lily’s life

May 21, 2015

My cat almost died this week. She may, in fact, still die. But I am currently eyeing her with hope as she eats small bits of my experimental offerings: scrambled eggs with cheese, bits of chicken, fish eggs. She has moved out of her chair enough to keep an eye on me—significant improvement from last night’s inability to even get herself down from the chair to her litter box. I say “my” cat when I should actually say “his” cat as, in truth, she is a daddy’s girl. So during the past 2 weeks of his village travels, she has seemed to just give up.
We suspect that she is aware of the changes looming ahead, in that uncanny manner that animals seem to sense their owners’ stresses and life events. At an old age, with one set of owners who raised her before us, she may just be saying that she is done with transition and will not cooperate with another one. So in a matter of hours, my great moving stress of finding a new home for her morphed into one of preparing for her death while nursing her as she lives. While at work today, I borrowed a shovel and made a cross, preparing myself for what I feared I would come home to. Instead of a burial, however, I have been alternately holding my breath in waiting and giddy with each active move she makes.
The strange part about this all is the revelation it has given me so far as my own transition and grieving process goes. Up to now, I have been consumed with the business of it all: overwhelmed by the prospect of getting all the books I ordered cataloged, managing inventory, and closing up with school business. I have also been increasingly guilt-ridden over my impatience with the string of goodbye parties and activities I’ve felt obligated to participate in. It seems as if all the other friends and coworkers, who are also leaving soon, have this ability to make the most of these last times together, to cry at the farewells, to wax eloquent about what has meant the most to them about life here. I, on the other hand, am unmoved: all I seem to be able to care about is trying to take care of business.
As I walked with one close friend after the most recent of these gatherings, I voiced my frustration, desperate to get it off my chest. She said she understood, and kindly offered that I should allow myself to feel what I felt, and let myself process as I needed to. While agreeing with her intellectually, I still could not shake the guilt for not caring about what I “should” care about.
But last night, as I woke up yet again to see if Lily was still breathing (the night was spent in a fitful manner of dozing and then reawakening in a fear that she was dead), I realized that I was crushed by the sight of her feeble shell of a self. And not only that, but it moved me to tears. Could it be, I wondered, that my cat is giving me the gift of grief: the ability to get out the emotion that has been locked behind an padlocked gate of ice?
I hope—I pray—that it is so . . .

a couple of cases

May 2, 2015

I wish I had my husband’s heart. I wish that, in the face of a series of significant farewells, I grew sad and reflective, as I see him doing. I wish that, when tears flowed at the prospect of a pending goodbye, my own eyes welled up at the prospect.
I was born to root . . . but bred to roam: raised in a fashion that left me stunted in “normal” settling tendencies and filled with quirky gifts, a few being:
the ability to pack all I really need for a move into two suitcases
a skill at finding the perfect new homes for random items that need giving-away in order to accomplish this 2-suitcase move
the capacity to unpack said 2 suitcases and feel comfortable in a new home in approximately 2 seconds . . . ok, so maybe 2 hours :-)

The other day I discovered an author, as I browsed the poetry section to find a poem to read for one of my classes. His name is Mattie Stepanek, and apparently he has had a fair bit of fame, once making it to the New York Times’ bestseller list. He died at the age of 13, after losing his 3 older siblings to the same disease that took his life (Muscular Dystrophy). This poem in particular struck me, with words expressing the emotion that I with I could express:

“Simple Ablution”

People complain that
Others cry too much.
How sad.
How angering.
How blundering.
Tears are like rain.
They come
Gently, or strongly.
They come
Quietly, or loudly.
They come
Refreshingly, or devastatingly.
But they always,
In some way, come.
And cleanse, and console.
There’s a mess to fix
After the rain,
After the tears,
But it always makes people
And think.
And take notice.
We should all cry
For each other.
If everyone in the world
Cried with and for
Other people and life,
We might be
More caring and peaceful.
We could cry enough
That the world would be
A cleaner and healthier place,
For our people,
For our life,
For our future.

What wisdom coming from such a young heart, and from such deep sorrow in so short of a life! I mused on these words as I finished the workday, trying to coax the appropriate sadness out of myself when speaking to others about my nearing transition.
Shortly thereafter, the school bell sounding, it was time for Track practice to begin. Only two of the students were distance, so I was decided to try to make it a good conversation time as we ran. Both had come on the trip we took a few weeks ago, so I asked them to tell me their highlights from that international track meet. Expecting them to talk about the medals they had won or their time socializing with buddies, I was caught off guard by the first response given: it was a song I had made up one day, as I accompanied 2 girls to the nearest bathroom. Noticing the rhyme one had accidentally spoken, I began to sing a song about how “we all need to pee.” Once getting started with it, of course, I couldn’t resist hamming it up a bit, and making a fool of myself in the process :-)
Now, stereotypically, one would think that this sort of behaviour, coming from one’s 35-year-old coach, would mortify a couple of teenage girls who were, incidentally, in the company of several hundred other teenage girls and boys. So when she gave this response, I looked at her in disbelief. Then I laughed. And the joy that welled up in my heart as we all laughed together brought tears to my eyes.
So maybe not the kind of tears I was trying for but, hey, I’ll take it :-)

*When it came my turn for highlight-sharing, I had an immediate response: our post-meet airport photo shoot. At this point in the game, the races were done and all were happy from the success, tired from the effort, and grungy from lack of showering after the fact. These factors seemed to combine in order to create a mutual sense of giddy carefreeness as we waited our the flight delay. For some reason, it made me particularly giddy to get to join in on the fun as we took a series of jumping photos . . . and somehow, it seems a fitting image for this particular post.