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Our cat, our fur baby, Mushi, died today.  We knew it was coming.  I wrote about that in Pet Lessons in September.  Since then, she suffered seizures and went fully deaf and blind.  Her arthritis worsened, and walking became harder—too hard. She was fearful and tense, and there was pain, so much pain. She could no longer be a cat, do what cats need to do to be cats.  After 17.5 years, love demanded one final act of devotion, and we dutifully provided it.

Many years ago, much of the population lived, generation upon generation, in the same home, on the same land.  They experienced the entire cycle of life.  When a grandparent, perhaps even a great grandparent died—we didn’t live so long then–everyone was involved.  They prepared the empty container that once animated an intelligence that animated them.  They built a coffin, dug a grave, often prayed without the help of a minister, returned dust to dust, ashes to ashes, and forevermore, consecrated that small piece of Earth.

I’ve often thought about that, about how much better, more realistic, more grounded we might be, as people and as a society, if we all experienced the cycle of life, if we all had a hand not only in birth and live, but death, might not we be more humble, more gentle, more understanding, more fully human?

As we waited for the Vet, Mrs. Manor said: “it’s like waiting for the death of a loved one.”  I replied, through tears: “exactly like that.”

John Donne (1572-1631) is one of those who had a hand in giving western civilization its glory, a glory far too many, ignorant and disdainful of the cycle of life, of the humanity of us all, so easily throw away in favor of the glories of socialism, the most murderous and evil philosophy ever inflicted on mankind. I always taught this poem to my students.  Many were aware of the title from movies or song, but none knew its origin.  Now you do:

For Whom The Bell Tolls

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Today, the bell tolled for Mushi—and for us. 

It is, perhaps, in our treatment of others, in our love for the most vulnerable among us, we discover our shared humanity.

Do you think it strange I write about the death of a cat?  If so, perhaps you need Donne, Shakespeare and others that have made us who we are, who have shown us the path to what we must be, more than you can imagine.  Perhaps you should work hard to ensure future generations know them, understand them, rather than the scribblings of tiny, hateful intellects, the purveyors of racial hatred and division.

We, Mrs. Manor and I, knew our little Mushi was a cat, not a human being.  There is a difference.  But we gave her, no less than we do for any human being, the full measure of our love.  We chose her, accepted the responsibility of caring for and nurturing her, of providing for all her needs, and wants she didn’t know she had, of indulging her kitty moods, pranks and joys, just as we would do for a human child.  We gave her  warm hardwood floor in the sun, warm laps, immeasurable pets, brushing, and play.  And she gave us the full measure of her unconditional love.  To gain the trust of an animal is a wonderful, humanizing thing.

So we brought her home from the vet and in our little backyard, dug the hole and tenderly laid her in it.  We completed the cycle.  She will be there, with us, as long as we live, and when we relax on the porch, or the mower passes over, her presence will comfort us.  We need that now.  We always need that.

Will we see her again?  It comforts us to believe we will.  We need that too, and what does it hurt?  At the very least, she will always be part of our consciousness, of us.  She molded us as much as we molded her, and to the Earth shall we all return.

There is no tombstone.  Mushi was—is—a cat.  But if there were, this would be the epitaph:

Mushin 2003-2021

She was a good cat

What greater compliment can be given?  What more need be said?