At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
– Albert Schweitzer
The other day, while holding one of my best friends and Zen-Master teachers, Shumba, aka Shum-Shum, the vet explained to me, “He’s lived a great life. I wish I had better news.”
I digested the news, while my mind and body heaved, saying, No, no, that’s not the news I came here for. No, that’s not good enough. No, he must live forever, that’s the plan. That’s how it’s got to go. 15 years is not enough. That’s my plan. I don’t want to be alone with out him. Please.
I touched the vet’s cold steel table at the vet and wiped tears and snot.
Dr. Lieki handed me a Kleenex, and said, “It’s up to you what you want to do.”
Life doing her thing. She would prevail. She would do what Life does. End things. And begin anew.
I wasn’t grateful for Life in that moment. I was demanding, standing on the sidelines, like the warrior Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita, screaming at Life, saying, “No! No! I’m not up for this! Give me the magic bullet, give me the latest technology/operation that saves all things you love from perishing. I don’t want things I love to die!”
Instead, I whispered, “Okay. Okay. Thank you. Thank you for telling me. The truth is he’s dying, right?”
“Yes,” he said, nodding.
He shared the inevitable few options, all of which led to death and I drove home with Shumba staring up from the passenger seat.
He looked at me, the same way he had when we met at the cat shelter, as if to say, “You’re my person, lady. It’s going to be okay. We got each other.”
Only this time, I surrendered to the fact that he was my person and said, “I love you buddy. I love you so much.”
He’d been my rock, my hold on moments of sanity, 15 years of cuddling at night, moving to 4 different homes, his steady purr, his soft head, and his long tail which I hold in between my pointer and middle fingers and squeeze, like some freakish kid. But you see, touching him, putting my lips against the top of his head, snuggling all these years, listening to him for all these years, he has been my hold on something quiet, something breathing, un-performance based, wise, kind, unconditional, and non-doing, being in the world, still on the sill in the sun or watching the snow, watching the world and squirrels go by, but not of it. No wonder Egyptians worshipped cats.
So this Thanksgiving I’m very aware of what I’ve come to call, the both of best worlds; which is my dyslexic way of knowing gratitude kinesthetically in my pores and bones, all of the steps, the both, and the AND about how things come and go and the river flows.
Shumba has been one of my greatest teachers and he’s still teaching me.
I’ve decided to be like him and sit in the sunlight on the windowsill or on the rug, and lean into the sun, towards the transition, and receive. What kindness is to be learned and felt?
For now there is Shumba tucked into my side each night, or sitting purring on my boyfriends lap as they both examine fantasy football teams and scores.
We’ve had a blip of time – 15 years – to celebrate.
This Thanksgiving I am grateful for: my cat, Shumba, Jonathan, Charlotte, Kate and Chris, Kristin and Sam (the crew in England), Mom, Dad and Liz, Graham and Julia (my nieces!), The Converse’s (Maggie, Grace and All), Rosemary, Bruce, Matthew, Jason, Melissa, Jacquie, Joanne, Albert and their girls, and the entire Schelter clan. For all my students, and clients and associates and teammates and fellow experts who’s care and expertise makes this sanctuary possible.