Last week a good friend of mine died. He was 18 years old and he left an indelible mark on my heart and my home. He could be ornery and loving, a recluse and a mighty fine dancer. He taught me how to accept just about anything that life served up.
Clause was a sable black cat with an attitude built on entitlement. He graciously allowed me and my other cat, Jack, to share his home, his food and his sleeping quarters for nearly three and a half years. I’ve heard stories from his previous slave, Dhar, about how he fought off eagles on a beach when he was just six months old. Of how he trained said slave to open the door at his whim, and although being at his beckon call might lean towards indentured servitude, being of service to Clause never failed to elicit a warm appreciation for this most human of feline landlords.
I wasn’t home when he died and that was okay; we said our goodbyes before I left for a long weekend away to see a dear friend on a neighbouring island. I spent the hours following his death doing the things that need to be done with bodies that no longer breathe, offering up chants and prayers, sharing time with Dhar over tea and coming home to a half empty house to write about him and his exit from my life.
Over the past days I’ve watched my emotions, what arose and what passed away. I haven’t had a good track record with grief. I tend to feel it in one giant tsunami wave of sobbing tears that crashes through my body in a convulsion of sadness, and then it’s gone, leaving an empty vacuum I feel compelled to fill with things to be done and feelings to avoid. I know we all grieve in as many ways are there are people, yet I also see my propensity to drift on, to think I’m finished with the grief as if it were a checklist or a neat bundle that can be tied up with a satin ribbon and tucked away in a box of abandoned memories and deluding dust.
What I’ve felt more than anything in the time since Clause died is an unrelenting sense of exhaustion. My sleep patterns have been haywire for years with fits and starts of getting to sleep, not staying asleep, waking and dozing interspersed with hourly taps on the shoulder by my alarm clock. Yet these past days have felt like molasses poured into my veins when I try to get out of bed. Even this weekend I couldn’t seem to relinquish the fatigue that yanks me down into the vat of abated rest.
Sitting with the tiredness as I meditated this morning I followed the tracks of fatigue to see where it was hold up in my body. With each breath exhaustion dragged me along until I found it had woven itself with grief into a grey cloak of sadness wrapped around my weary heart. I sat with the insatiable heaviness, feeling it sink into my cells and I watched as it began to widen and take the form of depression’s black bottomless hole. I know depression. I’ve lived with its vacant craving digging into my body and my thoughts for decades. I know also how to release myself from its dark abyss.
Out I went into the day for a walk along the ocean, inhaling the coolness of the late summer morning, conversing with the grief that had joined me in my strides. I sat for awhile on a bench looking across the waters to the snow-dolloped mountains in the distance. In the silence of grief’s open door I stepped into a room of compassionate knowing. All that was asked of me was to feel what I felt without pushing it into a cupboard or outside into the tempest storm of depression and guilt. If I was tired, be tired. If rest called to me all I needed to do was lie down by its side. If sadness drenched me in heated tears I would cry an ocean of them to dive deeper into the resignation of this illusory self to what exists only and entirely in this instant.
Grief, like any emotion, can move through us with grace and compassion if we are mindful of its gifts along the way. Its time is its own yet we alone can mark its comings and goings through gentle awareness and patient presence. For me I know that I will recognize it now in its many forms and myriad of guises so I can welcome it into my heart and my home for however long it chooses to stay.
Clause continues to instruct me, as any good master will, even beyond his foothold from this life into the next. I hope we’ll meet again. I’d love to sit with him on that bench by the ocean and look across at the pure whiteness of the mountains that still whisper his name.
Clause at Home by Dhar Booth. Clause on deck by Tess Wixted. All rights reserved.