The Eternal Rock
When I woke up on Easter Sunday morning, one of the first things that I did was open the drapes covering our French door and said “Good Morning Bootsy.” I uttered those same words to our cat every day for twenty plus years of my life. This morning was different however; I uttered those words in the direction of a rock in our backyard, which is part of a garden that my wife Cheri built in honor of our daughter Jeannine after she died. The ground under that rock now represented Bootsy’s eternal resting place. Bootsy died on March 22, 2016 after living a long and honorable life. In the 2 years prior to his death, he had lost half of his body weight. The depth of his spirit transcended the limitations of his body, and he remained engaged with life. However, his body began to shut down a few days before his death. He stopped eating and was generally listless and disoriented. Cheri and I could not bear to see him suffer, so we made the decision to have him put to sleep. As much it hurt to let him go, it would have hurt me more to witness his continued decline.
A Gift to Jeannine
Bootsy was born in 1995 and was a gift to my daughter Jeannine, from her best friend. He was always Jeannine’s cat, but he became mine after her death on March 1,2003,at the age of 18. It was Bootsy’s mission to make sure that I got vested in life once again. Part of his responsibility was ensuring that I got up early every morning. Bootsy’s idea of early was 4:30 or 5:00 am. My pleas to sleep in later were always met with a series of protesting meows. Bootsy was my ultimate caretaker. He followed me everywhere ,sat on my lap and until the last few months of his life, slept with me. Bootsy loved me when I had trouble loving myself. His presence was a catalyst for me to live meaningfully and with purpose after Jeannine died.
Passing the Torch
We have three other cats. One is Angel, whom Jeannine and I found abandoned about 18 months after Bootsy came into our lives, and two younger cats Zoey and Nitske whom we acquired from our oldest son. In the months prior to Bootsy’s death, Cheri and I could sense that he was relinquishing his role as my primary caretaker to Zoey. He would let Zoey sleep on my lap, which was once his and his alone. He was also content to let Zoey sleep in my room at night. It appeared that Bootsy was preparing for his departure from this world by letting go of his responsibility to me. I was destined to become Zoey’s new human.
The Birds Pay Tribute
It rained intermittently for three days after Bootsy’s death. The rain and the gloom was a reflection of how I felt in the days immediately after his burial. During the first or second day after Bootsy’s death, three crows visited us. One was perched high up in a tree surveying our backyard; two more were in an adjacent tree. They were all cawing in unison, a tribute to Bootsy’s long and honorable life of service to me and my family. It was fitting that crow would make herself known to me. The Native American teachings associated with crow have provided perspective during the last 5 or so years of my life. However, their appearance at that moment had more global significance. According to Ted Andrews:
“Birds in myths and tales are often symbols of the soul. They reflect the ability to link the physical realms with those of the sky (heavens). Because of this they are the most frequent messengers of spirits and angels.”
On Easter Sunday morning,I said a gentle prayer to my friend crow and asked her to take a message of love to Bootsy. I also wanted Bootsy to know that I would never forget his companionship, his teachings, and that he would always have a place in my heart. Almost immediately after my prayer, I saw three crows flying off in the distance. That was an empowering validation for me.
A Lasting Imprint
I had requested a cast of Bootsy’s paw print at the veterinarian’s office, before he was put to sleep. I wanted to have something that would permanently link me to him and the memories of our life together. His paw print will also be a permanent reminder of the beauty and serendipity of his transition into eternal life. In the moments prior to his death, he became restless and agitated. At first, I thought that he wanted to fight father time and stay with us for a while longer. However, he was moving forward, his eyes looking slightly up and straight ahead. There were several times after Jeannine’s death, where Bootsy would arbitrarily scratch at the wall or under a picture of Jeannine’s prayer card and meow loudly. Bootsy’s behavior convinced me that his bond with Jeannine was still strong. At the moment of death I believe that he also saw Jeannine and was ready to go home to be with her for eternity. Though my sadness was profound after he died, I recognized that there were many sacred moments that brought me peace.
Bootsy was a trusted companion and friend. He was patient, tolerant and loved unconditionally. I believe, what he inspired in me the most is a reverence and respect for all of creation, and the understanding that we are truly all connected.
Note: This post was originally published on The Huffington Post Blog on 3/28/16,under the title ,Birds in the Rain. In addition to expanding the title, I refer to Bootsy now as being put to sleep,as opposed to euthanized. Also, less than 3 months after Bootsy’s death, Angel joined him for eternity at Rainbow Bridge.
©Dave Roberts 2016