To notice all the tiny nuances in life around us is to be aware of each movement in space and time. This requires concentration and willingness to submit. We can’t fight against that which is inevitable, but as for me, I don’t believe in death. It’s not death, not really. It’s a transformation. I once had a dream about a close friend; this friend of mine is 92, and in the dream, he was about to die. He had planned a party to celebrate his passage. When his spirit left his body and he rose toward the night sky, I heard his voice clearly speaking: “Rosa, if you want to see me, if you want to talk to me, all you have to do is raise your consciousness out of your body.” Focus. Reach for the layer that lies directly on top of this world, the layer(s) known as the other world, or the in-between. Reach for those spaces and you will find your loved ones. The synchronicity of transformation is something that we have to be mindful of. All of this is easier said than done. Because we grieve.
This past Thanksgiving, I rushed my cousin Gregg’s 18-year-old cat, Gato, to the pet emergency vet in Melbourne, Fla. Gregg died the day after Thanksgiving last year, and I spent that holiday by his bedside, still a part of me wishing that he’d wake up and talk to me. I ate pie and cranberry sauce at the hospice house. I talked on the phone by his bedside so he could hear my voice. On the day after last Thanksgiving, Gregg died while I was at the funeral home planning his final arrangements. This year, I had to drive in the same direction to get to the vet. The timing and the drive itself was ironic.
I used to joke that Gato and Gregg looked exactly alike; they were both overweight, both with salt-and-pepper hair. Gato was a tuxedo cat. Gregg would sit on his chair in the living room and recline. Gato and her daughter, Poopie, would toddle out from the bedroom and hop up on the couch with Gregg. He had a special blanket he would put over his lap. The cats would climb underneath it, one on each of his thighs, and each cat would stick her head out from underneath the blanket, so that they looked out over his knees. This was the most adorable sight I’ve ever seen, and I wish I had a picture of it.
Just like Gregg, Gato’s decline was sudden and fast. One moment, the vet was talking preventative measures and prescribing medication, and the next, Gato was dying. Late this past Wednesday, she was still walking around, still trying to get drinks of water. Then, at 9:54-ish, I came into the bedroom (Gregg’s bedroom) and I heard her plaintive cry. She was lying on her side by the bed.
I picked her up carefully, placing her on the bed with Poopie. She tried to get up, so I thought perhaps she was thirsty. I carried her to her water bowl and helped her get a drink. Then she sat up suddenly and cried out in pain. I wept over her, knowing there was nothing I could do. She howled in pain and tried to walk. I held her. She convulsed. Lying on her side, she shook, and I cried out and prayed for Gregg to come and take his baby home with him. By ten o’clock, she was gone.
I wrapped her in one of Gregg’s monogrammed towels and buried her in the morning. Her body is now resting in the garden under a lantana shrub near Gregg’s bedroom window (now, my bedroom window). I know that she missed Gregg. I know that he came and took her home.
If we are willing, we can look around us and see all the tiny nuances of life and death that feed into each other. People often say “everything happens for a reason,” but this explanation is shallow and cheap. It doesn’t take much thought and it sounds useless because it is. The reality is that transformation is happening everywhere around us, at speeds we cannot even comprehend. Death isn’t real because it’s just a human definition; when we leave our bodies, we are still alive, just not in the same sense. We exist on another plane. As the Bhagavad Gita says, “Self is eternal.” But until we make that next transformation, we mourn because we feel a bit more alone– a bit more disconnected –than before. So, we reconnect. We practice mindfulness. We must not fight against the natural course of things. And we must remember we’ll see our loved ones again when we, too, make that final transformation.