Templeton meowed and without a thought I scooped her into my arms. I cradled her that day for just over seven hours except for the thirty minutes I dashed up the street still in my pajamas for a chiropractic appointment.
Templeton had been dying for nearly three weeks. I would not have believed anyone who told me my cat of 18 years would die over a period of time in my home. I would have quietly thought, 'I will emotionally die being part of that.'
Yet those three weeks instead became a a time of living.
Living? Yes, living.
Just after the 2008 New Year I was told Templeton's insides appeared to be glued together. This was unlike anything the doctor had seen. I intuitively thought her sudden decline was related to drinking the Christmas tree water and clumping cat liter. I then read on-line of the many chemicals in farmed trees that leach into the water reservoir after trees are brought into homes for the holidays as well as the dangers of liter that can clump internally in cats.
I called another vet who made home visits to schedule putting Templeton to 'sleep.'
It didn't take long to realize my cat was not in pain or suffering. Although she wasn't eating or drinking, she followed me from room to room, she watched while I wrote and she sat faithfully in her window perch. She was not an animal in pain. I was a person in pain.
Templeton didn't need putting to 'sleep.' I needed to 'wake up.'
I called the vet to cancel the appointment. There was no answer. An hour later she called me. I assumed she had caller id. Instead she had double booked and needed to cancel. We mutually agreed this was divine intervention.
In the nearly three weeks that passed Templeton revealed so much to me. At first I cried and cried. I made agreements with her like "I'll take better care of myself if you live" and I heard my shadow.
For example, during this time I was also visiting my mother a couple of miles away in physical therapy rehab. One day driving home, I was surprised to hear a thought that went, 'I am nearing the house of death.'
What? This was quickly followed by, 'Wait a minute. Your home is experiencing a sacred process.'
This surprising voice revealed the part of me still dreading her death. Fortunately I was waking up and truly realized Templeton was offering me a gift that was holy and sacred. If I chose to be present and engaged, I could be an active participant in her parting Earth.
My opening to this gift changed everything. I reminisced, told her stories, witnessed and wrote of my experience. I kept candles lit, bought flowers and usually played George Winston's piano cd "Plains." Moments of quiet that seemed an eternity arrived as I sat on the sofa with Templeton across from me. I talked of how she was freeing the butterfly in me and in the process she was becoming a butterfly herself. I began to describe Rehab in the Universe to her and asked her to consider returning to me four months later the week of my birthday.
And for some reason, I told her the doves would come to be with her to assist her in going home to the stars. (It is only today in writing this that I realize this is the primary reason I do not like hunting. I experience the animals as partnering with me in a way that sustains me at a soul level far beyond the sustenance of their being physical food.)
Five years ago on a Tuesday January 29th 2008 I called Jerry into my office where I held Templeton. She was 'my' cat, yet he shared from his heart then she held her head up and gave a meow that she had not given in weeks.
Short after 2:00 she died. I've heard the spirit does not leave the body immediately. It certainly felt this way with Templeton. I continued to hold her for several hours before brushing her, putting oils on her then laying her on two quilted fabric squares I had forgotten about in the top of my closet. Imagine my joy when I opened the box and found squares of quilted butterflies. Two, one for me and one for her, became her burial cloth.
The next morning we placed her in a box filled with tokens related to our journey and painted with an image that came to me. After coming inside, it was spitting snow that day, I sat on the sofa and looked out to see doves, doves circled around Templeton's grave with one lone sentinel sitting on the small rock wall overlooking our yard.
As dates and days don't coincide every year when I realized the anniversary of Templeton's death fell on a Tuesday again for the first time since her death, I knew I had to set the day aside. George Winston has played "Plains" throughout the day as I have held "Chickie" the little stuffed chic Templeton brought to me while meowing loudly every morning and night. This tattered, worn chic stirs my only regret
I regret I was not awake to Templeton's beauty and presence for much of the time we lived together. I was walking Earth, holding a job, looking alive, fulfilling a role yet deep down inside much of the time I was not listening to me. I was not present in my life.
Why does it often take a crisis such as illness, divorce, job loss, flood, tornadoes, death to awaken us? And when another dies how often do we avoid and suppress grief due to the discomfort of our known and unknown regrets? How is it that as time passes we return to our routines and ruts?
Life, this flesh and blood time we have on Mother Earht, is so very precious. To our knowledge this is the only planet on wihch our spirited souls get to find form and come home in this physical way. I don't know about you, but I take so much for granted and am still prone to sleepwalking, forgetting this Earth journey is a sacred process. Then there are times when the brillance and beauty of it all seeps into me and I am breathless. With tears of joying welling in my eyes, I can hardly take in the beauty of being alive.
Right now is one of those times when my breath is taken by both deep sorrow and great joy.
Five years ago today I cradled Templeton as she died. Today I cradle her memory as I honor her and myself, our journey and our hearts. I have taken this day to recall what I learned, reflect on the degree to which I've embodied these lessons, extend self-forgiveness for all I have lost through my ignoring and to listen to the new layers that emerge in this old yet new still unfolding story.
As I finish that last sentence a dove coos just outside my window. There are many "plains" in addition to George Winston playing through my life today.
At one point as I cried earlier a thought crossed my mind. 'If I had known how painful life on Earth could be would I have agreed to come here?'
The dove as well as the cat in my lap, that as a kitten made my heart leap as I asked the week of my birthday, both remind me. I came here to hear and honor the heart, this physical, energetic vessel that has expereienced so much. Closed and open. Asleep and awake. I honor and intend to keep opening the Heart.
Imagine the Shift of opening your heart again and again and again. I believe that's why we are here.
-Dawn, The Good News Muse, 29 January 2013