Sunday, May 01, 2005

gritting your teeth

Grief, grievance, grouch, grim, there are lots of words for gritting your teeth in the face of adversity. Whichever god we worship, it's easy enough to have faith in times of good fortune. We both need god and despair of god during the bad times.

I like the hermit's (real and) cartoon cat Grimalkin. I love it also that he loves cats so. Here is my favourite piece from Zak Kramer's gallery. I wish I could draw cats so well.

After losing a cat I was close to - and watching her die slowly and painfully - I found it hard to be cheerful. Whenever I thought of her, I also felt so sad. I don't see her as a lesser creature because she was feline and not human. She was my Shams and she lives within me now, just as Shams was internalized by Rumi. She was so open to life, so relaxed with us, so contented until the illness struck her; and she died so submissively but only when we were ready to let her go, to release her from her suffering. I only regret that we may have prolonged her suffering in a bid to see her through the illness. Easy enough to say in hindsight. We held on because we thought she would make it but she sank so thoroughly toward death, we had to let go of that hope. It wasn't despair. Just acceptance.

As with Rumi, there was an issue of injustice (veterinary malpractice) involved, and this complicates the grieving process. We had trusted the vet and she had trusted us to care for her. We let her down when we allowed the vet to inject her with a dose of medicine intended for dogs, not cats. A later internet search revealed to us what had happened but it was too late (Rimadyl was the drug given). We could only hope she could survive but her condition only went from bad to worse to a point where recovery was no longer possible. She indicated that she wanted no more desperate attempts to save her and we could but wait, in suspense, still hoping for a miracle. Her body became so cold, despite continued shallow breathing. Her eyes glazed over and she seemed no longer to be aware of her surroundings. I kept a hand on her paw and a hand on her chest to sense her temperature and breathing. I had a sense of her spirit departing and then she gave one final convulsive retching. She was lifeless now.

In the following week I worked through my initial grief in part by creating a small mandala and developing it day by day, as follows:

I've been making friends with
A black and white kitten
Yes, I'm getting around
To loving and caring for cats again.


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