I was lying on the couch resting on All Soul’s Day, pondering death. My eyes were closed, and I could feel the weight on my chest of the sense memory of my dear, departed cat Scooter. I remembered when I had been lying exactly so on my couch back in Austin, and I had to pee and began to stir to get up. Usually he would jump off immediately, but this time he hesitated and looked me straight in the eye. He was getting frail and slow, but it seemed that his look said more than that. “Are you sure?” he seemed to ask. I wondered “Is this it? Is this the last time we will ever lie here together like this?” And, of course, it was. Within a week he was gone, a corpse in the ground, a ghost at my feet, in my bed, at the door.
I was sadder missing him than I have been in over a year. Grief is so strange that way. It goes into remission and seems cured, then flares up fresh as if it had been raw and throbbing all along. But then, we know that. That’s what everyone always says. To experience it is only to confirm what we’ve been told, like coloring in a picture that someone else drew.
I go over my memories, cherishing the facts of them along with the layers of emotional tones. Everyday play rituals, once mundane, routine, assumed, glow now with nostalgia. His tragic last days, once so sharp and painful to me, worn smooth and sweet from repeated rememberings. I notice that I need to close my ponderings about him with lessons. The What-I-Learned acts as the denouement. Somehow it’s all ok if there were lessons.
I don’t think the world is trying to teach me lessons or the universe is trying to tell me something. I don’t think there is some ethereal syllabus out there. I think finding lessons is an active process, a coping strategy that helps me find meaning when there would otherwise be only pain. We are meaning making machines, we humans. I feel I am being what I am when I learn and know. And so I repeat to myself the lessons I learned from Scooter’s death like a well-worn prayer. With time their meanings deepen and expand and I am made ever larger by loss and more thoroughly saturated with gratitude.
Rest in peace, little dude. Enjoy the long nap.