Saturday, February 27, 2010

All Life Comes From Death - Homage to an Old Girl

My beloved cat – a beautifully delicate yet fiercely resilient force of nature – is dying. I imagined this process for a long time: how I thought it might go, how I hoped it would go – and it’s nothing like I expected. Except that it is. In the sense that this dying, and this terror of death, is a deeply spiritual experience. Her suffering is my anguish, and yet, something is being asked of me, here. More than loving her. More than nursing, and nurturing her. More than singing to her, and being midwife to her passage. Staying present is hard, because we are deeply attached to one another. Like sisters – the kind of sisterly love portrayed in The Color Purple. And she is dying – I cannot deny it. Soon, she will be gone, or rather her body will quit, and the real teaching will begin. I must render myself teachable.

As I bear witness to her faith in this process – and I do mean faith – I am struck by several things.Her resilience, and remarkable dignity throughout. Her openness to life and to discovery, even as she prepares to cross over. Her gentle strength. Her finely tuned awareness of what she needs, and when she needs it. That uncanny sense that she sees me for who I am. And her unbridled expression of soul, unadorned and without agenda.

These are all the things I love about older women, at least in their finest moments. The qualities I hope to grow into and own. And though staring death in the face is brutal, I’m not sure life would have much meaning without it. As Stephen Jenkinson points out, all life comes from death, literally. Or put more eloquently, “death feeds everything that lives.”

A sobering thought, in my effort to embrace this thing called aging.


VisibleMedia said...

Lovely post Jessie. We still mourn for our cat - Calamity Jane after losing her many years ago. She was a member of our family and helped me mother my children from the time they were born. She calmed them when they were anxious, comforted them when they were crying, and played with them when they were happy.
The pain we felt at her death has passed, what is felt now and always is love.
Dian Emery

Jesse Mendes said...

I take comfort in your comments, Dian. My sincerest gratitude for sharing your own experience, it helps.