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For just about 20 years, you have been by my side, sharing my space never leaving. We’ve been through a lot you and me. From the group house where you climbed the curtains and knocked over all the housemate’s plants to my first apartment where you would escape to the streets of Mt Pleasant through the closet. You gave a stamp of disapproval to a series of very bad boyfriends but fell in love with the same guy I did. You moved with us to our new place and again when we bought a house. You watched me get put on my long white dress before I said “I do”. You sat by my side with wide eyes the entire time I labored at home with Max and paced nervously until I arrived with the new bundle of joy who you eyed suspiciously. You eventually made your peace with him and loved him as much as I did (well… almost). When Juan moved out, you licked my salty tears when I sobbed inconsolably and sat up with me late and night while I worried over Max. When Odette moved in, you lay on her bed and sat by her chair and ate chicken out of her hand and showed us you have love enough for everyone. I went back to school you sat on my lap in the middle of my reading and walked over the keyboard while I stayed up in the wee hours writing papers, nudging me to bed, where you slept curled up beside me. Almost every morning you climbed into my lap and remained perfectly still during meditation. You nursed me through years of migraines but laying on my hip or at my side whenever I took to the bed. Most recently you greeted many of my precious patients, talking to them and insisting that they pet you, even going as far as using your elderly little paw to direct their hand to the place on your head you like petting best. You showed us all the meaning of great spunk!

I was barely an adult when you came into my life. Now I am a middle aged mom with graying hair and a teenage boy. And you my friend are dying.

Just last week you were meowing and running, waking me up first thing to feed you, the way you have done at 6am every day for the last 20 years. You were climbing up onto beds and the backs of chairs, though sometimes asking us to help you. But something happened 5 days ago and the slow aging process has suddenly caught up with you. Now you can’t really walk, but today you found a way to slip downstairs to the basement and hide away. Today you stopped eating. I can’t even get you to sniff at the tuna water or bone broth you’ve loved so much and which carried you through recovery after blessed recovery through the years. You are only taking a few sips of water. I am watching you let go of the things you loved so much with grace. Your breath is shallow and I wonder if you will make it through the night.

Its a miracle really–that you and I have been together so long. Eleven years ago, the doctors diagnosed you with a cancerous tumor around your windpipe. They said you were dying. We almost let you go then–you were so close to death’s door but Juan was in Mexico and I couldn’t make the decision to say goodbye alone so we gave you a little bit of palliative chemo to keep you alive so he could say a proper goodbye to his girl. It was nothing short of a miracle that you went into remission and even then they told us that we would be lucky to have more than 2 years with you. You gave us 5 times that. Eleven blessed years of cuddles and meows and mice caught. Eleven years of laughing at your antics and snuggling with your furry self Eleven years of love as presence, of holding the space, of changing it all for the better simply by being.

You survived the addition of 2 new kittens into our family–I think they gave you another reason to live–defending your territory, showing them the ropes. Max and I think that you were afraid to leave us in the care of those dingbats. You ruled this house with an iron paw. You held your own until two days ago. But now you let them have it all. First feeding, the best spots in the sun. They don’t want to take it. Instead they lay at your feet watching you breathe so slowly. Looking at each other and at me–wondering–what next? What will it be like when you are gone?

You have taught me a lot. Before Max came into the picture you taught me how to mother. You taught me that mother-love was simple–food, water, arms and presence–pure presence. Everything else is just a variation of those. Everything else is commentary on those basic principles.

I am so very grateful you found me and I found you and that we have had each other these many years. You truly have been my familiar–my mirror–my side kick. Sure I love those other kitties who share our home but there will never be another cat like you, the friend who humbly walked me through all these doors of initiation. I guess my final initiation is doing it alone.

May whatever come next for you be sweet. May there be plenty of mice to chase and milk to drink and people to boss around. May you be pet well and feel no pain. You deserve that for you have loved me so well.

I kiss you good night not knowing what comes next. If we have one day more together that will be a tremendous blessing indeed. But its OK if now is your time to go–please don’t stay and suffer because of me. We will always be together in my heart and I know I will see you again.

I wrote this piece on Sunday night. My Rosie girl passed away in my arms as I pet her and she curled her paw around my fingers on Monday May 11th at 5:20 pm. She was 20 amazing years old. She was truly and completely the best cat that ever lived. The last words I said to her were, “You can go Rosie–We will see each other again. You have done a good job with me. I love you.” She then breathed out and did not breathe in again as she buried her face in my chest. I am a lucky blessed person. I am grateful.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.–Ferris Bueller

Tomorrow marks the first day of my last trimester in my acupuncture program. The proverbial beginning of the end. My very last class is a mere 15 weeks away. Shortly after that I will graduate and begin a whole new phase of my journey.

It feels miraculous really, to have made it this far. It seems like just yesterday when my heart ached because of how deeply I longed to go to school to study this magical medicine. For years, I was bogged down in a swamp of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It seemed that I would never start.

But start I did. I am so profoundly aware of how the Universe has conspired to allow me to be here, to allow me to keep walking this path. It was nothing short of magic how part-time work and car pools and many other small every day miracles lined up making it possible for me to keep walking through those doors. As a result, every day I was at school, no matter how tired, or grumpy or stressful, I held as gift.

Oh its been a journey! School has put almost unbearable strains on my time and health. There have been moments where I was challenged beyond my wildest dreams, times when I was pushed right to edge. And oh how I have desperately missed my neighborhood community which faded into the background while I studied! And now with just 15 weeks left I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But lets be clear. I am not sprinting to the finish line. No, I am sauntering. Savoring the last delicious bits of these glorious three years. Drinking it in before this dream that once seemed impossible, changes into a new one.

I have come to know when I am in the presence of something precious. I am so grateful for my teachers, for my classmates, for the experiences that have radically transformed me.

I have no idea what the future may bring–what gifts and challenges my new adventures will offer. I don’t know what this phase will transform into. But I do know that this setting sun, this ending time, this space of transition, this last juicy sip is to be cherished not because of what lies on the other side but simply because it will one day no longer be here. Slow down I say. Look around. Take it in. Let it seep into your bones again and again. Its not yet time for goodbye.

And so, acknowledging how far I’ve come, how close this next milestone may be, I shift my eyes from the horizon, from the light at the end of the tunnel, from the future that is rushing towards me at break neck speed and I focus them on the only place I need to be.

Here. Now. Right in front of me. With a fresh notebook and brand-new pens and a grateful heart.

For my beloved cohort–you ragtag band of magical people! I love you beyond measure. Thank you for holding my hand as we walk.

2007_0527 cliffs

I came upon this poem in early December and wrapped it around myself like a cloak all winter. As soon as I heard it it sounded as though I knew it always, like I knew this place always, these cliffs, this coast.

And now I offer it to you, a gift for the new year from a beloved Irish poet who is gone too soon. Below see the link to hear him speak it in his own words.

Beannacht
(“Blessing”)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O’Donohue ~