He can’t groom himself
anymore, so I tenderly, gently
warm the rag, wash his feet and face,
administer his medicines and fluids
so that his last days, or weeks,
are comfortable and in his home.
He was never one to curl up in my arms,
but as he weakens he lays upon
my chest, his frail body uttering
a raspy purr, relaxing deep against
my shoulder, one eye shut, the
other squinted open, never drifting
his gaze from my face.
He is a story teller, a bridge-builder.
His eyes, green and almond shaped,
lined with white, then black, like an
80’s hair band singer, now too large for
his face, cheeks sunken from the wasting,
scrawny legs and bony spine, not enough fat or muscle
to make a proper body.
“My teeth,” she cries, “are not what I ordered.”
Her teeth, rotted from the chemo, replaced with
a shiny new set, molded perfectly, fit her
before her cheeks lost their fullness,
ravaged by the cancer. These teeth,
beautiful and white, fill out her face in comical style.
But none of us have the guts to speak about her
teeth. The dentist simply makes more.
More teeth,also too big.
He is a peacemaker, a boundary setter.
Some days, he’s like I’ve always known him,
and others, he can barely walk, or lift his head.
And on those days, I drop everything,
call the doctor, spend more money to
keep him comfortable –what’s money
when it comes to one more day with an
old friend? And I cradle him and snuggle him
while he retreats from death’s door
for one more day, or perhaps a week
by my side.
When the times does come,
he’ll know I love him, that I
cared for him with every ounce of my being.
Does she know I loved her? Of course,
I tell myself. Because what else can
I believe, this many years later, after all opportunities
She slept in a twin bed, piled high with
blankets, cigarettes, and at least 4 cats
at any given time.
“Come snuggle with me,” she said.
“Stay here with me tonight.”
It’s too crowded, I can’t sleep like that,
my dispassionate disinterest fell out of my
mouth. Or was it that I could not get that close?
As if the cancer might rub off on me, or worse,
the sadness. Either way, the words,
like hot lava that burned as they flowed
and could never be reversed, still hang
there in that room, heavy with cigarettes
And I whisper to him “I love you”,
“Thank you for being my friend”, and
“You can go home any time you’re ready.”
And I never whispered anything to her,
Not even “goodbye”.
She’s exhausted from trying to survive
I’m exhausted from holding on so tight
What if I let her go?
Let loose the vice grip on the void
that is left on her absence
the gaping hole that I have so desperately
tried to fill with everything that will make the
pain diminish – jobs, marriages, false intimacy, booze—
vices of all kinds to lull me into the
deception that life is full if the void is full.
He is a teacher of unconditional love.
I look in his eyes and see my own soul.
That I can see him suffer and not hide, but
rather be healed by his love for
me, as he tells me goodbye in the
only ways he can, that is the miracle.
What if we walk into this sunset together,
hold hands and say our goodbyes,
knowing that forever is only a speck of stardust
making up the divine Universe,
unseen but always around.
In the end, a cat’s ashes weight about the same as a mother-urn,
and their weight in my heart, much the same.
© SpiritLed 2014
So beautiful, my friend. So beautiful
Brent Little says
Thanks for sharing such a poignant story. So sorry to hear your kitty is gone. Animals make pathways to our heart and souls and too often…like the loss of a loved one…people can minimize the impact. In a couple of weeks it will have been 10 years since my mom died. I have quieted the what ifs and the overwhelming grief but rarely does a day go by that I don’t think about her and miss her. And this coming from a pretty hardcore “Thinking and Judging”preference ha! Seriously thank you for trusting us with your story.