We know that our animals are with us for a relative short time in life. That seems to always be the bitter sweetness of parenting a pet. But I never imagined that I would have to memorialize our cat on this past Memorial day weekend. We found him unresponsive on our bathroom floor after night out with friends. He was only 4 years old…beautiful, curious, feisty, funny and loving. We expected to have him around for another decade. He was so full of life … we have no idea what happened. My step daughter Julia encouraged us to adopt Cirrus a couple of years ago and welcome him into our family. He walked right in as though he was our reunited furry boy. He and our dog Daisy had a typical sister/brother rappor…playing, teasing, and yes…sometimes even cuddling. He was the first cat I ever had and grew to love. He was a turkish van…known to be “dogs in a cat suit”. That’s how he felt to me, and yet a totally different kind of being for us to get to know.
My husband buried him the next day in the mountains….
“He was a blithe, sweet soul and among the most elegant creatures I’ve ever known. I took him to Rustic Canyon this morning ….. felt his presence light as a bit of his downy fur on my shoulder. Showed him the wide wild world he (and every cat) longs to see. A cottontail, dark ground squirrel, and birds everywhere. We followed cat paths down into the valley and I buried him beneath an old redwood, sealed him in a stone cairn with a sea shell, a crystal, and a tiny glass heart, and covered the stones with wildflowers.”
We had our family rituals like any household. We feel the void of his presence so palpably…and our dog is slowly realizing his companion is gone. In the days following, in our sadness, we see his shadow and hearing his voice in every corner of our home. But as the heaviness lifts from my body I try to awaken to the gratitude for all that I have learned from this beautiful animal.
This is what Cirrus the Cat taught me:
Leap and jump
Let go of irrational fears
Get outside every day and feel the fresh air
Honor how I feel
Not do anything I don’t want to do
Stop to smell the coffee
Feel the purr
Express the purr
Be mischievous…once in a while
Never take any living creator for granted who I love…the 4 legged or 2 legged.
So many couples learn what it means to take care of an animal before they have children. It is then that so many feel like they have tapped into the visceral experience of maternal/paternal love…and the mama bear fierce protection you have for the beings that are in your care. I have no one that calls me “Mom” but I have mothered this kitty, along with his sister Daisy the dog in a way that is familial and yes heart breaking to see him leave us…
In mid-life I have had the great fortune of hardly experiencing loss in my life. I’ve wondered if Cirrus, by leaving us too early, is helping me practice and walk through letting go….a heart muscle I have not had to stretch. Yet it looms and awaits me as I anticipate the impending loss of parents and others I so dearly love. Whether this is the case or just the meaning I prescribe … I am beginning to see the glimpses of the veil lifting between the physical and ethereal world. I consciously choose to believe that Cirrus’s animal spirit chose us, as we chose him…and that we will always be a family. It is this idea that helps to heal my heal my heart and brings me peace.
What Cirrus the Cat taught me is very simply…a different kind of love.