6 Things My Cats Have Taught Me About Life and Death
Death. The Grim Reaper. It's the only thing as certain as (ugh) taxes. And it's something we all hate to think about. Even when we heard the amazing story of the hospice cat, Oscar, who knew when people were dying, many of us were uneasy about it even as we were comforted by the thought of a cat's wisdom.
We also know that we're highly likely to see our own beloved cats pass on. It's the most heartbreaking part of loving a cat, but it can also be the most transformative time in your life -- if you're open to its gifts.
It's true that the process of saying goodbye to your pet can really vary. You might get some time to say goodbye; you might get no time at all. I've had a lot more experience with the first type of letting go, and that's where these suggestions are taken from. I hope they help you in either case!
1. Be in the moment
It may sound like the most overused cliché in the world, but it is so true. And there's nothing like going through the end-of-life process with a loved pet to make this known. Enjoy every moment!
I am going through this right now with my 18-year-old cat Kali, who has a facial tumor. When she crawls into my lap, I stop what I'm doing. She's seeking attention, showing love, and that's a good thing. I have right now, and I try to be thankful and extremely joyful about that. That's what I can do.
2. We're good people and can practice selfless service
This may sound strange, but I always thought of myself as a kind of selfish person. But when I discovered that I would do anything for my cats when it came to caring for them, I was delighted. It felt good. I had it in me to be good; to give my cats whatever comfort or help I could provide. In a strange way, it reassured me about my worth as a human.
3. There is no limit to love
None! Nothing will bring this out like the goodbye process. You don't think you could possibly love your cat any more than you do, but you find that you have an infinite amount of love to give. There were many times when I found myself saying, "Wow! I didn't know I could love so much." It amazed me, and it made me hopeful about my capacity as a human.
4. They're not afraid, and we can learn from them
I'm not religious, but it gave me joy (along with sorrow, of course) to witness my dad's passing. He looked really happy and peaceful about going wherever he was going, and it was an amazing experience. And that made me glad. Hospice workers I spoke with told me that they have often witnessed this type of joy, peacefulness, or lack of fear when a person passes.
I have seen my cats, in many cases, pass the same way. Sometimes it almost feels as if they're trying to help their stumbling, emotional humans through the process. Some animal communicators I've known claim that our animals are much more matter of fact and accepting of death than we are.
5. We get so exhausted that we get out of our own way
I know this happens to me. Grief really knocks me on my butt, not to mention the exhaustion of a hospice routine. Suddenly, regular life is turned on its side. But the beauty of this for me is that the exhaustion brings me to a new authenticity. I am completely myself -- simply because I'm too tired to be anything else. If you've ever been in this place, you'll know what I mean.
6. It's a tender time -- so make the most of it
This comes back to being in the now. You will remember this time as maybe one of the most emotional times with your cat, but possibly also the most tender. Appreciate it for what it is -- a gift -- this charged and transformative time with your cat.
Death and letting go are touchy subjects, but a very real part of life. What have your cats taught you about death? Let us know in the comments.