Last week was a bit of a downer. Aggie, a recycled parsonage cat came to me when she was 8 and I was just starting seminary. She kept me company through all the paper writings and theological readings. In the past month nature took over and she died, at home and peacefully. I served as hospice support for her.
She was loosing weigh, stopped eating, then stopped drinking and I knew it would not be long. I carried her around when she was too tired to move more than 10 feet at a time. I spent hours just sitting with her, in my lap, petting her. She was purring and didn’t show pain, just fatigue. I took a break and went out, returning home to find her gone and just a warm body lying on the floor. I held her for 45 minutes, petting her and sobbing until I felt it was time to lay her body to rest.
Wrapped in my arms, I brought to down to the woods and then lay her in a pile of brush, covered her over and said goodbye. Nature will take care of the rest.
Then back up to the house and there, on the floor, her food and water bowls. Her litter box need to be cleaned, the cat supplies picked up, washing and cleaning to do where she had expired. Death is a messy business. Everything packed away and I sat in the stillness of the house and wept. Mum came home at dusk and I brought her down to where Aggie lay, so she too could say goodby. I prepared for a quiet night. No cat sleeping on my head, batting my face at 2 am or yeowling with existential angst. There is a great depth that one slides into when death arrives. More than a sadness, it is a void of life. And in that void one is faced with a biological response of fatigue, of heaviness along with the emotional waves of sadness.
With my new calling to full-time hospice and bereavement work, I sat in the stillness and came to understand that I would not do well coming home to a still house. I need life around me, perhaps more so now than ever. I still miss my flock and my farm and all the life that surrounded me. It motivated me to get up, to buck hay, to mend fences to meet my neighbors at the farm show. It connected me when I didn’t want to be connected. I came to understand a deep truth about me and for that I was thankful for the gift of grief.
Sunday, still feeling glum, I invited Mr. K out for a walk. At 91 and a WWII vet, he puts everything into perspective. We headed out, then grabbed a cup of tea and like we often do, we went to the animal shelter. I expected to see the same 4 older cats up for adoption all with tags that said things like: shy around new people, trouble with litter boxes, needs special attention. As we signed in I heard one of the staff say to the couple in front of us that there were puppies and one kitten.
Kitten? Really? How old?
11 weeks. Just came up for adopting in the last 10 minutes. She was part of a litter and all of the kittens were adopted, someone was going to take her, but didn’t come back to pick her up, she was supposed to go on Friday and we have called with no response. She was just released, has been spayed and has all of her shots. Wanna see her?
Boom. Done. Her name is Mouse.
She is sleeping on my lap as I write. She sleeps on the bed, under the covers by my side. She comes when she is called and follows me around. She had found her litter box and uses it. She plays, then sleeps, then plays. She is Purrrfect for me now.
She has a couple of jobs to do. She is the Chief Rodent Control Officer, a role that Aggie was terrible at and would have lost her job if she hadn’t aged into retirement on my watch. She is also the principle Mischief Maker, Yarn Tangler and Happiness Engineer.
All of these jobs promote the notion of life and being alive. It is an essential part of what is going to keep me grounded as I move forward. I feel like everything lined up as it should. Here I was being the hospice chaplain to my own cat just prior to starting up my new job. Aggie was with me through the seminary journey and lasted up to the week I was offered and accepted a call. Many blessings for that.