabby, to sleep. In two hours.
To end a life, and a life I loved so much was an enormous decision. My brain knew it was time, indeed, Monkey had shown me he was physically near the end and might be in pain. Yet my heart called, “What if it’s too soon? What if…?”
The remorse I felt fifteen years before came back to me, when I did wait too long. Our cat, Midnight, was in such pain before I could say, “Okay, we have to,” to my teen-agers.
Death is all around us, as is life. Two of Jodi Picoult’s novels come to mind, Leaving Time and My Sister’s Keeper. A quote from Alice Metcalf, an elephant scientist in Leaving Time, got my attention, “What I was really researching was not how elephants deal with loss but how humans can’t.”
There are so many folktales, myths, and stories about life and death, how they interact, and how we as humans, and a world, must have death in order to live. Great old 1939 movie, ‘On Borrowed Time,’ with Lionel Barrymore, takes on a version of the tale of when Death is tricked up into a tree where, in this case a he, where he can’t get down, nothing dies and the world gets too full. A similar one is a Spanish story, “Tia Miseria,” Aunt Misery. There are stories about dancing with death, making deals with death, tricking death, even preferring death to God or fate, as death eventually treats everyone the same.
Monkey had gotten tangled in the blanket on my bed, and was scared. He gouged a good sized scratch on my left arm in his frenzy to get free. Instead of an irritated sharp response that I might have made at another time, I put him down on the floor, “I know Monkers, I’ve been scared, too.”
It seems to me that going through the losses, dealing with the sorrow and the empty place in our world, teaches us how to live. All of us have losses, some are huge – losing one’s family in an accident, losing a child, losing a body part, etc. One friend told me when her mom disappeared into the jungle on a guided tour and was never found, that was harder than anything she ever experienced as there were no answers, no understanding, no closure.
Yes, I was going to publish my upbeat essay on how I jumped to my feet when hearing a piece of music, yet thought I’d finish this experience first, so please know I shan’t be Donna Drama indefinitely.
We all come back to, circle around, avoid, deny, yet at some point have to face the myriad of issues around death and loss in our lives. It’s been a while since I’ve had to, and several have resurfaced. What if? Maybe I could have… If only I’d… I still hear his claws tapping on the wooden floor in the hallway. I hear a bump in the kitchen of the towel drawer (he used to pull out the dish towels.) The dissonance of how can he be gone, yet he is.
Playing great CD’s I’d forgotten I had has been a balm: Jesse Cook’s The Rumba Foundation, Narada Decade: The First Ten Years, IZ Kamakawiwo’ole’s Future, Michael Gettel’s san juan suite. Like a lace tablecloth for the family dinner, the music didn’t change the event, yet added grace.
So my generous friend, Deborah, offered to go with me to the vet. Monkey so did not like the pet carrier, and he had little energy, so we wrapped him in the sky blue fleece blanket and Deb held him for the short drive to the vet’s. I turned the key in the ignition, “I will ease your mind. Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind,” floats out of the stereo.
Are you kidding me? Deb and I looked over at each other, our eyebrows went up and we shook our heads. Our eyes got moist, we each started blinking as I pulled up to the intersection
Friends. Community. Neighbors’ kindness. Empathy. Learning how to live and live with each other.
The scratch on my arm is healing well, there will only be a tiny scar. Scars can be our strongest parts – – if we let them heal.