A natural part of life is the ending of it.
Each time someone we love dies, we usually react differently due to the circumstances, timing, and our relationship with the one who passed.
When we lose someone close to us, their departure can feel like a vacuum, perhaps initiated by their transference from this world to the next; along with their spirit, surrounding energy, and our relationship with them, is taken in its wake. When we lose someone, our story with them concludes and a void remains that time only partially heals due to the evolution of our acceptance.
Each time it happens, I am reminded of the same messages of wisdom—like a silent whisper—at the conclusion of those stories. I was reminded of those familiar messages once again, due to the recent death of someone I loved.
Human loss is the most devastating to many people, but for those who love animals, losing them can be equally painful. After all, life is life and love is love.
My most recent loss was the passing of my little cat, Max. Like most cats who have entered my life, Max was an unexpected blessing. Our story began when I found him at six weeks old, alone, and under a dumpster near my office. His tail was damaged, and he was in bad shape. While I felt for the little guy and initially took care of him, I knew he was mine and fell in love with him when I gave him a bath to clean him up. From that moment on, He was my boy—my “son with a tail.”
In addition to all the memories we have of those no longer here, the unique aspects of their character and rituals we shared with them are what remains in our hearts and minds, be it human or animal. Max had a little OCD; since I brought him home at seven weeks old and for the following 14 years, he always slept on my right. He rarely crossed over to the left, so I was required to turn in his direction. When I was sleeping, he would get my attention with a slight tug of his nail to my nightshirt or blanket and by licking, biting, or touching my face. Sometimes the little scratches and bite marks he left needed a little time to heal, but I didn’t care.
Max had a very expressive face—almost human—which would indicate when he was happy, sad, or pissed when I scolded him. He provided a continuous stream of unconditional love and witnessed many things during our years together, some that only he and I knew about.
His passing came quickly, with severity and suffering. He was diagnosed with a huge, abdominal mass and his condition declined rapidly as I desperately sought a remedy, a treatment, or any possible avenue for relief. Medicines were not helping and the risks associated with surgery and chemotherapy were too significant to proceed in that direction, especially since the doctors projected that doing so would only add a few months to his life.
I was powerless to help him, other than attempting to comfort him with gentle strokes and kisses. His little body was slowly closing down, and his spirit was fading. The only respite he could be given was to relieve him of his pain and give him the gift of a peaceful passing. Making this decision was heart-wrenching, but arrangements were made for a vet to come to the house and allow him to pass in familiar surroundings. Given his discomfort, the day, the hour that this would take place, could not come soon enough. But the day did arrive, as did the hour, and my sweet little Max took his last breath, exhaled a sigh of relief and our story concluded.
At that moment, I did too. I was relieved that he wasn’t suffering any longer, but that feeling was followed by a gaping void in my stomach. Our deep connection was now broken and that oneness we shared vanished. My boy, who knew my shortcomings and who always loved me unconditionally, was no longer present. Our rituals and interaction ceased. An emptiness filled my spirit and the household.
Although Max never spoke a word, his passing left those familiar silent whispers of wisdom I am reminded of when someone I love dies.
When Max came into my life, I remember thinking that he would carry me into the beginning of my older age. All my prior cats lived anywhere from 17 to 19 years old, but Max fell short by the four more years I expected. When he died, it made me realize how quickly those years with him and those pages of our story passed. It made me think of how quickly the next 14 years will most likely speed by too.
“Appreciate your days,” the silent whisper told me. “Although life may not be perfect, all of our days are special and contribute to our story.”
Max’s passing was more than him not being around anymore and continuing our interaction. It produced an absence of love and an end to the rituals we shared and for many years, like when I would ask him if he was thirsty every time I freshened his water bowl. It’s the little things that stay with us—that carve and etch a memory in our minds and emotion in our hearts—that will bring joy even on a dark day.
“Appreciate the beings in your life,” the silent whisper said, “they are only temporary.”
Max’s passing revealed that when our story began, life was different, and so was I. Many people that were in my life at that time are no longer here and my existence has significantly changed. When we lose someone we love, we are not only forced to let go of that relationship, but we must also let go of the person we were when they entered our lives.
A chapter closes and we are forced to acknowledge that life will never be the same.
The silent whisper told me, “Appreciate the person you’ve become and the life that presently surrounds you. Although you may have challenges, there are blessings during them, too.”
While these “whispers” are poignant and recurring each time someone I love passes on, they seem to fade until the next time it happens. But I think it is important to be mindful of these simple, yet significant, messages to embrace our lives and to realize that we all contribute to each other’s stories. We give each other what we are destined to share during our time together, serve in a specific capacity for each other to learn, or simply to supply or receive love, joy, and affection during the times when we need it most.
And the whispers of wisdom and memories remaining in the wake of those who have passed are left for us to ponder as we continue our journey—until it is our time to leave those familiar messages to those we leave behind.