The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give your gift away. David Viscott
The past week has been a time for letting go. My sweet Siamese cat, Coco, went off her food, lost two pounds and, as we discovered, was in the final stages of incurable kidney disease. When we took her to the vet, we were not anticipating it would be our last goodbye. The decision to euthanize Coco was straightforward but not easy. If I were to delay her inevitable death, take her home with me and feed her medications, it would have allowed me more time with her; time to adjust, time to say goodbye. I would have been meeting my needs, not hers. An added complication was a strong awareness of my responsibility over her life and death. The uneasiness of holding another being’s time to die in one’s hands was not an experience or decision I liked.
Nonetheless, death is a powerful teacher when we are prepared to listen.
From Coco’s first day in my life where she asked to be let under the bedcovers by touching my cheek with her paw, she brought her gifts of gentleness and love. Everyday following, she freely gave those gifts to all who befriended her. Coco’s chief admirer, my sister, recognized the release of her own grief and tears over Coco’s death as a trigger for old emotions previously not released. And, as tears always do, another revelation uncovered a milestone enabling our sisterhood to be deepened and strengthened.
Charlotte’s farewell to Coco:
Last week, we said good-bye to Coco, our beautiful chocolate Siamese, a
fourteen-year-old rescue who became a part of our lives for eleven years.
I was heartbroken. Her love and companionship brought such joy to us.
For several days after her death I was a basket case — I couldn’t sleep,
couldn’t eat, couldn’t seem to stop crying. Her death affected me in a much
greater fashion than I could have anticipated. What had I suppressed that
could cause so much anguish in me? What was I meant to learn from this
Initially, I thought her death was to teach me about letting go but I retired
seven years ago, put my belongings in storage, said goodbye to friends and
co-workers, and spent the next four years moving between New Zealand
and Winnipeg without such suffering. Returning to Saskatoon last summer
and purging all my belongings further showed me letting go wasn’t the true
Then I wondered if her death was a lesson in how to confront loneliness, but
once again the fit wasn’t there. I conquered loneliness in my twenties after
living in seven different communities in ten years. Each new move brought
on loneliness, but I confidently met and made new friends wherever I travelled.
I’ve come to realize my lesson is about the fear of being left behind. What caused
this fear is a mystery to me but I know I’ve had it since childhood as it played out
in different aspects in my life. I never wanted to be the last student to give a class
presentation and so always felt panic when drawing numbers to set the order. I
didn’t want to be left behind by friends. It was easier to be the one to sever the ties
first. That explained my need to move so much in my twenties. Even my choice to
retire early was a result of my fear. Several colleagues were to retire in the next
few years but rather than wait for them, I chose to leave earlier, so as not to be
last — my way of running away from my fear.
In the days after Coco’s death I shared my pain with friends and acquaintances,
all of whom were very supportive. Some shared their death stories of their
beloved pets. One friend told me she had been so distraught over the death of her
cat that she knew she could never have another cat in her life. It was too devas-
tating for her. I feel differently. I know I need to allow time to heal. But I also
know I will welcome another cat into my life, for in the end the love we shared
was so much more than the pain of being left behind.
The death of a loved one, frankly any death, opens the door to our soul wherein lies, if we choose to enter, expanded possibility, creativity, love and joy. As a result of experiencing Coco’s gentleness and love, I feel blessed and more prepared to lovingly navigate the deep shift happening right now in our global collective evolution. I have no doubt our earthly biosphere is in preparation for this shift, and my instincts tell me my gift of courage will see me through successfully.
What gift is truly yours to give? How can you give your gift to others?
There isn’t anything except your own life that can be used as ground for your
spiritual practice. Spiritual practice is your life, twenty-four hours a day.