Monday, August 21, 2006

In Memoriam

Buddy the Cat

1988 - 2006

I was able to give Buddy Reiki two days before he died. When sitting with him, giving warm energy to his very cool body, I began to reflect upon the nature of dying. This is not new for me (I contemplated the nature of death at the age of four). But, this time Buddy's human companion and I were wondering why death is so often drawn out, and why we can't always slip away smoothly in the night, breaths getting slower and slower until they just stop. Why the hospitals and vets and tubes and medications and complications, we wondered. We knew there were no answers, but as we talked, questioning the human and animal ability to "hold on" to this life, we felt it important to tell Buddy that he could go anytime he wanted.

On Saturday, Buddy slipped out calmly and gracefully into the night.


  1. I need to be serious for a minute.
    There are some answers. There is a wonderful document that you can go through with the important people in your life. It guarantees that a person choose his or her own way out.
    Five Wishes, an easy-to-use legal document that helps adults of all ages plan for the care they want in case they become seriously ill.
    Go to or google "Five Wishes and Dying
    Another wonderful option is Hospice.
    Neither, however, prevent us from us from grief when left in this realm without.

  2. Thank you for these resources, Binky. The are options for leaving this world more gracefully, and yes, the grief does linger for those left behind...

    "Aging with Dignity" is a great site. Thank you for turning me on to it...


  3. Cats are stubborn, even in death. They do what they want and go as they please. You can open the door to the afterlife and say, "look, an entire city of little mice construction workers, building skyscrapers of tuna!" but man, if they don't wanna go, they don't go. Rest assured that Buddy's resistance to scamper onward wasn't due to weakness or sadness or pain - he was just taking his sweet time. ;)


  4. Very keen observations about cats, Steve. I feel like I am a beginner when it comes to understanding cats, but with "Kitty" hanging around our place so much these days, I learn so much. It's true -- she decides when she comes and goes and who she cuddles up next to. Very different from dog energy for sure. Perhaps this self-assurance translates to the dying process, too.

    Having been present for the dying process of my childhood dogs, and seeing (and sensing) how they often "hold on" for their human companions, I wonder if cats actually hold on less for people and more because of their own internal process. Any thoughts anyone?

    These ideas make me wonder - who out there is a "dog person" or a "cat person" or a "bird person" and why? What characteristics do we see in certain animals that reflect bits of ourselves?

  5. I don't know if there's dog people and cat people as firm categories, but there's certainly dog-energy and cat-energy. I think we each manifest lots of aspects, maybe just one more than the others.

  6. My cat Dignity died in my mom's care about five years ago. She said that she woke up early in the morning and he was on the bathmat in the bathroom, a comfort place for him, and she felt like he was waiting for her before he went. It makes me sad that I wasn't there. It makes me sad that I left him behind to come to Spain. I will never ever do that again.

    I have a co-worker and friend here who is dying as we speak. I don't know if she's holding on, because I don't think she's really been told that this is it, but I do know that I wish she wouldn't try to hang on. What she's experiencing can't be any fun, and I see no reason to prolong it.

  7. It's so hard to leave animals behind when we move or even leave for a vacation. How deeply sad your cat's death must have been for you, Ned.

    And, I am so sorry to hear that your friend is dying. Somehow the discussion here is making me think of the word "grace." Perhaps this word emerges because that is the name of my 90-year old grandmother, who is slipping away ever so slowly, but also because there seem to be graceful ways to live and to die.

    Anne Lamott has a new book out called, _Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith_, and in it, she describes the last days of her dog. She writes, "Toward the end, when she got sick again and probably wasn't going to get well, the vet said he would walk us through her death. He said that even when a being is extremely sick, ninety-five percent of that being is still healthy and well--it's the other five percent that feels so shitty. We should focus on the parts that were well, he said, the parts that brought her pleasure, the walks, being stroked, smelling things, and us." Perhaps that's the essence of grace.

  8. Yes, grace. Also my grandmother's name!