I have been thinking the past few days about all the people I have lost in the past 10 years, since my 50th birthday. That milestone year seemed to herald the beginning of the demise of an entire insulating generation.How do we come to terms with this, it is bound to happen as we age? I mean do the math; if I am 61 then my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents etc would have to be 80+ at least ( no teen pregnancies in my family)
My sister recently had to put her cat to sleep, it had cancer. The cat was the older of two. The younger one who adopted itself to the elder is in quite a state about the loss. She wanders the house aimlessly howling, has not eaten much and is just generally at odds with life.My daughter, observing this poor confused feline, suggested that in a situation like this the dead pet should be brought home from the vet so the other household pets could be given some time to spend with their deceased friend. She assumed, probably correctly, that animals would handle this event of death quite naturally and once they understood that Fluffy was dead they could accept the fact and move on without the confusion which the absence creates when they do not understand.I think she is on to something.
So what about us? I don’t think fear that what will work for our pets will not work for us. We have a whole other level of functioning which, quite frankly the more I age, the more I come to understand is not a blessing! We think, emotionally and we project those thoughts into the future and the past. So in effect we triple our pain. Some people say this is the difference between pain and suffering. Animals fear, feel and react in the moment. Patches may now feel the absence of Tiger beside her in their favorite chair. I believe that the cat can feel that absence in a way which results in an unease, let’s call it sadness. But she does not extrapolate that unease beyond the experiential present moment. She feels the pain and leaves it at that. It is bad enough!
My thoughts on the other hand, drift off quickly into projection and guilt so ultimately suffering. My son will be married this fall, how I would love my parents to share that day with him. How will it be without them? Will I miss seeing the pride and joy on their faces, remembering past family weddings? Will my son be sad on that day without the presence of his grandparents? I was at a mall today where I had lunch with my husband’s step mother 5 years ago. As I parked I remembered that day and how much I valued our conversation. OK, that is comforting and grateful thinking but then I regrettably moved on to “it will never happen again” Then, the guilt because I did not see her Claire enough when she was alive. This is suffering not pain and it hurts even more.It is almost like emotional scope creep.
Scope creep is the term used in business to describe how a project based assignment can get off track when the boundaries, scale, the range of the work are augmented.I miss my dog. I miss her curled up all warm and happy at my feet. I miss her on my walks. Then the emotions creep from the experience of those momentary sad feelings to projected thoughts.What is the point of walking when I cannot share her joy over the smell of urine soaked spot? More creep…did I walk her enough and did I make the best decision when It came time to put her down, was she ready? This can degenerate into agony.
It seems that the best we poor humans can hope for in our inevitable losses is the momentary pain of absence mixed with sweet memories which sustain us in the moment and celebrate the joy of those we have loved.Because even faced with incontrovertible evidence we cannot control our complex thinking.
Still it is better to have loved and lost than never loved at all.
I wonder how we say that in cat tongue.