Writing from within the darkness

I am deep in the process of grief yet again. I still mourn my two kitties who died within 6 months of each other and right after I retired….when I had hoped to spend more time with them as we all aged together (they were 17 years old and had been with me since they were kittens). I don’t talk about this too much to those who don’t have pets or perhaps don’t understand the connection that we have with our animal companions. But, for those that do understand, you know what I am writing about here.

I miss their furry little bodies next to me during the night….the purring that brought me such comfort, the warm body that I could reach out and touch…..life touching life, connecting heart to heart.. I live alone, have no family – so, and especially during this time of the pandemic, these fur babies have been my family, my lifeline. I miss them more than words can adequately describe. I have previously written about feeling lost during this time of my life, and this remains true still.

I adopted an older kitty whose previous owner died (in January). And now this kitty is not well. I am working with the vets (and so is my checkbook) to try and find out what is wrong. No answers yet. She seems sad to me. I live alone, and perhaps she needs more activity and people around her, since her previous owner had caregivers coming and going and providing activity and interaction. Perhaps the grief is too much for her. I firmly believe that my second kitty’s death was from the deep grief of losing his lifelong companion, which left him open to the cancer that invaded his liver and finally took him. Perhaps this little kitty cannot cope with the loss she has sustained. Perhaps I cannot comfort her adequately.

I wanted to write from the light as I worked my way through this darkness. But I really don’t know when that will happen. It’s not happening now. And so I write from the darkness. From the deep sadness and loss and the hole in my heart. I don’t know what to do. Maybe there is nothing to do, but to keep walking through this until I get to whatever the other side is. Maybe there is no other side, but only a learning to live with this grief as a more frequent companion as I continue to age, and ask what I can learn from it. What I can learn to help me keep living intentionally and consciously and fully.. It hurts. I hurt. That is part of life. It is not all of life, and I believe that there is still joy and light and love….but right now, I need to acknowledge that dark place and give it its due respect and space. And so, grief, I am here. Teach me what you will. I am here with you.

Lost….a step toward finding myself yet again?

I have felt lost in the world as of late. I have not been writing as much, have not felt focused, have wondered about my purpose, life in general, everything. I don’t have an answer to what causes this, really. I can make some guesses….the state that the world has been in, the aftermath of retiring and trying to redefine myself, the ageism I feel (most frighteningly within myself at times – the questioning the worth of anything that I might have to offer and even questioning my own worth in this world at times.) It’s a difficult part of the road to have to navigate.

My belief has always been that in order to grow through to the next step, we have to face whatever is going on right now directly and walk through it. Easier said than done. How does one walk through what feels like quicksand with no sense of direction? I have always been directionally challenged, but this particular form of it comes with no GPS, unfortunately.

I have loved writing, but have difficulty sitting down to do that – wondering what the purpose is or if anyone will even want to read anything that I write? I enjoy painting, but then wonder if my paintings will just end up in the garbage when I am dead and gone. And even though I enjoy taking singing lessons just for fun, I find myself wondering why I am doing that or if I am being silly and foolish. Oh, these negative voices within are a formidable enemy.

So, how to befriend those voices and work with them….To hear the fear, sadness, loneliness, depression, feelings of invisibility and aloneness (even though I am one who craves and thrives on solitude – the pandemic has pushed those edges…even for me). To have the courage to hear and speak with those voices and feelings so that I can address the feelings underneath and yet keep moving forward.

I thought that the book that I wanted to write was about the experience of women aging. But, as I ponder this more after talking with a book coach (I signed up for a few sessions with a book coach to see what help I could get) and hearing the feedback that she felt that the book was about much more than that – that it will include that piece for sure- but that there is more to it…..so, as I think about this, I begin to have some thoughts….

Thoughts like …..the book may be about what I am experiencing and feeling more at this stage of my life. How do we, when we no longer have the distractions of work and goals of accumulating….how do we live as we now more directly face and look into the face of our own mortality and eventual (now closer as we age) death? How do we live knowing that we will die? I have no children (by choice), so I don’t really have anyone to remember me…..but even with children, I don’t really remember my great grandparents….so generations later what will be remembered by anyone? Does that matter? Or does it matter more how I live my life now ? Is it to simply experience what is happening right now, do what good that I can (because that is a value of mine) with what I have, and enjoy what I can (because I do believe that life should be enjoyed)…? To write and paint and sing because it feels good to do those things? To go for walks outdoors. To take drives to be out in nature? To keep living consciously and intentionally. To cherish each meaningful contact with someone? To cherish even the pain of the consciousness of eventual death …to allow that to help me appreciate each moment of life even more?

Maybe….being lost can be a good thing?

A dose of vaccine – a dose of poignant reality

I got my first COVID vaccine this week. I am grateful.

There are lessons and messages everywhere these days, or perhaps I am simply more open to receiving them. I looked around at all of us receiving the vaccine ….the looks of fear, relief, hope, fatigue at all that we have gone through. A strange bond and connection among strangers. This I expected, in a way.

What I did not expect was the dose of reality that came with it. I looked around at all of us, and was struck at how this was a group of older people, over 65, receiving the dose. And I was struck that I am now among them. I do not feel 67 on the inside, but clearly I am that age. I did not feel a part of this group. Is that denial of my age? Is it that I do not feel the same age on the inside as on the outside, as what my driver’s license states? As the lines and changes in my body remind me of at times? How did I get here? Where did all those years go? I remember my father jokingly saying “Who is that old man in the mirror?” I now understand much more what he was saying.

It is a strange feeling. An almost unreal feeling. I struck up a brief conversation with the woman behind me in line waiting at the hospital for our vaccines (6 feet apart, of course). I was amused and a bit chagrined and saddened to hear her quickly tell me that she was waiting in line for her elderly parents….as if to make sure that I knew that she was not yet old enough to be in this line, to be included in this group. As if this would be a shameful thing?

What an interesting time of life. I feel in some ways more alive than ever, as I get closer to the end of my time, whenever that may be. I feel more grateful for each moment, for each feeling (some are more fun than others….), for each breath, for each day that I get to be alive. I cry much more easily these days, feel more sensitive to everything around me. I am grateful for that as well, as feelings are such a gift that being alive gives us. I feel sadness at losses (and they come quicker these days – losing friends, family, pets….) I feel sadness at the loss of my youth, of my delight and anticipation of the future. And yet, and yet….I feel such connection to the earth, to all that is around me. I feel such depth inside me, such intensity of experience, such sweetness of memories and appreciation for new ones created still.

I have been taking voice lessons since my retirement. I want to learn to better express my voice….spoken, written, and sung. The latest song that my voice teacher has begun working on with me today is “Autumn Leaves”. I told her that I would probably be moved to tears by and during this song. Her response – that this was a great thing and to be cherished and allowed. Indeed. Indeed we can cherish the autumn leaves as they fall….with their glorious colors. We, too, have glorious colors in our own autumn. I want to embrace this time and let my colors glow…..until it is time to let go. But, for now, I am still here….still glowing….still alive….With things to say, stories to write, and songs to sing.

When to accept, when to defy….

I am thinking these days of all the various aspects of aging. There are parts that we cannot help, that are part and parcel of changes that aging brings. Changes in our bodies, in our memories, in our senses. There are losses – of parts of ourselves, of friends, of family, of partners. And more losses as time goes by. Losses of singers and movie stars and people that we grew up with. Losses of what and who we have known the world to be. And the changes go by so quickly. So very quickly.

And yet, there is something that I notice can be attached to these changes that I need to really look at and tease apart. They are somehow attached to each other automatically and yet need to be questioned…

I am retired from the career where I spent such a huge amount of my time and life. I am not, however, retired from life.

I am older and my body is not what it was. My body is not, however, ready to call it a day in any way. I still want to move, to be active, to be passionate, to be so very alive. I still love to walk, even though I need to map out my hikes in terms of where the restrooms are all located..! (I now know at least one reason as to why they are referred to as the “golden years”!)

I forget names and sometimes why I walked into a room, or perhaps the thing that I was just going to say. My friends and I laugh about this. I do not forget, however, who I am and what I believe and stand for, and what I value and believe in. I do not forget how I got to where I am and all the lessons along the way – some of which I can share in hopes of helping someone else along the way. If they will listen.

I feel losses more deeply, I think, and appreciate each moment more, even if more of those moments may hold sadness. Sadness, although uncomfortable, is also a gift. The gift that reminds us of our humanity and capacity to feel, to understand, to resonate deeply within ourselves and then also with others. And I also feel those moments of gratitude and happiness more deeply as well, having more of a sense that these moments are numbered and that I have less of the road ahead of me than that which I have already traveled.

I cannot defy aging and the changes that come along with it. I can, however, defy the messages that get attached that may not be true and that serve to quiet and deaden us before our time. I am still alive. I am still here.

The Gifts of Aging

Here we are in a new year……2021. I write those numbers amazed at how quickly the years have gone by. How quickly my own years have gone by.

How did I get to be this old? When did that happen? I remember my father looking in the mirror and asking, only half in jest, “who is that old man in the mirror?” I now understand what he meant. The mirror does not reflect what I feel inside, who I see when I look inside myself. And yet…the mirror shows me the signs of time passing. I can still see who I was, but it is interesting that others don’t recognize her when I may show them pictures of my younger self. How can they not see it is the same person, that it is me that they are looking at? Our bodies change, our internal image….not so much. My body has spread, sagged, grown wrinkles, and slowed down some. My memory is not as sharp, nor is my vision or hearing. I can get overwhelmed by all the new technology and am thrilled when I actually learn new things, figure them out, and use them (though slowly, I must admit).

And yet, I am grateful for the gifts that this changing package can bring. I feel a bit more wisdom (at least most days) and more patience and understanding that things take time, that I cannot control them, and that there is grace in letting go and surrender. I can so enjoy a moment in time appreciating a brief contact and smile with a total stranger, a moment watching a bird enthusiastically splashing while taking a bath, the sound of the rain coming down on the roof and how that soothes me, the sound of a friend’s voice and the love that I can hear in it… a moment of contact with a new, also older, furry being that lives with me and the joy of momentarily breaking through this kitty’s fear of a new place and a new person to live with (her owner died, my two 17 year old kitties recently died. We are in grief both separately and together). I seem somehow to be better able to be more present in each moment. This, of course, also includes the moments of pain that life brings. And aging brings more of these moments of loss and the grief that accompanies the losses. It also brings a much deeper and slower appreciation for all that is ….even the moments of pain are gifts that remind us of our hearts and our ability to love deeply….

And now, there are so many moments filled with so many emotions. A raging pandemic that has taken so many lives. Civil unrest pointing out years of abuse. A divided nation that has much healing to do. And a new president, who at 78 years of age, is facing these huge challenges. There is an appeal to his age, to his experience, his wisdom, his having survived so much pain in his own life and thus able to hear it in others. We are somehow at times pushed aside as we age, considered no longer as capable of doing a job. Yet, here we have an older president who has taken on a challenge that many would not dare to attempt….to unify and heal and try to bring us back together as a nation and a world. I wish him Godspeed. I wish that for us all….as we all navigate this life both individually in our own unique journeys and also together in this roller coaster ride of being human.

Squeaky lessons

Life is humbling…and my most recent lessons in humility come from an 11 year old kitty named Squeaky.

I have lost my two 17 year old kitties recently and have been deeply in grief. No way did I think I would be ready to adopt another kitty for quite some time. Then I was told about this kitty named Squeaky (I cannot say her name without smiling). Squeaky’s human recently died, and the daughter of this woman who passed away was unable to take Squeaky in. So…..what serendipity, yes? I was grieving….Squeaky was grieving…..maybe we could comfort each other…?

And so last week Squeaky came to my home. And she has been terrified, hiding up on the top shelf of my bedroom closet most of the time, crouching around,……a scared, sad, abandoned kitty ( I am only imagining that she feels abandoned ….being in a new home with a strange new person).

Her fear and sadness and my inability to quickly comfort her have brought me to tears.

And yet, here we are. She comes out for a while now (I have to help her down from the closet shelf as she seems able to get up there on her own but not down). She quickly retreats to the closet when I have to do anything else and not pay complete attention to her….I think that her previous human must have been bedbound for a while and thus always available). She is eating and uses the litter box (this last one would have been a major issue if she was unable to do that). And….last night….she jumped up and slept on the bed with me for at least part of the night. And purred.

Squeaky will take her time with this, and I must be patient as we both continue to work on this new arrangement and life together. Grief and fear and adjustment take their own time and will not be rushed. My own grief is the same, as I still feel such intense sadness about my two kitties, who have been my family for 17 plus years. So we are both grieving – sometimes separately in our own corners…sometimes able to be together briefly and connect and touch.

Each feeling takes its own time. Each grief journey takes its own time. Each life lesson will unfold in its own time. I am humbled by this. I must be patient, and let go of trying to control anything about this. I don’t know if this will work out with Squeaky and me….. it’s too soon to tell. All I know is that there is a new furry being in my home that I can do my best to be available for. Maybe I can try to remember that about each of life’s challenges and lessons….to be kind, to be patient, to do my best, and to wait and see what happens. Maybe each of us can remember to treat ourselves that way……we each have a Squeaky inside us whenever we face something new or difficult or painful and we need to be gentle with ourselves. Life can be hard. And we don’t need to add to that difficulty with any rules or timeframes for ourselves and how we handle things. Maybe we can just be kind….especially to ourselves.

The Call to Solitude

Today I take the journey once again to my place of deep aloneness…. intentional solitude.

Christmas is over…. it’s almost a new year. May it be a better one. I live alone, and was grateful this year to have the company of two friends for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. All three of us live alone….one friend lost her mother recently and the other was unable to travel to visit her daughter due to COVID. My recent loss was my kitty several weeks ago, and this coming after losing my other kitty 6 months ago….two weeks after I retired. All of our pain added to the deep trauma and grief that we all are feeling…. the pain that our world has been in for a while now. So here we were – three women in their 60s creating a new family. Such a gift and blessing.

And today, I am back deeply in the feelings of grief. I know that these feelings are something that I must face and walk through….to feel the pain. I cannot begin to heal if I don’t allow myself to feel. It is good to have some distraction and time away from the grief, and yet it is something that must, in time, be faced, felt, and given its due.

For me, this happens best in solitude. Even though I live alone, I do not always allow solitude. I distract myself with email, texts, social media, food, tv….For me, true solitude that heals is when I allow myself to be quiet and still so that I can hear what comes up from inside and not run from it. Although at times it may feel like it, the feelings will not kill me. Not feeling them, however, does kill me ….it kills my ability to be fully present to myself, to others, to my life. I cannot try and push away one feeling without it taking hostages along with it.

We are not taught enough about the power and grace of solitude. We are not taught to be comfortable with our humanness and all that this involves and includes. It includes joy, passion, laughter, and also deep pain, loss and grief. And as I age, the losses come quicker and grief becomes a familiar companion.

When I open to the grief, I also open to other parts of me. The part of me that can feel the depth of pain of loss is also the part of me that can be open to the joy of a sunrise, or watching a bird take a bath, or simply appreciating this life in all of its forms. To be alive to the joy I must be alive to the grief. They are, indeed, two sides of the same coin.

And so today, in solitude, I will welcome once again the pain of loss. I will say to it…..Come in and tell me about yourself…you are welcome here. You are part of me. Let me learn from you. Let me hold you, cry with you, and offer you comfort. I am here.

The Incredible Power of Kindness

So I want to tell you a little story about what happened to me the other day. I have had a sick kitty (liver cancer) and have been dreading when “the time” came. I also really had no idea how to assess when it was “time”. How does one know such a thing? Yes, we can list all the symptoms and do our best to assess the quality of life, but no matter what, it is a heart wrenching decision to make.

I found out about a pet hospice organization (who knew?) And I called them. My first experience was with the person answering the phone with a kind and empathic voice and tone. Does this seem trivial? I assure you, that in times like this, it is the furthest thing from being trivial. I was in the depth of the painful struggle of knowing that my beloved feline companion of 17 years was dying. And I felt alone and frightened and overwhelmed. A bit of background to this story – I had another kitty (both of them were 17 years old) and my experience with my other kitty(Rocky) and the end of his time was horrible. It began with taking him to an emergency 24 hour clinic in the late hours of the night, where they were overwhelmed with patients and had a 3 hour wait (and where I had to wait in my car all night long due to COVID) only to be told that it would be the humane thing to do to euthanize my kitty. I felt pressured, and wish that I had brought him home to take a bit more time. I regret that I did not do this.

I was determined to do it differently this time. So… my next experience with the pet hospice – I had a zoom interview with one of their veterinary techs who spoke with me for over an hour, was compassionate, kind, and gave me some concrete signs and symptoms to look for daily to assess my kitty’s (Rusty) quality of life. And she reassured me that they would be there, that I could call or email anytime I needed. (Another piece to the puzzle is that my regular vet of several years had left with no notice to anyone, so I didn’t even have a vet that I had been able to meet face to face to help me navigate this difficult process.)

And then one day (this past Monday) Rusty was different. He didn’t eat, had stopped eating after breakfast the day before. He was more lethargic. When I tried to put a piece of food in his mouth to see if that would interest him, he vomited. I panicked. I called the vet (at the regular clinic) terrified that Rusty would suffer and I didn’t want that. They said that they could get me in, but it would be a wait. That was ok, but I felt like they were working to schedule a “procedure”. I calmed down from my panic and called pet hospice.

And so began a totally different experience. There was a warm and compassionate voice on the other end of the call. They checked to see what their schedule was, and found that they could get me in at 1pm that same day. And so I scheduled the dreaded appointment to end Rusty’s life. To have him leave me forever. I had a few hours before the appointment, and I sat with Rusty laying his head on my leg and just resting by me. Connecting. Touching. Loving. I stroked him, talked with him, cried, thanked him for spending his life with me. I wasn’t sure if I wanted the deed done in my house – did I want that to be the last memory with him? But I did not want to take him to a sterile clinic, afraid, with people around he didn’t know, to be poked and prodded….

The hospice vet showed up exactly on time. I was so afraid and torn and sad and quite frankly a mess. He came to my door, said a warm hello, came in (after taking his shoes off at the front door, which I told him wasn’t really necessary) and walked back to the bedroom where Rusty was and where he had been more comfortable for days. And there began the kindest, most gentle and compassionate time with a vet with my kitty that I have ever experienced. He met Rusty, got a sense of how he was, and spent time simply talking with me and listening to me…..and sharing the feelings of the pain of what was happening. He validated that Rusty was indeed very ill, that his breathing was very labored and getting more uncomfortable for him, and that if it was one of us experiencing the level of breathing that he had, we would be on a ventilator. He thought that Rusty probably would die within 24 hours, and get increasingly uncomfortable as the process progressed. He empathized with me, talked about his own pets, how he and his wife had started this hospice organization because they felt that there was more than just the two options of either complete recovery or a quick move to euthanize (which this vet felt is often pushed in veterinary schools). He told me we could take the time that I needed….asked if I wanted to have him step out to his car and for me to get him when I was ready for the next step. I wanted him to stay with me.

He said that he wanted to give Rusty a sedative to help him relax as his breathing difficulty was making him uncomfortable. I agreed. Rusty, for the first time in a few days, was able to lay his head down completely…relaxing, although still with labored breathing. And I spent more time crying and talking with Rusty, petting him, loving him, crying more. After a while, I knew it was time and that we needed to do the deed. I let the vet know. He gently put a blanket over Rusty’s hind end and gave an injection (no IV necessary) and stepped back and sat down on the floor, just being with me. l kept petting Rusty, watching his breathing…..until there was one final last breath….and then no more. No more. And I cried. The vet again told me to take whatever time I need, to let him know if I wanted to be alone with Rusty….that there was no rush. No rush.

For me, once someone dies, I can feel that they are no longer there. I was so grateful to have had the time that morning with him to just cuddle and try and comfort him as much as I could. So I said that I didn’t need to sit with Rusty ….that he could begin the next step, which was to take him out to his car. He so very gently wrapped my sweet Rusty in the soft blue blanket that he had brought in, I petted Rusty one last time, and we walked out to the vet’s car. He was so respectful, laid Rusty’s body on the passenger seat, and asked if I needed him to stay with me for a while (I live alone and had not wanted to call anyone to come be with me). I loved that he offered to stay with me for a while if I needed that. But I needed to be alone and begin the next part of this painful grieving process.

He had also told me earlier that the company that would handle the cremation was a lovely family company that would be respectful during the whole procedure, and would scatter his ashes in the Sierras. (This is where Rocky’s ashes were scattered, so I had told Rusty to go find Rocky and for both of them to wait for me when it was my time.) Rusty’s health began to decline after Rocky died. I believe that his deep grief and loss contributed to how quickly this illness came on. I had taken both kitties to the vet just the week before Rocky became ill, and was told that they looked great.

I am in deep grief. And I am deeply grateful for how this was done, how gentle, how I was able to keep Rusty at home, how we took time, how I felt that someone was present for me and for Rusty during his last moments….truly present. How kindness and compassion and empathy are the most super powers of them all. They make all the difference. Not only in death, but in life. This life is a difficult journey at times. We don’t need to add any more pain to it. May we all learn to be kinder to each other along the way.

Coming To Our Senses

I recently read a great post about losing our sense of smell as we age….and how to keep things alive. It made me stop and think……

I have a bit of an unusual circumstance, having lost my sense of smell (which also then effects my ability to taste) in my early 40’s after some sinus surgery. I miss the scent of roses, the intoxication of the scent of a gardenia, the enticing aromas of favorite foods cooking, the taste of delicious foods – even garlic (can you imagine an Italian not being able to taste garlic?? Garlic has been in my blood since the womb…!) We really don’t truly appreciate things until we lose them. And I also now label foods in the fridge, and tell people around me that if they decide to start running out of whatever room we are in because of a toxic smell, to please knock on my door and let me know……We can take the simplest things for granted, yes? It’s also come in useful, in my career as a social worker, to be the one asked to interview clients that, shall we say, may be hygiene challenged? A sense of humor is vital in this life. And, I find, especially important as we age.

My vision is not as great as it was – and yet I seem to see more. I, having recently retired, am so much more aware of the beauty of nature around me. I take such delight in watching the birds take a bath in the mornings in my tiny bird bath out back. I look around at others when I go for a walk and see those who may want to connect with a glance, those who are preoccupied with a conversation on their phone, those who in whose eyes I can see and feel the fear brought on by this time of pandemic.

My hearing is not as great. And yet I can hear more, because I try to listen more. I take the time, not being in such a hurry to get to whatever the next thing on my list is or was, to stop and hear what someone may be really saying… like the grocery clerk who has worked 12 days straight trying to keep the shelves stocked and people supplied.

My sense of touch is heightened these days, it seems….most likely from social distancing, living alone, and realizing how precious touch is. I hold tightly to my kitty, who now is ill and will leave me in a matter of time. That touch and soft fur have brought such comfort for the past 17 years.

I feel like older people are seen as gray in many ways….having lost spark, senses, passion, color…..but this does not seem to be the case at all with me. I feel more intensely, feel more sensitive to all around me, and feel more alive than ever. Perhaps life feels sweeter as the time ahead of us grows shorter. And perhaps I can share that sweetness with others, and remind us all that as long as we are still alive, we have gifts to share, passions to embrace, and life to live.

Saying goodbye to a pet…..Staying present to life…..

Let me start with a brief summary of my morning yesterday and how I realized that I needed to stay home as I was a danger to myself and others. My day started off with grocery shopping, which is where I discovered that I had somehow lost my debit card. Panic sets in…..and I immediately rush around managing to knock a bottle of ketchup on the floor at the checkout line. I drove home, intent on searching my house and car to see if I could find the card. Backing up into my driveway, still panicking, I managed to scratch and dent my neighbor’s car. Some day this may be funny, but it was not yesterday.

I took myself into the house, talked myself down, called the bank to order a new card, and wrote a note to place on my neighbor’s windshield to confess my deed. I thought I would make myself a bit of breakfast and calm down, to discover that my toaster died. Ok, that was enough. I knew better than to leave the house or touch anything else for fear of what might happen next. And so I sat quietly and checked in with myself. Of course, I realized, the stress of what I was, and am, dealing with, effects everything. And I need to be hyper vigilant and careful. Because…..(in addition to the trauma that we are all dealing with for some time now —pandemic, politics, all of it…….) I have my own additional personal trauma…..

My kitty, who is over 17 years old, has liver cancer and is in the process of dying. He is still eating some, cuddling, sleeping beside me, and still very much engages with me. How does one say goodbye to a being that has taught me a different, deeper kind of love? I have no children, and no partner currently, so my kitties have been my family and my lifeline during this pandemic. I had two kitties for the past 17 years and this past June I lost one of them just two weeks after I retired. And my other kitty has never really recovered from that loss of his dear companion. And now I am facing yet another loss, and it hurts beyond what my words can describe.

I had a zoom appointment with a nurse from a pet hospice. She talked with me about doing daily assessments of my kitty’s quality of life, and gave me a “Pain Scale for Cats” to be able to help with this assessment. I am trying, but it is so hard to assess in a concrete and rational way what his quality of life is (except, of course, to try and stay aware of pain, as I don’t want him to suffer). I talk with him and ask him to please let me know, so that I can help in the best way possible. But, truly, I hate the thought (and the feeling) of losing him. He is my companion. He lives with me and offers me comfort and touch and softness in this challenging time. He has been with me through so many different struggles and other losses in my life. He has been loyal and loving and there….truly there…for me. How do I let go of this loving being? How do I deal with the ache of not having him here with me?

It brings home to me how all of us are here for a temporary time…until it is our time to go. It makes mortality, which is already more and more present in my awareness as I continue aging, such a reality. It makes me appreciate each moment so much more, both with my dear kitty and with myself and my own life.

It is a challenge to stay present with the pain of this impending loss….to not try and escape or numb it somehow. And it is also a gift to be able to cherish him as much as possible until it is time for him to go. There is such an exquisitely poignant quality to this time, time with my kitty and also including this time of aging myself.

I cherish this kitty of mine. I cherish this life of mine…with all of its challenges and ups and downs. It is such a gift to be alive and to be able to feel these things, even the things that hurt. This is one of the gifts (and costs) of being human and being alive and of loving. And so I will love when I can and for as long as I can. I am still alive and able to love. This being human ride that we are all on is not easy…….worth it, but so not easy….. And I can hold love in my heart for those here and for those gone and for those who are on their way, as are we all. i am honored that you have shared a few moments of your precious time reading my words and connecting with me….it is one of the joys of this life…..real and authentic connection.