Tag Archives: Death

What I’ve Learned From Daddy’s Kitty

The cat on my front porch looks like death. Often, my husband and I stop as we pass to make sure he is still alive. His bobble head sits atop a decaying body. We are certain he has picked our home to die.

A couple weeks ago, my husband stopped a few houses down from ours and pet him for a moment on our evening walk. Since then, the cat has not left our front porch for more than a couple hours, earning the name Daddy’s Kitty.

He stays for the thirty seconds of love he gets a few times a day. We found out an old lady down the street feeds him. However, he hasn’t gone away, day after day, and we have realized maybe he isn’t going to her for food anymore. Now two small plastic dishes sit on our porch, as well as an old dog bed where he keeps watch over our home at night.

We did not want a cat. We have two dogs who bark whenever they realize he is out front. We have a small baby who probably should not be exposed to whatever Daddy’s Kitty carries on his matted fur. At first I was afraid to even touch him. He cannot come inside our house. Still, somehow, he adopted us, not the other way around.

So, each time I step outside, I look death in the face. Daddy’s Kitty is hard to look at without contemplating suffering and mortality. No one seems to want him anymore, yet all he wants is love, his old purr box still sputters to a start at the slightest caress.

Daddy's Kitty

I wish I could get a better picture of him, but he is so desperate for love that he won't hold still long enough to snap one.

I wish I could get a better picture of him, but he is so desperate for love that he won’t hold still.

Daddy’s kitty is old, forgotten, and ugly. Yet he craves love and is not afraid to show it. Last night I lay awake and felt empathy for all the creatures on this planet, human and otherwise, who are like Daddy’s Kitty. Lonely and suffering. The thought was overwhelming.

Some neighbors regard him as a pest or parasite, a metaphor for how many see the dying in our culture. Death is uncomfortable to be around. It is easier to ignore or make it disappear. But Daddy’s Kitty is still here, still living, still wanting to be acknowledged, loved, and kept company.

And, who am I to end his suffering if it is part of his journey, part of the life we all live and the end we will eventually face? I was thinking about how there is suffering in birth yet how hard we fight the suffering that comes with death. I get it, but I also wonder if somehow we are trying to avoid an essential element of existence.

For now, Daddy’s Kitty is still purring and I do not feel it is my job to make him stop. I just wish I could ease his suffering by giving him a bit more love, but my hands are literally full. I am still fantasizing about some sweet old lady who will come and rescue him to a life of air conditioned Fancy Feast.

If nothing else, I am grateful to Daddy’s Kitty. He has reminded me of life’s duality and the importance of finding peace in the uncomfortable. He has shown me that even when we feel like we have nothing else to give, the smallest act of kindness does not go unnoticed. After all, Daddy’s Kitty is still sitting on my front porch because my husband stopped for thirty seconds to acknowledge him.

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Overheard in a Ross Dressingroom…

Today I allowed myself an indulgence. I shop for new clothes maybe twice a year, max. Generally, my sisters and I swap items over little parties with friends, or I browse thrift shops. I try not to over-consume, although like most Americans, I still cross the line into some level of wastefulness and then feel guilty later.

Before a big vacation it is my ritual to pick up a few items, part of the anticipatory pleasure of travel. So, this morning, I headed off to Ross, my budget compromise to minimize at least the financial guilt of consumerism. After I carefully selected a couple items, including a swimsuit more characteristic of a 65 year-old woman, I headed for the dressing room.

As I squeezed into colorful Speedo spandex, I overheard a mother-daughter duo in the next stall.

“Oh my God.” Sheer horror in the daughter’s voice.

“What hun?”

“So-and-so’s sister has cervical cancer.”

“How old is she?”

“Mid to late twenties.”

They were both silent in disbelief. I, too, stopped for a moment. We all know someone with cancer. We all know people hurting because of it. Just this morning I had a conversation with someone I care about who faces a monumental loss. Sadly, we live in a world where cancer is not rare.

As I stood suddenly aware of the trivial concerns that face all women during swimsuit shopping, I was struck by the desire to get home and tell my husband we need to take better care of ourselves, we need to enjoy each moment as much as we can. Funny how the words of strangers can be so jarring.

The truth, as we all know, is that life can end abruptly (or slowly) at any time. When we remember this, time spent with loved ones becomes much more meaningful and finding the perfect swimsuit matters a lot less. For the record, I went for the old-lady one-piece, granny chic is totally my style, big sunglasses, colorful tote, and most importantly, a whole lot of love.

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Life is short.

Yesterday I arrived home from work and sat in the car, letting the NPR story finish, attention caught by a piece about apartment rents in San Francisco. The economic analyst in me still lives beneath the surface. That and I often sit in the car to let a story finish.

This time, however, I looked up to see Alex coming to my window. Odd, I thought. Maybe he is wondering why I am still sitting here, alone in my car.

Then I saw his face and I knew something was wrong. My thoughts raced, he didn’t want to talk until we got inside. I couldn’t wait.

“Is someone dead?” I asked, a bit panicked.

“Yes.”

Before I even had time to ask who, he told me. A friend’s wife. Her heart stopped without explanation as she sat in the car in front of her house before she came in from work. Unexpected. Tragic. Heart breaking.

Now before you offer your condolences, please know, they are misdirected at me. I am deeply saddened by our friend’s loss, but I only knew her from weddings, brief interactions. For me, the sadness is in knowing how devastated Alex’s long-time friend must feel. This is the guy who was a big brother to Alex, let us borrow his super-fast Mustang to drive to prom, helped me learn to work on my own 5.0 Mustang a year or so later.

I cannot even begin to imagine what he must be feeling right now. How deep his grief must be. She also had a son.

Life is so unpredictable, so fleeting. Since Alex shared the news with me, I have been haunted by this quiet whisper of nothing lasts forever, nothing is certain. For Alex the haunting is something more jarring. It changed the way he looks at me. His eyes clinging to the present. His friend’s forlorn words on the other side of the phone still fresh in his mind.

There have been other losses in our relationship, but this is the only one that has ever made him look at me differently. That alone has followed me around all day, tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me. Life is short.

Tonight I just want to remind you to hold those close to you a little tighter and tell them you love them. That’s my plan.

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To Be With You

Hurtling down an unknown highway, sitting in the middle of a crowded minivan filled with people from various points in my life, I died in my dream tonight.  As I was declared gone, all my lives were listed off, some men, mostly women, a ratio that was oddly pleasing.  However, as the list was read, I panicked.  I was afraid there was no turning back.  I still had so much to do, I still wanted to be with you.

Then I was reassured we’d still be together, in time, if that is what we wanted.  Once I trusted this was true, I was alright.  All the while, “To Be With You” played loudly in my head.  As if on cue, my husband crawled into bed, waking me, rousing me to say, “I have good news… I’ll still get to be with you.”

Then I cried, knowing how much I hoped my words to be true, because deep inside all I want is to be with you.  Song still playing loudly in my head, I grabbed the laptop, and we watched the music video together, the lyrics forcing more tears down my cheeks.  The moment passed, my husband quickly fell asleep, cat and dog breathing quietly nearby, our sweet little family that I never want to give up, me still awake, softly singing, maybe even still crying.  All because someone emailed me a lip sync rendition of that song yesterday.

I share because I’d like nothing better than for this to be true.  Also because I hope the thoughts will stop swirling through my head and that now I’ll be able to go to sleep.

Hold on, little girl
Show me what he’s done to you
Stand up, little girl
A broken heart can’t be that bad
When it’s through, it’s through
Fate will twist the both of you
So come on, baby, come on over
Let me be the one to show you

I’m the one who wants to be with you
Deep inside I hope you’ll feel it too
Waited on a line of greens and blues 
Just to be the next to be with you…

Good night.

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Sweet, Bluegrass

My mom cooks,

My stepdad gardens,

Bluegrass plays for the plants,

For a friend they lost today,

A song of death.

The lone whistle of a rumbling train,

Howling, Moaning, Calling–

Ophelia in her eternal pond,

Me, with bare feet upon the earth,

Small wildflowers,

Tickle my toes,

I drink the fleeting song

Of man and earth,

I am alive.

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A friend just started blogging and is learning the ropes. I found this deeply touching and thought you may too!

neuroticnancy

A friend once mentioned how vulnerable she felt when blogging. I see why she feels that way. It’s nice to be able to write down your thoughts and feelings, but when they are your deepest thoughts, about things that others may or may not know and understand it makes it difficult to really go there… if you know what I’m saying. Well, I’m about to go there.

I thought about you today. Actually, I’ve thought about you a lot in the past few months. I’m not sure why now and not before…….I wish I knew. Everyone has that one song that reminds them of people who are special to them, and I have that one artist that reminds me of you. You were obsessed with her. All you did was talk about how much you loved her and if you had the chance you would make her a happy woman…

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