We Carry Them With Us, Always

I don’t know where to begin, except to start at the trail of my tears, and trace back to a place of calm, somewhere where I can recount a time when maybe there was a time when I sincerely felt solace in this space.  I cannot find it now except in this inner temple where I carry you.

The Island in October, photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

“The Island” photograph by Valentina Kaquatosh, October 2015

And when I speak of you, I do not talk of one single person whom passed beyond this life, but of the several I last spoke to, or seen, if only in a dream, and now remember as if still awake in that dream.  I try to think of poetry, to form my words into something divine so my memories of you can float up into a heaven we can all recognize you in, someday, yes, that dreadful word someday I speak it like it will be tomorrow.  When I type it a bit of thunder rumbled outside my window.  Imagine that, thunder on Samhain!  What solace can be had this midnight with a thunderstorm?  You know how I am with storms.  My heart trembles and my skin goose pimples as the rain falls as if it were made of pure electricity.

Outside tonight the Halloween revelers are all a scream, running for shelter, their individual bonfires flooded out with the down pour as one more thunder strike silences everyone indoors.  A peace falls again, darkness swells as the rain tumbles with the thunder, thunder growing more gentle now even as it swells in intensity all along the clouds.  The rush of the wind makes me feel like I can hear your voice better now, telling me to call it a night, “go to bed, find a pillow, cry into it, or watch a scary movie, maybe take a shower, wash it all away like old make-up” and the rush becomes a fever.  There is heat all over my face.

I can’t help it.  I carry you with me everywhere I go.  I always will.  But you are not a burden.  You weigh nothing, yet only the sorrow is heavy, that is why I have to cry it out in doses, dump all these tears as much as I can and pray, at this moment especially, the Thunderers take it as my offering tonight.  May my salt leave my eyes, stop stinging my sight so I can finish writing these words, release my sorrow-burden and go on pretending everything has not left a mark, and all will be as if you did not die.

I know some of us say we do not die but we change from one life to the next and in this, yes, we must acknowledge death!  Accept death for what it is!  Do not hide sweet death and shy not from darkness…  but why, why take you so suddenly?!  What cause has your death sweetened for this life?  Those who say there is a plan for everything and that this is the work of God are mistaken.  No master plan is behind this.  Nature is random.  Only people put a riddle, rhyme, and reason to it all.  Poetry.  Yes, forever the poetry.  If only life were poetry!

We’d live forever if you and I had wrote our days long-hand poetry.  What epics we’d be now.

In this end, the poetry still leaks, strays away from me, repeats, even when I am at my loss for words I am poem-ing — perhaps that is how I carry you all — I poem you with me, always.  Like starting from a trail of tears to leaving a tiny, dry, dusty trail of glitter behind me as I reach the end of my lines, reaching for my solace.  On Samhain, forty minutes before midnight, my only strength in lighting candles, petting cats, about to watch an old scary movie, a black-and-white one I never got to watch with you, but one of you would appreciate the most.  I feel a smile somewhere in the darkness like an embrace.  It lifts me up a little at my waist.  Blood rushes back to my feet.  My finger tips tingle back to life after a numbing-stabbing of pain when I was at my bursting of tears.

I am not alone.

I’m not alone in carrying you with me.  You can be with so many different people now.  You need for no cell phone or internet.  Travel isn’t a bitch anymore.  Your body is only emotion, imagination, perfectly mobile in every meaning of invisible, impossible, and beyond understanding.  You can fit into anything, can take the shape of everything, and be the talk of everyone like you never were as a person.  No one need measure you by scientific means, or record you on video, or track you with any devices.  You’re gone in the sense that no one need touch or see you if they don’t need to, or want to, and even if they do, you’re there in the sense you never could be when you were.  As a story, more than fiction, but in this I can back that up with my poetry reference.

But in my times of solitude, where I am in my place of believing experiencing you out of your old body, it is another burden to sleep in the closet.  Sometimes, however, it is nice in the darkness.  It can protect me from the garish light, stop a migraine cold in its tracks, and heal me during times when a crowd is an assault to my senses.  When all I want to do is curl up with you, it would be nice to share what you have to say, yet the worry of the words…

perhaps only poetry is the way?

— in memory of Dylan, Joyce, and Shawnus

Mr. Snuggles’ Last Day

I sing of sweet loss and the pangs of love. I sing of missing my closest friend. I sing the longing song of wishing he were well and alive again, with me like he used to, here beside me while I’m at the computer, at my pant leg, poking me with his claw to remind me to go to bed. I sing of Mr. Snuggles, the Midnight Angel, Witch’s Familiar Extraordinaire, my little lover, my baby, my one and only boy, aged only 7 years a lifetime — you should have met him.

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There is no death. Only a change of worlds.
 – Chief Seattle

Home is where my sweetheart once lay, no, now lies at this moment, his body wrapped tight in the softest blanket I gave him, my little funerary Egyptian feline mummy, preserved like ice cream in the freezer’s tummy. Even lifeless, his shell holds its beauty, the fur glossy-gleams, this house panther of my dreams… Oh, Mr. Snuggles, help bring me to sleep tonight like you always used to, crawl up to my pillow and breathe into my ear, sing me your heart song and I’ll answer yours with mine. Everything home I know here is all saturated with you. No corner, no piece of FURniture is not complete without some trace of your fur, or a torn claw, a displaced whisker, not even a pillow scarce be dented without some shape of your body. Everything ‘you’ is all over me, too, and, I don’t fear, shall always be. I carry you, my belly pregnant with you, my furry child, as you carry me, little in-love-with-me-ghost-who-walks-inside-me, and together now we travel as one, as fate has it now, no walking back, forward and around the world now, no need for cat carriers or tranquilizers…  “I can go with you anywhere now, Mama” I almost hear him cheerfully chirp.

I break from my sobs to write the sad report of the death of my beloved cat, who less than 24 hours ago, died within my arms. It happened, as the deaths of others I’ve known, as suddenly as life begins. I gripped him in his last violent spasms of a seizure, without complaint enduring kitty kicks to my face, and massaging his belly and chest into some semblance of calm — all the while keeping a very uneasy grip on my own.

I don’t know how many times I said “okay, it’s okay” perhaps it was in the hundreds, was it ever enough?

As his head began to slump to the side, I braced his spine with my leg and rubbed his sides, looking into him, keeping his attention as much as possible. These were the labor pains of death, “my death” Mr. Snuggles seemed to silently acknowledge, his eyes starting to lose their vibrance as he stared into me as if I were disappearing. And I felt as if I were the one dying, he leaving me behind, and I could not go with him. It was then I know how it felt like whenever I left him home alone. But he must had some knowing I’d be back, because he knew precisely when to jump up to the window and cry for me. As he kept slumping, I wailed for him, apologizing to him first for alarming him, because that wild cry that comes out of me is frightening, a keening so banshee-like it has sent neighbors calling 911 on me, and for good reason. I am not me when I give myself to mourning. I surrender to the passion of it, I sing in Menominee, not quite remembering all the words to the prayers I was taught long ago, yet they come back in an emergency. Then the Menominee words fever pitch into other languages then into animal noises quite barbaric.

My expression of grief is like world music, very non-ethnocentric, yet all me, my own creating, coming out from the deep woman I may have been once during an ancient time in a forgotten culture…  I lose track of my thoughts for a moment. My tear-strained temples pull at my brows and eyes and my sight goes all blurry. What am I trying to say?  I’ve seemed to lost myself in hyperbole.

Let me breathe.

Mr. Snuggles knew what was happening. I was in deep trance prayer and grief, part of my soul stretched and torn and reshaped to let him go, a death midwifery process, holding him, at the end, against my belly and breast as I would my own child (yet I do not know what that is like — I have no children — just a cat who is my child). As he lost all muscle control, somehow he shot up an arm to dig into me with his last ounce of strength and control, looking straight into my eyes from the pillow of my right breast, and I, looking into him, felt our connection all the keener, cutting into each other deeper than before. Over my heart he coughed up deep, black blood. His tongue had turned a dark blue and he couldn’t open his mouth enough to vomit out the blood in order to breathe. As the thunder of his heart dropped silent, I tried to clear his throat, prepared to give him CPR, but…

His eyes then indicated all was lost.

Everything was black inside him. His body was all poisoned. I felt crazy screams itching at the back of my throat, but I stayed silent now, calming my brother who was on the phone (I barely remembered him ringing) asking what was going on, and “are you alright?” “Can you feel a pulse?” “Check his breathing!” I worked my fingers into Mr. Snuggles’ mouth, prying open the jaw that fought to cage the slack black tongue, a black tongue growing grey. Gobs of old blood decorated my skin, gooey as honey, nothing to be done, my darling was gone.

His left paw seemed stapled into my shoulder, his grip lasted for a long while, it made me feel like he was still going to cough back to life. I waited fevered seconds for an answer from his empty eyes. Those eyes had the look I knew too well, except I’d seen them on human beings…

There is something far different about the death of an innocent animal.  There’s a wild yearning in them for release and they are filled with curiousity for the end, determined to live out every second til that end, sometimes willingly. Mr. Snuggles had ways of teaching me how to meet the end with dignity and a great deal of love. He wanted to die with me at home. I gave him what I promised him from the very start of our relationship:

“Baby,” I always told him, not caring whether or not he understood human talk, “I love you so much, I don’t care what it takes, I will be there for you til the very end.”

Our story is a long one, filled with many adventures, I took him to meet lots of interesting people and other animals, I brought him with me on walks and trips, neighbors envied the way he’d cling to my left shoulder in a near parrot fashion and perfectly behave as if he truly were my baby.  Yes.  He was my baby.  At this point, this is our “forever story”, the one where his spirit gets to glide around me, waiting for me to catch up to him when my time comes to pass.

I still feel him clinging to my left shoulder. I don’t want him to let go, so I won’t let go. We’re part of each other. He’s truly a “spirit” familiar now.

Or perhaps he was always a part of me just fused back into my body to make me whole again?  Spirit is full of strange lessons, and I am full of weird musings.

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It is assumed that Mr. Snuggles died of liver cancer that spread quickly throughout his body.  Blood tests confirmed he was living on borrowed time.  He was given a “death sentence” on August 21 and I was given the choice to put him down in a vet’s office, but I listened to my cat’s wishes instead.  He wanted to die at home.  He knew more than I did what was going on, yet I was determined to keep him going.

At 2:30am (standard central time) August 30th, Mr. Snuggles exhibited strange behavior — I heard him scratching at the door and howling loudly.  I did not know he was in pain or not.  When I went to investigate, he hid under my bed and would not come out for some time.  Then, as I tried to get back to sleep, he creeped back out from under the bed to sit and stare at me.  I picked him up and he howled.  Something was really wrong.  I read it in his face.  After failing to help him go to the litter box, I took him to bed with me and we both settled down.

We spent one last night together cuddled cheek-to-cheek, but upon waking, Mr. Snuggles’ jaw was going slack and he wasn’t swallowing water.  Sadly, this reminded me of when my mother was dying.  The same happened with her.  She could not swallow when her time came.  All I could do for her, and now for Mr. Snuggles, was dribble a tiny bit of water into the mouth for comfort.

I cancelled all my appointments for the day, sought emergency vet care, but it was too late.  No way to see any vet in a timely fashion.  It was the way Mr. Snuggles wanted it.  He wanted home hospice.  He hated going to those offices where he got poked all the time.  He wanted to be with me.

And so we were together.  That’s the way it had to be.

I am now planning a funeral, looking for a burial site, and Pagan/Polytheistic clergy to lead the rite.  Mr. Snuggles was greatly loved by many!  Very popular darling of a cat.  Where ever he shall be buried, it should be a place where all my friends can pay their respects.  But, for now, please feel free to leave a nice word or two here, thank you.

Rest in Peace, Dearest Friend
Mr. Snuggles, the Midnight Angel
b. 2005 — d. 2013