Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Avoidance, Pity, then Compassion

Last weekend, I went with my girlfriend to visit her parents north of San Antonio in the Hill Country for the first time in year.  Not having my parents there anymore has made getting there trickier.

For two and half years I worked on building my sail boat on their property and nearly every moment their outdoor cat was roaming somewhere just out of view.  He's very friendly and used to defend his wooded turf from other cats fiercely.

This last visit he weighed maybe two-thirds what he did last time I saw him as time is slowly wearing him down.  He's always sat outside the patio door waiting for someone to give him some food which he happily chows down on, sometimes not wanting to wait for it to get in the bowl.

I'd never really been all that affectionate with him, never seeking him out to pet, but if he came by for a stroke or two I was always happy to oblige him.  With his new condition, I was startled.  I've never had a pet die of old age and only really known of others' pets dying by accident so this was a new experience.

I wrote this in my notebook the evening after we arrived, exploring my feelings with how I felt about it:

At first I felt fear and aversion towards dealing with this poor sick and gradually dying animal.  Such a pale skeleton of the cat I remember from just a year ago.  I shrank from further divesting any emotion in something so obviously at the end of its life.  My very self hesitated to look into his tired eyes or stroke his bony body with its thinning hair.

But something changed as I gave in and went to feed him.  It was slow and is still somewhat incomplete.  The eagerness and pleasure with which he consumed this gift touched me as if it was a demonstration of gratitude for my act of kindness.

As I sat with him he placed his paws on my thigh to jump into my lap, but failed, lacking the strength and agility so stereotypical of his kind.  So instead he resigned himself to purring and rubbing my legs, doing what he could.

While nearly every cat does these things whether out of affection of self-seeking attention, this had an odd urgency about it.  It was almost as if he knows his time is running out and has surrendered that feline aloofness, instead seeking affection and graciously returning it, not letting that particular sense of ego get in the way.

I felt compelled to pet him and change his water, stopping short of, though wanting to brush what hair he has left to remove the dirt and debris.  Anything to make him more comfortable.

It's not hard to imagine this scenario with another human being instead, but it is hard to understand and accept as something other than fantasy.  For those that do these things everyday, I think I understand why a little more.

This cat has lived a very long and hard life outdoors so different from not just my own cat, but myself as well.  I'm sure I won't ever see him again after this trip, but I hope he will live on in this memory and in who I treat my own cat as well as my myself and others; living fully in the moment enjoying it for what it is no matter how fleeting while manifesting gratitude for it the whole time.  This fate comes to us all and for those who have time to see it approach , many see the truth as it truly is, not just as an idea, too late.

This very second is all we have.  The past is gone and the future is never guaranteed, but joy can still be right here, right where we are.  This is life right here, right now.
                                                                                         - 4/15/11

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