Love, Death, Madness – and Westworld

A parent dies 200 miles away. It is a death related to age, but the MADNESS gripping this country – this world – prevents those who love her from the funeral. You see, a dead body cannot wait the 5-7 days for results of CV-19 testing. Her husband sits in lockdown at a nearby assisted living complex, denied the loving support of his (their) children. He is alone, trying to cope with the grief and pain of her loss. They all wait for the MADNESS to pass…

Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love.
It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot.
All that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes,
The lump in your throat, and that hollow part of your chest.
Grief is just love with no place to go.
– Jamie Anderson

Meanwhile, I am in exhile. A pariah. No self-imposed Shelter-In-Place mandated by MADNESS, but a cage of my own (un)doing these last 2-1/2 years.

pariah
n. an outcast

On my Power Walk yesterday I encountered neighbors walking their dogs. On the first encounter I was already walking on the other side of the road from Deborah, her daughter, and Rip. I was deeply engrossed in the music so I did not stop to chat, but smiled and said “Hi.” The second encounter involved another neighbor walking her two terriers. Being that I do not know her or her dogs, I did what I always do in this circumstance:  Politely crossed to the other side of the road until we passed. She and I acknowledged one another by smiling and waving hello. But after I re-crossed the road (I like to face on-coming traffic – for obvious reasons), I wondered if we all felt like we were avoiding contact with one another. Practicing Social Distancing. More MADNESS.

The edges of my consciousness are fuzzy. Like last night’s Westworld I’m trapped in a surreal environment, not sure what’s real and what’s a “simulation overload” in the system. As when watching Westworld, I drift through the episodes (of my life). Perhaps this is just stress…

Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.
– Pema Chodron

Early this morning, it occurred to me that the previous catastrophic event to turn this country/world upside-down happened during the last Republican presidency. I’ve long since cared about political persuasions in this country, but I DO find it interesting that – both then and now – the US is being helmed by looney-toonies.

loony
n. a crazy or silly person

In a similar vein, the scenes from last night’s War World had a uncanny aura of MADNESS. Are we playing-out a predestined future written by a Serac-like Universe? As this editorial opines: “Why do we do anything? What are our motivations? Who controls our actions?” Like Bernard, are we capable of reprogramming ourselves?

You never stop loving someone you’ve loved.
– Unknown

The Suit of Cups (called Grails in the Tarot of Vampyres) represents the emotional and intuitive level of consciousness. Thus a spread comprised of all Cups speaks of emotional issues, feelings, and personal connections.

This 3-card spread points to a reconciliation. The Querent is being given a gift from his/her past (Six of Grails + Ace of Grails):  the opportunity to heal/mend a relationship/friendship. The Queen of Grails represents nurturing energy and empathy. This read is over-flowing with Divine Love. Pay attention to feelings and emotions, and trust in your intuition.


Normally I reserve Streams of Consciousness for my online journal, but today’s musings seemed too expansive. Too interconnected. Too significant.

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Symbolic Loss

Both my Mom and Dad died many years ago, and in my adult lifetime I’ve lost many cats with whom I shared a deep bond. None of these losses has inflicted as deep a pain on me as losing my beloved Diego. Since that day, I’ve been reading a lot about grief – trying to make some sense of my feelings.

This last week something has been trying to push up through my subconscious, then BAM! there it was:

Your pet may also represent the last link that you have to a special person, place, thing, or time in your life. Loss that is associated with another, significant loss in your life is referred to as a “symbolic loss”.

The unexplained sadness I’ve been experiencing since moving to Hootersville suddenly made sense. I’ve been grieving the loss of my previous life. All this time I have been carrying around a “ball in a box“. (That ball got even larger with Diego’s death.) Diego was the final link to my life in Santa Clara…

When I visually think of Diego, it’s always in that bedroom. In OUR space. In that room we became inseparable. It was during those years that I began to expand this website. To write about anything and everything that piqued my interest. I created “Diego’s World” to give him a voice here, too.

I’ve always felt awkward being photographed and hated the resulting pictures. In that room, with Diego as the only observer, I started taking pictures of myself. I experimented with lighting and angles. These “sessions” took place in the wee hours of the morning after I’d come home from seeing a local band (or two). I was fully made-up and dressed to kill. Sometimes Diego would join me. Posing for a picture still makes me a little anxious, but with Diego as my assistant those early-morning photos would be the best I ever took; and after a night out I looked forward to that down-time with him.

I also loved our Sunday mornings in bed. We’d take selfies and watch the widlife running through the tree right outside our window. He also started expanding his communication skills, creating a special language recognized only by the two of us. I can still see him with his front paws propped on the edge of his bed (on my bed).

Diego was independent, wise, and fierce. I dearly loved that time when it was just him and me. I miss that cozy space. I miss him in that space. I miss me and him in that space.

My decision to leave the Bay Area – a placed I had grown-up in – was done with the best intentions for both of us. It was a decision made out of hope for the future. Although I knew that the changes I faced were going to be nothing I had experienced before, I viewed them with the typically carefree optimism of an Aries. Diego had no choice in the matter. Where I went, he went. Six months later, he began sneezing small amounts of blood. I changed to unscented litter and the issue subsided. Then it came back. I researched allergies in cats and thought it might be the drier air here (I was having allergy issues). I bought a humidifier. The symptoms came and went. Until last December when the issue finally revealed itself to be a tumor. Would he have developed this tumor if we had remained in Santa Clara? I ask myself this every day. I don’t have a good answer. Add to my grief a heavy layer of GUILT.

Yesterday I was in the South Bay and drove past where I used to live. My insides were crying. I suddenly realized how much I had severed to forge this new life. Even if a life-altering decision is made voluntarily, the changes it brings can be difficult to navigate.

The 3-card spreads I’ve been pulling all point to a path of self-discovery. This is just one “ah-hah” moment among many for me.

I can’t move forward without letting go of the past. So, I find myself mourning the loss of both Diego AND my former life. This grieving process may take longer than I expected…

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Coping with Grief

The passing of Diego has left one big hole in my heart and my life. Instinctively I knew this cat would fill me with grief so dark and deep that it would be near impossible to work through it. I am taking things one day at a time, one paw-step at a time. Posting my thoughts and feelings provides an avenue with which to work through the pain.

My adoption of Ramses has once again given me the gift of caring for another living creature. Of being responsible for a life. But my grief is still palpable. Yesterday Ramses had to visit the vet for a minor issue. That morning it hit me that the last time I made that trip to the vet was the morning Diego was put to sleep. It brought back memories of the horrific seizure he had, where he literally walked off the end of the bed and crashed to the floor. Diego was barely recovering from it when I gently placed him in his carrier. As we drove to the vet I knew that was our last morning together. Needless to say, these memories brought forth tears.

The Friday after Christmas I brought Diego’s ashes home. It has brought me comfort on some level having him “home” again. That he’s still here with me. When Ortoloni passed away I saw his “shadow” for months afterwards. All over the house. I’m not experiencing that with Diego. Ortoloni’s death was quick. He died in my arms at home. Perhaps he wasn’t ready to leave me which is why I was seeing his ghost. And perhaps that is why I’m not “seeing” Diego – he knew he was ill and was ready to leave.

I don’t know. All I DO know is that my heart still aches. For his face. For his voice. For the touch of his luxurious fur. For all his wonderful idiosyncrasies. For his presence. For his companionship. For his love.

The other day I was trying to put into words what losing this cat meant to me. How deep the bond was. How it differed from having a connection with a human. In the vet’s waiting room yesterday, I started reading the latest copy of Modern Cat. In it was an article entitled “How to Grieve the Loss of a Cat“. This article articulates the distinction perfectly:

“When a beloved animal dies it can be devastating, overwhelming, and unfathomable…The emotions we feel are the same as any loss—but magnified…”

“The human-animal bond is unique…”

“What’s unique about cats we’ve bonded with for years is that they’re an intimate part of our everyday life. Because they’re there every night and day, by the time they pass we’ve often accumulated more time with them than we have with individual friends. Even family members are unlikely to be with you that consistently.”

“To put it in the simplest of terms, a pet is that friend that always offers unconditional love and never utters a word of criticism…They are always there for you in your moments of greatest happiness and overwhelming sadness.”

“The connection people have to their cats is one not possible between humans…These pure souls become integrated into the fabric of our lives. Their presents to us include affection, companionship, better physical health, a strong emotional connection—[they] promote social and physical activity, make us laugh, and allow us to take responsibility for another living creature. Pets also soothe us, calm us, and help us live in the moment.”

“The longer the time spent in any relationship, the deeper that relationship becomes, which translates to a deeper sense of grief…”

“Remember to be gentle with yourself; this is a fragile time for you. The grieving will lessen over time; it is a hard transition from being able to hug and kiss your cat to having him or her eternally in your heart…”

“Eventually, the waves are less frequent and not quite as intense. However, there are triggers that at any time can overwhelm someone again…give sorrow the space to transform and most of all, to trust your way. You might need to process your feelings with someone you trust, or you might need to go throw stones in a river by yourself. Keep reminding yourself that your grief is love. That means it’s valid and important. And to avoid getting stuck in chronic misery or numbness—the only way through your grief is to feel it.”

(BTW, this article can be applied to the loss of any beloved pet.)

You can read the entire article here.

The Pet Loss Support Forum at rainbowsbridge.com has been a blessing. So many members lost their loved ones right before the holidays. Connecting with others dealing with loss has made me feel less alone. Less adrift. A little less sad. Through our words of support we are not only assisting others in healing, we are helping ourselves heal. One member posted something about “The Ball in the Box Theory of Grief” as a way to understand the grieving process, so I Googled it. I am passing it on in the hope it may help someone else.

Coping with Grief: The Ball & The Box

One of the things that might be difficult to understand is that for most people, the grief of a loss never leaves a person completely. The loss stays with most of us forever. It changes over time — it may start off as huge and overwhelming, but becomes smaller over time.

Imagine your life is a box and the grief you feel is a ball inside of the box. Also inside the box is a pain button…In the beginning, when the loss is so fresh and new, the grief that many people feel is overwhelming and large. It’s so large, in fact, that every time you move the box — moving through your every day life — the grief ball can’t help but hit the pain button…The pain a person experiences may feel unrelenting and never-ending…Over time, however, the ball starts to shrink on its own…the ball becomes so small that it rarely hits the pain button. When it does, it is still as painful and hard to understand as it was the very first time we felt it. But the frequency of the hits decreases significantly. This gives a person more time in-between each hit, time used to recover and feel “normal” again.

Remember that the next time you see someone, as they may be struggling with their own ball in the box.

You can read the entire article here.

Every time I experience a “triggered memory” of Diego, I visually picture MY Ball in MY Box. I don’t cry as much – or as hard – as I did the week after I lost Diego, but my “pain button” is still being hit pretty often. I know time will heal the deepest pain.

Today this video was posted in the Forum. Tears were shed. But I also smiled. A tender smile of love for My Best Friend & Familiar. My Lord & Liege. Lord Greychin. El Diablo Diego. My DIEGO.

(Panther Boy, come to me tonight…)

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The Night Before Christmas at Rainbow Bridge

This was posted on the rainbowsbridge.com Pet Loss Support Forum and credited to Cindy Morgan.

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS AT RAINBOW BRIDGE

‘Twas the night before Christmas, at Rainbow Bridge too.
We Bridgekids were thinking as always of you.
We’d seen how the holidays weren’t bright this year,
Heard you whisper so often, “I wish you were here!”

We know how you wish you could just stay in bed
And sleep through the holiday lying ahead,
When all celebrate with their loved ones so near…
Unless they have loved ones on this side this year.

But we’re no less alive here, on the other side.
If you could just see us, you’d’ve laughed and not cried.
The dogs all in harness, pulling the sleigh.
The cats all in Santa hats pointing the way.

The pet birds all flying back over the rainbow,
Bound homeward in spite of Earth’s darkness and snow.
All the pets that you’ve lost, pets for whom you’ve cried,
Flying home on this Christmas to be by your side.

If you feel warm fur brush you when no pet’s around,
Hear a soft bark or purr, just a ghost of a sound,
We’re trying to tell you we’re visiting this way,
And our visits, even rainbows, can be on any day.

But for Christmas we have something special to do,
A sleighful of happy dream visits for you.
On doggy, on kitty, on winged friend and ferret!
The love that you lavished, we mean now to share it!

We’re fetching that love home, the way we once played,
With the closeness we shared and the memories we made.
Our Earth lives with you were too short for us, too,
And on this Christmas Eve we have so much to do.

So all through this night as you sleep in your beds,
Sweet visions of furbabies dance in your heads.
This one special night we can bring you Home for a while,
Your true home in Heaven, where again you will smile.

Over the rainbow you’ll fly, for a short while this night,
Hours that you’ll be happy, hours that will feel right,
Hours to cuddle and hug us, to run and to play,
Before the return to Earth in our magic way.

And when you awaken and face Christmas Day,
We pray you’ll remember your trip on our sleigh,
But in case you forget, just remember our love.
Remember us watching you, your angels above.

Sending love wrapped in rainbows, shining and bright,
Love that will guide you through the darkest night,
Love found in each memory unwrapped through the year,
Replacing dark sorrows with Christmas cheer.

Leave the toys to St. Nick, we Bridgekids bring dreams,
Sweet visits to remind you all is not as it seems
When you look all around you with tired Earthly eyes.
If you saw as we do, there’d be joy and surprise.

There are furangels waiting by those Christmas trees,
Always there for you and hearing your pleas.
We’re never more than a thought away from your home,
You’re never forgotten, you’re never alone.

Nor are we alone here, with our Rainbow Bridge friends.
We know only joy here, the celebrating never ends,
And after our reunions with you Christmas Eve,
We Bridgekids will party like you’d never believe.

But we’ll slip away often to be by your side.
Sitting there watching you, eyes open wide,
Praying you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of us, too.
But whether or not you see us – Merry Christmas to you!

To everyone who has lost a beloved pet (whether recently or many moons ago):
May 2020 bring you Peace and renewed Hope in the future. Love will find you. You’ll turn around one day and there it will be…

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You Have to Believe

Before I begin, I would like to thank everyone who has left comments, messages, and sent cards of sympathy regarding my recent loss. You cannot imagine how much your thoughtfulness has meant to me.

And please forgive me for discussing Diego so briefly in this Post. Once I’ve finished Ortoloni’s story, I will write an online treatise of my life with that extraordinary cat. His section of my website, House Greychin, will never be taken down – neither will his YouTube Playlist. Additionally, did you know Diego had an gallery of black cat art?

I invite you to visit all three – Diego would’ve loved that.

Diego was living with me when I lost my precious Ortoloni. Ortoloni and I were extremely close and (like two cats before him, Puff and Merrick) I thought I’d never find that kind of connection again. I was wrong. In SPADES. Diego not only provided the comfort I needed after my loss but became my Best Friend. My other half, if you will. Now that he’s gone I’m experiencing a “no cat household” for the very first time in my adult life.

On December 11, 2019 I wrote the followimg:

I lost my best friend of 16 years yesterday. I’ve had close bonds with several cats in my lifetime, and each time they’ve passed away I say that I won’t ever experience that closeness again. Today is no different. Diego and I even shared a birthdate (4/4) which made us as much alike as a human and cat can be.

In Santa Clara Diego and I inhabited a small bedroom with adjoining bath. But boy, did we have a great view out our window:  a large tree that proved to be a bustling freeway of birds and squirrels! Many Sunday mornings Diego and I would lie in bed and take “selfies”. I remember one Sunday morning we were lying in bed when 4 hawks appeared in the tree – 2 adults and 2 young ones. We sat in bed with jaws agape as we watched the parents encourage their offspring to take flight. The young hawks would fly to a nearby tree, then return to where their parents waited. And every time I went out at night, he would sit in his bed (on my bed) and watch me getting ready with a look that said “You’re leaving AGAIN!?!” Needless to say, he got treats BEFORE I left AND when I got home. LOL!

Every day, throughout the day, I would look around for him. I’d watch him enjoying the fresh air while sitting in an open window. I’d watch him peacefully sleeping. I’d catch him going “bug nuts” with one of his toys. More often than not I’d find him sitting in his bed (on the bed) looking at me – waiting for me to notice him. I’d go over and give him a hug. Or a kiss. Or just administer a pet or two. There was constant interaction between the two of us.

When I’d leave to go on my morning Power Walks, I’d kiss him goodbye and always greeted him when I returned. He was the first thing I looked for in the morning, the last thing I reached for at night, and he always slept right next to me – either beside my pillow or in his bed (on the bed). And let’s not forget all the times he kicked my ass at Scrabble, not to mention his participation in the annual Hallmark Channel Kitten Bowl!

I find myself still looking for him. Getting up from my chair and moving to the bed to cuddle with him. I see him everywhere. On the bed. In the windowsill. Walking around the room. Playing with a favorite toy. And lastly, talking to me. We had a special language between us that developed over the years. And when he’d meow, he’d do it with his whole head as if to say “What’s up?”

And then I realize he’s not here anymore. And I cannot stop crying. And I feel like my whole world has died. I miss him with all my heart and soul.

This was written on December 14, 2019:

Diego had been battling what we all thought was allergies but which turned out to be a tumor. This was evident a week ago when he began to go downhill very quickly. I made sure he did not suffer once I realized what was going on and he was a very happy cat right up until the end. But like I said, he had been battling some issues for many months prior.

When I began volunteering at the local cat shelter on November 8th, there was no way I could have foreseen losing Diego. One Tuesday, however, sticks out in my mind:

As I walked around the “cattery” (a huge open area with 2 rooms, a couple of very large cages for newcomers and kittens, and plenty of high places and cozy spaces) I found myself face-to-face with this young black cat. A newcomer. I took an instant liking to him. For some reason he reminded me of Diego because of his “presence”. Although I didn’t physically interact with him, I innocently whispered to him, “If I didn’t have my guy, I’d take you home with me.” (Needless to say, I would never have brought another cat into the house because Diego would not have tolerated it – and I would never let anything destroy the connection Diego and I had.)

Yet, there was something about this cat and I looked forward to seeing him the following Tuesday (unless he found his furever home before then). The following week he was still at the shelter and I interacted with him this time. I did not expect our connection to increase. Once again, Diego was doing fine at that point and knew he would be with me for another few years, so I told myself, “This little black cat will find a wonderful home”. End of story.

But then, the last week of November, My World started falling apart and I finally lost Diego on December 10th. (December is a rough month for me because I’ve lost several cats during that month, including Ortoloni who passed away many years ago on December 4th.)

In addition to my extreme grief over Diego, I kept seeing this other cat’s face. In the midst of my heartache, something compelled me to visit the shelter yesterday. He was still there. They had named him Onyx Binx, but I call him Ramses. He’s a 6-month-old Oriental Shorthair and as I sat with him it was apparent that we were starting to build a relationship.

I woke up today reaching for Diego and thinking about Ramses. I felt so conflicted… I ran into a neighbor on my Power Walk who immediately asked how Diego was doing. Of course I broke down and told her he was gone. Then I found myself telling her about Ramses, and how I felt I brought about Diego’s death by what I said to Ramses that first day. (Stupid, huh?) Debra was comforting and when I waffled about not knowing if Ramses was THE ONE she said “I think you DO know.”

When I look at the sequence of these events, there are many synchronicities. These thoughts keep running through my head:
Deep down did I somehow know that Diego was really ill and I just wasn’t facing it?
Why did I feel such an urgent need to volunteer at the shelter? Why then?
Was I supposed to be at the shelter at that time because of Ramses?
Did the Universe have all this planned?

Diego and I shared a love and bond that I will have with no other cat – just like Ortoloni and I had our special connection. They will always be a part of me. But I realized today that my heart is large enough to accommodate another love.

As I sit here writing this I am in tears, still grieving much for Diego. Lord Greychin. My Best Friend. My Familiar.

However, there’s also a lightness in my soul. A small light of hope. Ramses.

I drew this 3-card spread the day after Diego passed away:

The spread speaks of Hope (The Sun), Surrender (The Hanged Man), and a premonition, surprise, or secret revealed (Seven of Knives).

Waking up this morning I had an moment of clarity. When we open up our hearts and home to a pet we know we will get our hearts broken. With the exception of some birds, our pets will not outlive us. Yet we still take that leap of faith. Of Hope. We Surrender to it. And we are blessed with the Secret of love returned – unconditionally.

I was then reminded of a card given to me when my Dad died. It included a portion of a poem that speaks of hope and believing that you will find love and happiness once again. Here is the poem in its entirety:

You have to believe in happiness

You have to believe in happiness,
Or happiness never comes.
I know that a bird chirps none the less
When all that he finds is crumbs.

You have to believe the buds will blow,
Believe in the grass in the days of snow.
Ah, that’s the reason a bird can sing,
On his darkest day he believes in Spring.

You have to believe in happiness –
It isn’t an outward thing.
The Spring never makes the song, I guess,
As much as the song the Spring.

Aye, many a heart could find content
If it saw the joy on the road it went,
The joy ahead when it had to grieve,
For the joy is there – but you have to believe.

– Douglas Malloch

I will close with this. I discovered an online forum for those grieving the loss of a pet. After I posted the December 14th piece there, I received this very touching reply from one of the members:
“…I don’t think you knew Diego was ill. I think he knew he was ill and somehow he or some divine power led Ramses to you and you to him.”

forums.rainbowsbridge.com/?forum=150830
We Don’t Move On from Grief, We Move Forward with It

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