Letters: warm sunshine, gentle tears

Hey darlin’,

By the time you receive this note, you will already know that Sophie has died. It may be days or even weeks until I share this with you – depending on how you are doing. I want you to be able to grieve without these added notes piled on top.  On the other hand, I want to share with you how amazing these last couple of weeks have been with our little black cat. The cancer has been so fast moving, and yet the last few weeks have been like watching everything in slow motion. The amount of resolve in this small, pained body is incredible. Every day she completely lives life on her own terms, regardless of the unpreventable and inevitable. As she has always been in control of the brood here at home, she remains so – even when she can barely walk.  

Dad and I talked several times about why this process of Sophie’s body shutting down has taken so long. Our daily thoughts that she “for sure won’t last the night” brought morning after morning of dread (to go find her and check), relief (that she was alive) followed by disappointment (that she still was) and finally guilt (for the feelings of dread, relief and disappointment). Every day began this way. Sporadically these days that started on such an emotional roller coaster were followed with the inevitable tears.  Tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of grief.  

The end of Sophie’s life has given me a great deal to think about. Death does that – invites us into thinking about things that we normally want to put off. Things like “nothing is guaranteed.” Not next year, not next month, or next week… We have today. That is the invitation. Live now. I am often so busy thinking and planning about the future, I can easily forget to be here now. I am sure this is not a big revelation to you, you no doubt know this about me.  

Live purposefully. Who knew the death of a cat would remind me of this? What I mean is this: be mindful. Sophie got up and moved to the sun – even when she was hurting. She could barely walk and yet would go outside and sit in the sun – in February no less! She knew what she wanted, and she went for it. When I choose to sit down and watch a TV show, I want to be mindful what I am watching, and that I am watching, instead of doing so mindlessly. When I post on social media, choose a career move, or what snack to have during a movie – I want to be aware of my choices. I want to be aware so that I can be fully in the middle of living my life instead of being emotional AWOL for most if it. I want to live in wonder, curiosity and mindfulness.

These two reminders brought me to an epiphany, if you will.  I was wondering how it is that dad and I could cry so much about a cat. Tears, day after day – well, at least that is how it felt. Not that there shouldn’t be mourning. However, it seemed as it the grief was much deeper than the loss of one pet.  

We all have little deaths all the time; losses that seem insignificant at the time, so we stuff them under some rug in our brain. Who has time to cry over a less than stellar grade on a term paper? Is the fact I didn’t get the job I was wanting worth mourning? Is the dear relationship that has fallen away because we are “simply too busy” something to grieve about? Is the disappointment felt when things don’t work out how you expected worth the energy? The answer is a loud YES!  However, the tendency is a sober “no.” So we fill the underneath part of the rug with all sorts of little (and big) deaths that we have yet to grieve. When a time comes along where we have something large to grieve, the pain we feel is often the release of OH so much more. The tears were for Sophie. The tears were also for me and for dad, and for you. For all the little things we are grieving, all the things we have not yet grieved, all the pain we have been avoiding.  

This, I believe is what Sophie’s work was during her last month. I watched her live intentionally on her own terms. Weakness did not stop her from enjoying the sun.  Pain did not keep her from sitting out by the maple tree when it was 20 degrees. She stayed much longer than we had thought she would. I believe she sensed that we needed the healing. That is what animals bring to us – healing. Some bring unconditional love or acceptance or wisdom or kindness. Sophie brought grief – raw grief. And was just the prescription that we needed.

With love for a lifetime, 


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