Monday, February 20

rituals of grief

I mentioned on Saturday afternoon that Lylune, beloved kitty of my beloved, Gena, was very sick. In the space of a week she had shed a third of her body weight, stopped eating and drinking. Gena had her in to the Vet on Friday and they could only speculate – renal failure or cancer - probably, considering the rapidity and the symptoms - cancer. They hydrated her, filled her full of electrolytes and nutrients and drugs to try to get her kidneys working again, and that was about all they could do. 

“If she responds,” the Vet told Gena, “we’ll talk about treatment options on Monday."

But she didn’t respond. She was in less distress thanks to the IV, but she never got her groove back, not to mention her appetite, and she passed away quietly on Saturday evening.

the most delicate paw in the history of paws

Saturday, when I posted, we’d slipped out for tea and yoga and a walk, leaving Lylune on a heating pad, sleeping and quiet. When we got home she had somehow managed to shrink even more, had crawled about a foot off of her blanket in our absence, and couldn’t move. She was so weak. So we lifted her lightness as gently as possible and put her back in the nest Gena had made for her, heating blanket guarding against the chill that we couldn’t chase out of her tiny body. And then we laid down with her.

We talked about how precious Lylune was. Gena told me stories and we laughed at remembered antics. We talked about not turning away from how much it hurt, watching her slip away. About wishing there’d been more time. About embracing everything and cherishing all of it, good and bad. About letting it all wash over us and through us, like being in the ocean, swimming with the rip tide because that's the only way. About not closing down. About letting her go with as much grace as we had in us to offer.

For a beautiful hour Gena laid Lylune on her and they rested together. Somehow, Lylune purred. We took a few pictures because it seemed important.

Gena and Lylune

And then, just before nine, she started having to force herself to breathe. That was the hardest part, hearing her little body, bereft of everything except her heart and brain, her lungs failing her, and seeing her still trying. If a cat can be brave (and of course they can) then Lylune was a hero of epic proportion all day. All week.

After, Gena had to get out, go for a run, let loose and be alone for a bit. I got that. I wrapped a shoe box, inside and out, and laid her in it, sealed it. Not for Lylune – she was gone, hopefully chasing mice in Elysium – but for us. To show respect. We found a nice spot in the canyon below my place, under a couple big trees, and buried her yesterday afternoon.

And suddenly, as I sit here at Mom’s, I can’t help but realize I’m talking to myself. A little while ago Mom came out from playing games on the computer and we talked for a bit. She confessed, once again and always with a sheepish and forlorn grin, that she’s having some memory problems (three years and counting now). She wanted to make sure that she’d done a will and I assured her she’d done that (two and a half years ago), and expressed hope for the new medicine she’s on for her memory (started a year ago, and yeah, it’s probably helped hold her stable). Again, we talked about the moment, living in it as much as we can, not pretending, being honest. We hugged and confirmed to each other how great the hugs are, every one.

It may be true that we’re spoiled here in the developed world with the excess and abundance that allows our powerful connections to our pets, but that doesn’t make the way we feel any less strong or justifiable. We may be privileged, but when we love, whether cats or dogs or friends or Mom’s, the emotions are the same.

Love is love. Value judgments need not apply. There’s no need to justify love, whatever its form. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

I was so proud of Gena for finding the strength to let Lylune go gracefully, swaddled in our love and appreciation. I was proud of her courage to not shut down or try to be “strong”. By being vulnerable, by letting the grief and love fill her, us, that space, she honored Lylune. It was sacred in its way. It was, while we still had her tiny, precious, beautiful life with us, all about Lylune.

And that’s as it should be. We could all wish for as much. 

And here, today, it’s all about Mom while I have her. And I'm still preaching to me. Time to go...

But... I still love this song, so here's a redux. Dance with somebody for me, k? Doesn't matter who. Just pick somebody.