I haven’t been able to bring myself to post this until today….
Tuesday morning, the 8th of August, I woke very early from a kind of time-travel dream:
I’m walking, then sitting in conversation with a woman friend near a flowing stream with a rocky bottom. It’s not a particularly picturesque location—mowed lawn, bare river bank—but we’re having a pleasant conversation. Our shoes have gotten wet—mine are dance shoes. It’s a dark, damp day but very pleasant.
Then I’m walking by myself through a cafeteria, and I realize it’s 20 years or so in the past. I am filled with joy as I see many of my friends, some of whom I haven’t seen for years, and some of whom I know are unhappy “now” but will be happy later. I nod at some of them, but there’s no real interaction; just the joy of seeing them and of knowing that they exist here and now in both times. It didn’t feel unusual to me at the time.
There is a question in the dream: “Would people be happy if they knew that we would always see our friends again?” And it felt, when I woke up, that it was the concept that was important, not the dream itself.
When I wake up I’m still filled with joy.
The day started uneventfully, like any other weekday morning: make coffee, feed the cats, get breakfast, drop my partner off at the train, get ready to go to the barn to work with the horses.
Miss Ellie, my 24-year-old cat, had been more or less at death’s door for several years. We joked that she’d cross the Rainbow Bridge every night while everyone else was sleeping, locate some of her friends who had extra lives that they hadn’t used up, and come back renewed. Seriously. She’d have a terrible day and we’d think, “This is it. She can’t survive this.” But then the next morning she’d be up and around, eating everything we put in front of her, and apparently planning on living to be a hundred.
Ellie clearly wasn’t feeling too well that morning. She drank a little chicken broth, used her kitty box, and went back to sleep. I wasn’t too worried—she didn’t seem all that bad. But shortly after I got back from the train station, I heard a ruckus in her little bed—she was having a seizure.
I knew that was the signal I had been waiting for; I couldn’t let her suffer. We’d prepared for this day well over a year ago—she slept in her fabric cat carrier which sat on top of her heating pad. All I had to do was zip up the sides and carry her to the car. She mewed once. Just one time. And within half an hour, she was gone. She didn’t fuss much even at the vet’s office, and her passing was so gentle and quiet—there wasn’t much left of her, by now.
Later, I remembered the dream and understood why it had come to me when it did.
I also remembered an Ojibwe “phrase of the day” (here) that linguist and teacher James Vukelich did on Facebook a few days before Ellie’s passing: “The spirits will decide when we see each other again.” He talked about how in the Ojibway language there is no word for “goodbye.” Rather, they say “Giga-waabamin—we shall see each other again,” and it implies the certainty that if we don’t see each other in this world, then we’ll meet in the spirit world. That gave me so much comfort.
Yes, Miss Ellie. You’re with me still, and we will surely meet again in that world, just as my dream said.
Afterwards, I found myself devastated but also so relieved…. I had been investing so much emotional energy in her care: At 110 or so in human years, there wasn’t much left in her life except food, water, and sleep. In the last few years, she had taken to yelling for food constantly—and I mean constantly. If she wasn’t asleep or using her cat box, she was yelling, even if she had just eaten or still had a full bowl of food. That took a huge emotional toll on me, as did having to clean up after her when she missed the box. We had pretty much given up any attempts at cleanliness in the downstairs; we couldn’t bear to keep her confined to one room, cut off from her family. It was very hard on all of us, but so worth it in the end.
These days, I feel the relaxation beginning to take hold in my entire body. Yes, I miss my Ellie…but I do not miss (nor does she, I’m guessing) the frail old body housing her spirit lately. Clean, happy, healthy, playful once more, she visits me often, showing herself as that 8-week-old kitten she and I joked about, and her energy is happy and excited. So it was the right decision, and made without any need for soul-searching or regret. Still, it’s going to be a long time before I quit looking for her, seeing her out of the corner of my eye, worrying about her….
She left us at the Full Moon, after a full and wonderful life. What a blessing to have known that sweet, vibrant soul for so long…and to know that we will see each other again.
I love you, my Miss Ellie. Giga-waabamin.