“Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation” –Kahil Gibran

Be still and know that I am God. Be still. Be quiet. Turn inward. Breathe. Mediation. Know your true nature. Remember yourself.

This is what I am hearing right now. This is what I am called to write as I said goodbye this morning to one of our four “outside” cats. I did more than say goodbye. I actually had to make the choice to take her to the vet, so that they could end her suffering. I had to choose to end her life. I do not take this lightly and, (as some of you who have had this experience also know), it was a awful.

I came to understand this morning that it is by grace that I do not have to make these decisions of life and death every day. And yet, the other side of that same coin is, that whether I am fully aware or not, I am participating in this cycle daily at various levels. When you believe, as I do, that everything is sentient, everything is conscious, or – a term I recently heard – ensouled, then I understand that I am an active part of death. I already observe how my garden is like a microcosm of which I am the god and ruler and have learned many lessons from this. I do not relish deciding what insects should live and which should be exterminated. I do not relish choosing that my need to live is more important than their’s –that my life goals are higher than theirs. They are, after all, doing exactly as they should be doing – executing their objectives at a very high caliber. Yet death is an absolutely necessity, as everything that dies turns into the soil that grows the plants that feed us and keep our lives going.

{A tangent here, something that I think of often: one of the many reasons there is so much unhappiness amongst us…the majority of us modern day humans, will not get to be buried in the soil, and therefore, will not be able to fulfill the end of our bargain – unable to fulfill the rest of the circle of life. The poet Kahil Gibran’s words always come to my mind,

When you kill a beast, say to him in your heart:

By the same power that slays you, I too am slain, and I too shall be consumed. For the law that delivers you into my hand shall deliver me in to a mightier hand. Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feed the tree of heaven.}

And so, to be here, human, on earth, is to participate in the dance of life and death. Creation and destruction. All necessary and born out of one another. I do my best to “tread lightly” in this dance, but I know I must actively participate. I am mostly vegetarian, I eat only seafood from time to time, but if I think too long on it, I will refrain from eating animals and fish all together. But still, I harvest the fruits of the plants and compost the plants at the end of the season, and kill the insects that threaten my food source, and fell the trees needed to build our home and business, and feed canned meat of other animals to my pets so that they may live and thrive… and the list goes on. No one can escape the cycle. (Except at the end of life as I mentioned earlier. But we only cheat ourselves by embalming our bodies and putting them into sealed caskets and cement vaults…)

I needed help to accept the circumstances I was finding myself in over the last few weeks. Our cat, Hemingway, was diagnosed with kidney failure and anemia over a month ago. It was terminal and I was sad that it took me so long to notice that she was awfully thin and not as hardy as she usually was. We brought her home and I pulled out my trusty copy of Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. I read up on foods and herbal supplements and suddenly this vegetarian was making bone broth, chicken & rice and beef livers! I started offering broth twice a day and was able to get a lot of supplements in there to help her. Chlorophyll to help build blood, vitamin A, nutritional yeast for B vitamins and a blend of others like kelp, marshmallow root, calcium and probiotics. Served in warm broth and sprinkled over all the dry food, in case she wanted that. From what I can tell, this helped her. She drank a lot of broth and spent almost everyday (even despite the cold) outside under the red bud tree near our kitchen window. She had trouble staying warm from the anemia but the other cats would snuggle with her at night and I would make her a hot water bottle. She let me and my family touch and pet her more that we had been able to her whole life, as she and her sisters were feral and we’ve done our best to domesticate them. I held her for the first time since she was a kitten! She reached out to touch my nose to hers (cat lovers know this is a big deal!), she smelled my forehead and my hair and she even began to purr. I knew I wouldn’t be able to heal her and this is tough news for an optimist such as myself. So, I promised we would monitor her quality of life and make the decision to end her suffering, only if we felt that she was somehow asking this of us. It’s wild, but over my 37 years of having so very many animals live with us, we have never had to do this before. I suppose it’s because we live in the county and often the animals would go off on their own and disappear or we lost them to getting hit by cars before we had built the big fence we have now, some died of old age. But I have lived thus far without having to hold a small friend in my arms while making the choice for a kind soul to administer something that would cease the beating of her heart.

A few days ago, I consulted my new Animal Spirit guidebook I got for Christmas for help and support. The dragonfly card told me “The situation at hand may be different than it appears at first glance…the dragonfly reminds us to calm the mind so that the light of wisdom can shine through.”

I tried to think of alternative ways to see the situation. I thought of how death can be a gift even though we mostly think only of life as the gift. Death is transformation. Death is release of our current body–especially one that may no longer be functioning well.

I bundled up and sat in the garage with Hemie. I wrapped her up on my lap and did my best to show her she was loved.

My husband woke me this morning saying, “I think Hemie is suffering and it may be time.” The past two days she had eaten less and less broth and she did not spend time outside. I had lined all the cat beds with puppy pads, because, as one can imagine when the kidneys are failing, it’s hard to be in control of them.

I went to her and she was talking and talking to me. The past few days, she’d become even more affectionate. I feel happy to think that she can trust me. She was sleeping in her liter box. I cleaned her face because she no longer has the energy for grooming. I wrapped her in fleece and sat her on my lap. She stopped meowing and started purring and I tried to know if I was about to make the “right” decision. I quieted my mind. I was breathing through my tears, her purring calming me. I searched for  other perspectives and I began thanking her:

Thank you for trusting me to take care of you.

Thank you spending this time with me.

Thank you for choosing me.

Thank you for teaching me something so difficult about what it means to love.

Thank you for being my friend.

Thank you for being my teacher.

Thank you for showing me over the years, the many ways that relationships can work. Until recently, I never got to love you in the way that I wanted. You didn’t like to be held or petted. You were distrustful (& with good reason, as when we did have to hold you, we often were having to take you to vet!). And yet, we co-existed. We fed you dry food and you safely roamed our five acres of land. You played and hunted and spent days in the warm sunshine. At night you cuddled with you sisters in the beds and carpets we made for you in our garage–protected from the elements. Thank you for showing me the many ways that we can give and receive love. Thank you for not giving me my way.

Thank you for being an amazing example of bravery, courage, and fierceness. You were an excellent hunter! Unafraid of the dark or of other predators. Eating so many lizards, mice and voles!

Thank you for showing me how to persevere despite unpleasant circumstances. (The vet said that you was so anemic, that if these had been your blood levels after an accident, you would not have survived it). You are so incredibly strong–continuing to survive–and enjoy the day–to–day life of a cat without commentary and comparison to past better days.

I pray I am doing right by you, in setting you free of your body, so that you may transition on.

Thank you for teaching me about detachment. Aparigraha (the fifth Yama or restraint in yoga teachings) Non-grasping. Non-clinging. Non-possessiveness. We have shared nearly a decade together and yet, you are not mine. I will make this decision today, I will let go.

I’ll see you again…in some other time, in some other form. Yet perhaps, we have already known each other. After all, in this list is some pretty big lessons brought to me in a pretty tiny package – a cat, that all in all, I did not spend THAT much time with over the years. (I so enjoy thinking of the soul contracts I made before entering into this life…my friends and “enemies” meeting up with over the course of my years here to help me learn and send me further on my path.)

She rested and purred and listened to me speak.

It was time to go. We loved on her and praised her and my mom and I cried. Her body became heavier in my arms, even before they administered the drugs. I thanked them. Today (and probably most days), this vet was the one who would ultimately end her life…and what a heavy job that is.

I know that on one hand, it’s all very real and it was so very shitty to be there in that moment with everything it entailed. But I also tried to remind myself that it wasn’t real at all. That this is the play of consciousness – moving in and out of form. That it so loves to do this! That in fact, these bodies and forms are what is keeping us separate from each other. I will continue to meditate on this…I know it is true. But, I am human, and alas, I do love the forms. I will continue to learn these lessons from Hemingway and others as I continue on…

How quickly we go from form to formless. Death, just on the other side of an exhale. I held a soul on my way to the vet, and as I knew would be the case, I held a body on the way back home. She purred all way the way there. Her fur was still so beautiful and soft like a rabbit’s. Sweet and tiny friend, teaching me some of the biggest lessons for this life, I honor you. I respect you. I thank you. I will return you to the earth and I promise, when my work is done here someday, I will join you.

I know it is a gift to be with a being at the beginning or end of their life. I know it is a privilege. I will accept what that entails.

Namaste’ ~ I see the light inside of you…It is the same light I have inside of me! The light of love, of God, of consciousness. I remember that we are one and it is impossible for us to be separate


Hemingway Taylor–Steinberg was polydactyl, meaning she had many extra toes on each foot and her name came from the stories that Ernest Hemingway had many polydactyl cats living on his property in Key West.