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Archive for April, 2014

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Roxy, our family cat of thirteen years, died on Palm Sunday. After eating nothing for a day or two, after being examined by the veterinarian and placed on steroids for possible asthma, after being wept and prayed for, Roxy was let outside on a warm, beautiful Palm Sunday night and disappeared from our lives.

Having witnessed the natural death of pets over the years, I’ve come to regard myself as seasoned in the ways of mourning for them: a solemn burial, a few reminiscences, a prayer of gratitude, an attempt to salve bruised hearts with the promise of new pets.

But Roxy’s death was different. On her last night, she remained affectionate even as mysterious cat logic took over, urging her to walk slowly away from those she loved who loved her.

“Tears are a river that take you somewhere,” writes Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her classic work, Women Who Run with The Wolves. Tears for Roxy took me to a place of grief that remains secure eighteen years after the suicide of daughter Mary.

It’s just that Mary had also been sicker than I realized. She had also used her own mysterious logic on the night she overdosed to leave those she loved who loved her; and like Roxy, she was incapable of saying goodbye. Tears that were shed for Roxy this week were also being shed for Mary, and they took me somewhere real.

“For years, classical psychology of all types erroneously thought that grief was a process that you did once, preferably over a year’s period of time, and then it was done with, and anyone who was unable or unwilling to complete this over the proscribed time period had something rather wrong with them. But we know now what humans have known instinctively for centuries: that certain hurts and harms . . . can never be done being grieved; the loss of a child through death . . . being one of the most, if not the most, enduring” (New York: Ballantine Books, 1995, 374, 385).

I’m grateful for the life of a small cat, and I’m oddly beholden to her. Roxy took me to where some of the Mary-grief lies. Now I can pay attention to it from time to time and honor it as part of me.

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