By Tom Demerly.
My friends know my cat named Mia died last week from a 2-year battle with heart disease. She was only 7. I wrote about her loss here.
During the ordeal with Mia being sick my girlfriend Jan and my friend Sue shuttled Mia from one specialist doctor to another in an attempt to save her life.
Losing Mia hurt. That’s an understatement. Her gentle presence, kind personality and soft, graceful beauty made her a wonderful companion. She was a stray rescued from a dumpster who grew into a beautiful cat despite a rough beginning and a difficult feline cardiac condition.
Loss leaves a hollowness, a dark void that produces physical pain in your chest. A vacuum. And in that vacuum hope and light seems to disappear into the deep shadow of fear and uncertainty. And there is that familiar dread of never being able to get back what you have lost and the choking sense that you lost it too soon.
Then something quite remarkable happened.
People sent MiMi, my surviving cat and my girlfriend Jan Mack and I cards. My friend Mark from Arizona sent a card. My friends Glenn and Rasa from here in Michigan sent one. The hospital staff where Mia went when she was sick all signed a card and mailed it to us. People sent cards to my work. My friends Yanti and Kingsley sent a card all the way from Indonesia. More people sent cards. My good friend Mary, whom I’ve known since we were kids and whose dad ran a local bookstore for years, made a donation to our local animal shelter in Mia’s name and so did my friend from Ann Arbor, Wen N. My buddy Ira, who also knows cats well, stopped by to say he was sorry about Mia. My friends Paul, Sue, Lance and Connor came to my house and helped dig Mia’s resting place in my back yard while a man in Pennsylvania made a beautiful casket for her by hand from wood harvested from the forest near there.
And in all these cards and messages and help one thing emerged; we do not not suffer loss alone. Everyone around us bears the weight of our despair. Author Sylvia Boorstein wrote, in the book In The Face of Fear, “We take pain very personally. As if it is happening to us as individuals. The Buddha’s foremost teaching says that life is difficult and each of share the losses of others. That we do not despair and suffer alone.” And in that company of compassion and care, there is an uplifting sense of warmth that chases the shivering chill of loss away. It is replaced by a sense of support and community. Of kindness and empathy. And even in loss, loss that we will never recover, something good and warm is born.
We learn that we are not alone.