He’ll Let You Know

Are Life and Death extremes, at opposite ends of a spectrum? Or are Life and Death partners walking together along the path in the world? Are Life and Death parallel experiences, intersecting and criss-crossing each other? Perhaps they are flip sides of the same coin?
Mused on by countless thinkers, authors, philosophers… and folks like you and I.
Do Life and Death find definition by not being the other, such as if you are alive, you’re not dead. If you’re dead, you’re not alive. Sort of like the definition of black is the presence of all colors, white is the absence of all colors.

Ziggy – 1 day old!

I arrived in Oregon last week to visit my wondrous and beloved daughter and son-in-law. Within a few hours, their goat gave birth to beautiful twin girls. I can take no credit for that other than my arrival may have startled the mama, yet I so love my little grand-goatlings. Who knew goats could be cuddly and responsive? Not me. These are Swiss Oberhasli goats, the new babies’ names are Fantasia and Ziggy, each at one time or another fell asleep in my arms.

I get home and again in the time frame of a few hours, my veterinarian diagnoses my gentle tabby with advanced kidney disease, with a short life expectancy. Monkey is just shy of thirteen years old and has stopped eating. It is all up to him now. He is gentle, purrs, and likes to sit on my lap. However every few minutes he fidgets and rearranges himself – he just can’t get comfortable, and will then awkwardly toddle into my room to nestle in my thick fleece blanket.

After a couple tearful meltdowns, I pondered on what do I do that is best for my sweet tabby? My son, who gave Monkey his name because as a kitten he insisted on climbing the drapes, gently told me, “Mom, he’ll let you know when it’s time. He’ll meow differently, quit purring, or won’t get up – he’ll let you know.”

This river of life (I know, you are impressed by the originality of my metaphor) splashing along, capturing and whisking things along with it, tossing other things up on the shore, drowning some and feeding others. Cleansing the earth, replenishing the earth, sometimes devastating, more often nourishing.

Monkey’s gentleness and tenacity remind me of my mom’s passing three years ago. She too was gentle and tenacious. I can still hear her last breath, a long, slow sigh. I felt in it acceptance… and relief.

Acceptance. Monkey seems calm, he is not anxious or fretful.
The life force he has. He jumps up on my bed, gives a little trill as I first pet him when he wakes up. He hasn’t eaten for several days. Yet purrs in my arms.
I have lost pets before. I have lost loved family members and friends before. What is different now is that I have time. I am not working a forty-seven hour week. I have been able to cancel or reschedule my commitments and spend time with Monkey, make visits and calls to the vet myself instead of delegating.

If you had told me a few years back that one day I would be sitting on the hay-covered ground in a goat pen holding a baby goat, enjoying the smells of hay, goats, and fertilizer wafting all around me, delighting in the ‘bi-ip’ sounds the baby goats make, laughing at the the barking and jostling of the pups, and swaying to the the coo of doves, I would have thought you had me confused with someone else. This different connection with life, and time, is stunning to me.
Wasn’t I connected to life? I sure thought so: I raised two children, I worked in social services for decades. I taught, volunteered countless hours at many organizations, had a romance here and there, walked on the Great Wall of China, swished my hand in the water as the gondolier paddled us down a canal in Venice. Yet this was different.

Monkey 3-5-2019

Sitting on the earth, holding a newborn goat, away from phone and internet. Sitting close to my newly pregnant daughter who is married to her soulmate, I was connected to life in a deeper way, a clearer way.

One of the memorable stories about my mom’s mother, Grandmere Marguerite, happened just before she died. Many of us were in her hospital room circled around her bed, some standing, some of us sitting: my mom, her sister, her brother and his wife (so all three of Grandmere’s children), a couple cousins, and myself. We were hushed at first, then as families do, the whispers evolved into chatter about who did what with whom when and where.
“I am dying. You should be praying,” Grandmere declared firmly. Instantly we became silent. A few stolen looks passed among us from beneath lowered brows. Now, that was clarity.

Grandmere had lived life: a war bride, widowed at thirty-nine with three young children separated by an ocean and a continent from her birth family in eastern France, survived breast cancer. At eighty, she had lived and parts of her had died to get to such clarity.

Why yes, I did say newly pregnant daughter. So life embraces all. We love, we leave, we learn, we grow. We live, we release, we accept.

Monkey has taught me new things about being in the Now. I hold him, he purrs and snuggles into my shoulder, tucking his head by my chin. Now is what we have.


  • Damon

    May 24, 2019 at 3:48 am Reply


    • Mary

      May 24, 2019 at 3:53 am Reply

      Oh good~ Thank you.

  • Shirley Routliffe

    May 24, 2019 at 5:18 am Reply

    Lovely Mary

  • Shirley Routliffe

    May 24, 2019 at 5:19 am Reply

    Lovely ,Mary
    Thank you????❤️

    • Mary

      May 24, 2019 at 4:44 pm Reply

      Hug to you, Shirl.

  • Meg philp

    May 24, 2019 at 10:32 am Reply

    Thank you, Mary. It’s been good to remember how precious every loving moment is. Such a snug photo of Monkey. M

    • Mary

      May 24, 2019 at 4:45 pm Reply

      My privilege, Meg. Thank you, for I have taken a lot for granted as I’ve buzzed through life.

  • Caroline Baertsch

    May 24, 2019 at 3:25 pm Reply

    What a dichotomy, a study in life and death. You nailed this one sistah.

    • Mary

      May 24, 2019 at 4:46 pm Reply

      We’ve walked this walk, haven’t we? Thank you~

  • Allison Cox

    May 24, 2019 at 7:16 pm Reply

    So sorry for the loss of your kitty!

  • Joan Cronk

    May 25, 2019 at 12:15 am Reply

    Oh Mary, that touched my soul. Yes, life is a constant flow of up and down, over and under. That was so poignant. What a memory of your Grandma Marguerite, I remember her, and gaufrette’s (if I spelled that right). Sorry for your sweet kitty. It’s hard on our hearts when we lose those things we love in life. And in the next breath…Congratulations on being a Grandma-to-be!

    • Mary

      May 25, 2019 at 12:22 am Reply

      Joni! How good to hear from you. I love that you remember Grandmere and her gaufrettes, little waffle cookies! Thank you so much for checking in, and reading. My whole point with my blog is to express being human: poignant is sure good, as well as the ‘what was I thinking’ learning points, to joy, to walking the walk. May you two be safe and happy. Hug to you~~

  • Melvin Peel

    May 26, 2019 at 4:27 pm Reply

    Very moving. We recently lost our cat of 20 years to kidney disease. we did what we could to keep her comfortable, including taking her to the vet 4 times a week for fluids. She was doing ok for quite a while, until the day came that she couldn’t walk very well, and would just lay by her water dish. Her breathing was ragged, and she seemed to be in pain. We decided that it was time for one final visit to the vet. She was a wonderful companion, and we couldn’t let her suffer.

    • Mary

      May 26, 2019 at 10:11 pm Reply

      Oh Mel, thank you. 20 years – good job. It is literally one step at a time so often, is it not? Best to you, Mel.

  • Aletha Helm RIter

    May 26, 2019 at 4:39 pm Reply

    Dearest Mary…. I wish you could know my mom…your words are so Eloquent…Beautiful and Illustrative. I wish you when the “time” comes that you could write her obituary. When my Dad passed five years ago I was
    a basket case. I know with my Mom I may have a heart attack. We are so close…As for living “in the moment” I have the last 18 yrs. as my pup Nemeko taught me the same thing…to live in the “now” as well. Sometimes I get off track and think of the past way to much or worry about the future that we have no control over. So living in the moment is the best way to “live” As in Death…our soul still lives… Thank you for your Beautiful story and a picture of Monkey….and yes he will tell you when its time…they know…

    • Mary

      May 26, 2019 at 10:16 pm Reply

      Aletha, thank you again for your ongoing support. It would be my privilege to help you when the “time” comes with your mom. Indeed, living in the now, as Eckhart Tolle calls it and teaches the practice of it, is a challenge for me. We did a ‘Wit or Wisdom’ podcast on it recently. Fear is being in the future, regret and resentment is being in the past. My, oh my.
      My best to you, and a warm hug.

      • Aletha Helm RIter

        May 27, 2019 at 7:49 pm Reply

        Thank you my friend…prayers and hugs to you

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