I don’t know where cats or people go when they die. I do know there’s a moment when whatever the thing is that animates the body is no longer in it.
Today I felt that life go out of a creature I loved, my hand on Jaxon’s head and Meg’s on his paw as he fell asleep quietly on the vet’s table.
You’re might be familiar with his tales already, how he was a stray in my neighborhood and slowly made his way into our hearts—and eventually came right inside to live with us. (If you want to catch up on the last time we thought he was gone, you can click here for that story.)
So anyway, he did all that and we were happy because of it.
I really don’t know how to write this story now, because it’s about a small stray cat who was not well when he came in from the cold and it’s not a surprise that he didn’t make it, not really. We hoped that he would flourish with good food and warmth and love, you know? We imagined him sleek and complacent as The Cat Himself, lounging in the sunshine on the back of the couch someday if we could give him what he needed.
But I don’t think that the sorrow and love I feel is so much about a small creature who was going to die anyway.
What I feel might be more about life itself. How precious it is, how easy it is to let pass and pass in the middle of days that seem like they won’t ever end, but then they do and we have to remember.
What I feel might be gratitude for how this scrawny cat reminded me to pay attention to life, to invest in the moments of it right before my eyes.
As I said at first, I don’t know where that life goes when it’s no longer in my body, or yours, or any other creature’s. I’m glad I don’t know for sure, because then maybe I would be able to treat it more carelessly. As in, “I’ll be kind to you next time we catch a spin at life” or, “I’ll love more courageously and live more deeply in another lifetime…”
I think maybe that’s the thing that is here tonight as I ponder out loud, just a wanting to treat the invisible, forgettable, precious thing called life with the same love and care that my family and I gave Jaxon while he spent his 9th one in our home. What if I treated my life the same way?
Maybe that’s the thing.
Jaxon, you aren’t in the little shrouded form we buried today. Wherever the spirit of you went, you left behind more love, more desire to be alive and kind and pay attention. Something about that never dies. It gets passed along. Thank you.
P.S. If you’ve been following the Tales of Jaxon S. Feral, thank you. I’ve loved sharing him with you. We took him to the vet on Hallowe’en because he seemed a little ill. They sent us home with antibiotics and things that would have worked had his body been stronger. He got sicker and didn’t leave Meg’s bedroom much. He sat on my lap for a long time today and I could feel that he was having a hard time breathing. Meg and I took him in and the vets had to tell us that any further treatments would probably just make what remained of his days unpleasant. So we were able to say goodbye together after he had a good meal.