After twenty years you could forgive us for thinking she would never run out of the lives cats are famous for having. Yes, she had ailments, but they seemed no match for spirit and will.
A dear friend gave us a book called Zen Cats. And it was befitting for the coffee table that Paloma roamed under. She was the poster child for that zen-like quality of staying in the now.
There were many wise lessons we learned from her. And yes, of course I know we’re biased. But still, tell me what other teacher can pass along such wisdom without a hint of preachiness?
For example, during the early years, she had a habit of hiding under the chest-bed we owned at the time. It was such a closed off, cramped and utterly claustrophobic space that we decided it was not good for her. What if she got stuck we thought?
For months we barricaded with pillows and other items. Nothing worked. It took us months to learn we were not going to prevail. Did she ever gloat? No! At the height of our disagreement, did she ever do even one mischievous thing to retaliate? No! She simply insisted with her feet that she was right on the issue… and she was.
After we learned this lesson, we became open to so much more wisdom that came from her gentle and wise ways.
During the last few months of her life, she was failing but never stopped enjoying her life. Our totally amazing and wonderful vets, Dave and Craig (Cat Clinic of Mill Valley) gave just the right meds to keep her going and as pain free as possible.
The last weekend of her life, she put herself in Hospice care, no food just water. She then gave other signs and we knew. She would separate from us (as animals often do when dying) but then amazingly come back to be with us again. All the while she remained present, centered and dignified.
Today we stopped by our vets (they also have the most wonderful staff!) to pay the final bill and collect Paloma’s ashes. A woman in the waiting room sitting with a young child and a kitten said, “I have one of those boxes myself,” referring to Paloma’s ashes. Suddenly we were kindred spirits. Then pretending the kitten needed to come out of the carrier, she brought him over to Judy and I for a pet and to provide us a kitty fix.
People are so kind.
Here is something I wrote. Not sure if I will call this a poem. It is something however and writing it and telling this story to you has helped. Telling stories and poems always seems to help. Thanks for listening.
Ode To Cat
A hundred times since the kindly Vet launched her into next, I have walked
up and down these stairs forgetting and remembering over and over how
suddenly she did this or that, and how the burden of years had gathered.
Time to feed or pet or purr, these lightening thoughts they come and go.
Did you give the morning medicine; I turn and almost ask my wife.
And what about the soft new bed and the litter, is it swept clean?
It’s like the time the power went off that day the pickup truck went
careening and took out the big transformer, while again and again
we helplessly reached for that feckless light switch on the wall.
What we love is so real to the touch that we recoil at memories mirror.
Yet some mixture of chemistry and odd ingredients conspire to make
that which we will never know all the more known by the heart.
No doubt it has something to do with the lightness love leaves behind,
how even burdens will bolster that bond. Now only reflections remain
of an unfathomable, simple soul. Our work: remember, heal, repeat.