Friday, June 7, 2013

The impermanence of pets

Two weeks ago I was in a Google+ hangout, cat across my crossed legs, getting ready to meditate, and one of the other participants commented that it sounded like there was a tiger in the room. The cat's purring had gotten louder as her time grew shorter, so I moved her to another room.

That was, in fact, her last day; she purred -- loudly -- right up to the end as the tranquilizer the vet gave her took hold. We petted her head until her breathing stopped, and then a little more.

I always knew she would die before I was ready, knew that was part of her cat-ness. She would come into the room while I was meditating in the morning and squawk, then knead my legs before settling down. I was sometimes looking at her as I recited "Everyone who is born will die" and add,"yes, you."

I'm not, generally, scared by the prospect of my death. I am saddened by the idea that everyone who is born will die, and the cat is the least of it. As humans, we're driven by the desire to connect; we need to be seen and valued in order to develop. (A new study links childhood abuse and brain development in women.) Yet when connections become attachments, when we reify relationships or believe that our happiness depends on others, we suffer.

Suffering -- dukkha, which also gets translated as anxiety, stress, anguish, dissatisfaction -- is one of the marks of our human existence. Accepting that also shows us the sukkha, the sweet side, the joy, bliss, tender heart, boundless beauty. Knowing that everything passes makes it presence more precious.

I miss the cat, Moonshine. I keep expecting to see her in her usual spots. Our other cat seems to want me to find her. At dinnertime that cat, Peeka, stands at the top of the stairs and squeaks with a "Timmy's-in-the-well" urgency. I follow her downstairs, and she circles aimlessly while I point out that I have given her food already -- just look in the bowl. It's not the food she's looking for, I think; it's her dinner partner.

It's just like that. There will be a new cat, a snuggly one who will sit on my crossed legs, I hope. A new dinner partner. Knowing the inevitable end should not stop us from enjoying the existing moment.

1 comment:

  1. Nancy, this was great, albeit hard to read, but helpful. Thank you for sharing. Lauren