Aftermaths

MAJORTRUMPS.XXI.DeathOne of the most painful things about the death of a beloved is not how much difference it makes in one’s days afterwards, but how little. My sweet 14-year-old cat, Urdwill (a.k.a. Burd), was as much part of my day and night as any close family member might have been; but I still have to get up in the morning as usual; shower as usual; make my basic three daily meals as usual; go to my Twelve Step meeting, counseling sessions, and supermarket as usual. I spent part of this week repotting sweet peppers and tomatoes I am raising from seed; shmoozing with my landlord’s sweet American bulldog, Julie; accessing and returning my friend Lee’s car, all as usual. How, I ask myself, could I have gotten over my pet’s demise so quickly? “You never really loved him, that’s how,” the Accuser whispers.

Of course that is not true. The mourning that began with wails of grief has simply shifted, that’s all, downsized itself, gone largely underground. My rented room feels empty, now, without him. When I am out chatting with a friend I think, “Oh, I had better get home now, Burd will need his dinner,” then remember that Burd’s dinner is no longer my concern. When I come back to my landlord’s house and unlock the outer door, I automatically check the area around my feet to see if Urdwill is crouching there, ready to spring past me into the street. At night, whenever I would wake (and I wake up several times a night), Urdwill would be there, ready for affection, action, food; I sometimes nearly tripped over his black-furred body, invisible as it was in the darkened room. The relaxation of my hypervigilance concerning him—the relaxation issuing directly from his death—has been a relief. But it has also been a source of enormous feelings of guilt. How, I ask myself, could I be so heartless as to feel relief over Urdwill’s passing? “You never really loved him, that’s how,” the Accuser whispers again.

Such accusations would have no power to affect me were there not a long, old history behind them. In Ireland, where they had lived for six or seven years, my mother died of alcoholism in 1991, a year after my younger brother Jeffrey, her caretaker, died of AIDS. I hated my mother for having emotionally and sexually abused me, and I felt as liberated by her death as I had felt devastated by my brother’s. It took years before I could acknowledge my love for the part of her that was good and kind, and feel any  grief over her passing. “You could have saved her from drinking herself to death,” the Accusers whispered at the time, but this was a lie easier to shrug off; I knew by this time that alcoholism is a progressive illness, and that she had not been willing to do the 12 Step work that could have helped her find relief from it. The Accuser’s other whisper, “You could have saved Jeffrey from dying of AIDS by insisting he return to the USA for treatment,” was harder to shrug off. At the time in Ireland, so strong were the laws against birth control that one needed a doctor’s prescription even to buy condoms in Ireland; AIDS treatment was even more primitive and limited by public prejudice than it was in the US, where our present cocktail of meds had not yet become available.

In the end I have been forced to the conclusion that my brother, my mother, and my beloved cat Urdwill had their own paths to follow, their own stories, and their own Higher Powers. I have been asked by Spirit to accept that I, like they, am a student of Love rather than a master; and that no matter what the Accuser says, I could no more have rescued my little brother from AIDS than I could have cured my cat’s cancer. The only power I have is in the here and now: the power to choose Love right now, today. •

A Message From “The Family”: On Pets

Rand.UrdwillMister Rand is today facing the possibility that his pet feline, Urdwill, may have more cancerous tumors growing upon his body. They may be malignant or they may be nonmalignant, but in any event Mister Rand’s cat is not eating, although he is drinking water. Mister Rand is remembering all the pets, and all the humans, he has lost to death over the decades, and has been showing great signs of anxiety, guilt, and shame, because part of himself feels (1) that males should not feel such feelings, (2) that he ought to have “saved” his transformed loved ones from death; and (3) that his future spiritual belongingness–whether “God” accepts him after death or not–depends upon his being perfect in all his thoughts, words, and deeds. He even believes that we may be fictions, or worse still, Satanic messengers sent to draw him and those who read his blogs away from the One True God. Mister Rand does not believe any of these things consciously. But all selves exist within the Self, including younger versions of the self, and all their voices sometimes sound within Mister Rand’s heart at once, contradicting the quieter voices of his reason and spiritual insight.

Mister Rand has vowed, when ever it is Urdwill the cat’s true time of leave taking the body, never to have another pet, because he says he “cannot bear” the thought of watching another pet die, or worse still, causing their death by having them euthenased by injection at a vet’s office. Mister Rand says that his grief is too great to bear, since (as he is aware) his grief over losing a pet is also grief over his losses of all the animals and humans in his life (and other lives as well, though he may not know this consciously). There are times when he even feels guilty over having a pet at all, both because of the impact pet-rearing can have on the environment and because he wonders whether it is good for an animal to be shoehorned into a human’s life rather than be permitted to live out its lifespan in a natural environment. Yet even in these things he knows the truth: that there are no natural environments, for your world has been made and remade by Humans repeatedly over the millennia; that in the “wild,” animals live a much shorter time than in “captivity;” and that humans can bring enormous comfort and fun into a domesticated animal’s life.

Mr. Urdwill has lived a reasonably long life for a cat of his size and genetic makeup: 14 years by Mister Rand’s present count. For all but 8 months of those years, Mister Urdwill has roamed free within his territory, Mister Rand’s backyard. He has enjoyed much fresh air, sleeping under datura leaves, chasing toads, terrorizing Mister Rand’s dogs (<-this is a joke>).

[Broken off because of need to take Urdwill to vet; resumed early next morning]

The purpose of the communion between “pets” and humans varies from pet to pet and human to human. Why did Mr. Urdwill choose Mr. Rand as his human companion that day at the pound in 2002, when Mister Rand, following an image of a black cat that had persisted in coming to him, visited the pound and experienced the black Abyssinian mix cat open the door of its cage, walk out, and sit upon Mister Rand’s foot? Mr. Urdwill wished freedom from enclosure. And freedom from enclosure is what Mister Rand gave him, for most of the years of their time together. Both cat and human also wished love, for all beings wish love, even rodents, which humans frequently despise because they closely resemble humans in some of their habits; and lizards, which being “cold blooded” are thought to have no need for love, only sex and food. It is just that Love takes different forms amongst different beings.

What Mister Rand really wants to know is, did he love Urdwill and his family and friends who have passed, truly love them “enough” for God to forgive him for not having been perfect? For having resented and quarreled with his beloved younger brother who died of AIDS in 1990? For having hated his abusive-seductive mother, who nonetheless had loved him in her way and he had loved her in his? For having heeded his lover Alex’s psychic command not to enter Alex’s room the evening of Alex’s suicide, when Mister Rand had returned from a gig the both of them had been scheduled to lead? We say, Yes, you have loved truly. Yes, you have expressed this love at times imperfectly. That is because one purpose for incarnation, the great task of incarnating in physical reality, is to learn to integrate the Divine Love at one’s core with one’s physical self and circumstances. And all students perform imperfectly—they are learning.

Mister Urdwill’s life is drawing to a close due to cancer and complications therefrom. Grief is difficult for many humans to express and bear, for it makes them feel weak and vulnerable and foolish in the eyes of other adults. We ask for all who experience grief over the loss of a companion animal or human relative or friend that you pray for Divine Love to help you forgive yourselves for being students of Love rather than masters thereof. And we thank you for sharing. •

— Channeled April 14-15, 2015, Santa Fe, New Mexico

A Love Letter To Alex, On the Anniversary of His Suicide

Dear  Alex,

Today, January 27th, is the anniversary of the day I found you dead on your bed in 1988. My elderly cat has been sick, and though I love him dearly and will miss him terribly when it is his time to pass, my weeping was so intense today, and my feelings of guilt and shame so pronounced, that I knew what I was feeling had to be about earlier losses, too. Hence this letter.

It’s not the only letter I’ve written to you, by any means; for years I struggled with the persistent notion that I could have saved you from your suicide; that somehow you had killed yourself because I had failed as a partner and lover. Now, so many years, therapies, 12 Step programs, and heart-openings later, I know that your story was not my story. Had I opened the door that night at 10pm when I returned from work to find the light on under your door, I might have delayed your death, for the coroner told me you had died around midnight that night. But in the end, if death is what you wished for (and your ex-wife told me over the phone you had attempted it before, during your marriage to her), you would have found a way to hasten it. After all, a month before you died you warned me what was going to happen.

We were in the car going somewhere, you driving, me in the front passenger seat. You said, “I had a funny dream last night. I dreamed we were in a hospital room. I was lying in bed in a coma, and you were sitting on the chair next to the bed. And I knew that you were all right with my condition, because I’d told you many times that the place where I go when I do deep trance is so beautiful that some day I may not want to come back.” Maybe it was that dream (if it was a dream and not your way of hinting what was to come) that prompted me on some level to realize our time together remaining would be curtailed, for it was in mid-January that I sprung on you that surprise birthday party, where all our friends gathered, and we played a game, and you had cake, and laughed, and said, “No one has ever had a birthday party for me before.” Less than two weeks later you were dead.

My inner child has always been terrified of death. Death, in fact, is my Life Theme, the greatest truth this incarnation of mine has been learning to accept, assimilate, and adapt to. Maybe that’s one reason I was attracted to metaphysics after my rationalist upbringing and my ensuing 7 years as a Fundamentalist Christian—I sought to find evidence that the body is not all of us; that physical death is not the death of something deeper and more core in us; and that somehow Tarot, trancework, channeling and so forth would console me in ways that conventional religion failed to do. And it has helped. After my little brother Jeff, you were the greatest spiritual inspiration in my life. Your deep-trance channelings, which I (suspiciously at first, then more and more credulously) helped you attain with my guided meditations, changed my life completely. My entire spiritual world view has evolved from the talks you gave in your spirit-persona of  “Alexandra”, and I’m not the only one you helped by any means.

I can still recall clearly the sense of peace and nurture that flowed through your Alexandra persona to me and everyone else who attended our meetings in Key West, Florida, Ireland, and later Santa Fe, New Mexico, where you died. And I can recall vividly that the morning I found you, the moment I put my hand on your doorknob at 10am to rouse you for a meeting with a client we had scheduled for 11, I knew you were dead. I opened the door, saw you on the bed, and felt you and Alexandra—not the same person, but two personas—”floating” near the ceiling, witnessing me. I’ve had spiritual experiences since then, several in which I caught a glimpse of that Heaven of Light and Sound which made you so blissful whenever you tranced. But the experience I had that morning was my Lightning-Struck Tower.

Thank you for all you gave me. Thank you for my sense of your continuing presence in my life. I have loved other men since I met you, but you remain uniquely precious.

P.S. Please watch over my cat, and help me release him to the arms of Love when it comes his time to rise. •

Alex_with_Christmas_tree.IMG

Moving Day

In two days I am returning to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I lived for 24 years before coming to the Denver area late in 2011. When I first came to the Denver area, my health was poor. I was in shock from the sudden death of my beloved husky, Blessing, and the sudden loss of my home, job, and mobility. Had an Aurora friend not invited me to come and stay in her house, I would have been homeless.

ImageNow, nearly a year and a half later, I am moving back to Santa Fe. The new friends I have made in Colorado are not happy about this; they fear for my economic stability, returning as I am to a state with widespread unemployment and a vast gap between rich and poor. It is also a fact that New Mexico has one of the highest rates of spousal abuse, child abuse, drug abuse, animal abuse, and drunk driving fatalities in the nation. Public support is available to assist the underemployed and the ill, but that support has dwindled under New Mexico’s present governor, a well-to-do Republican with little sympathy for those who seek “entitlements.”

Moving is never easy. It is particularly difficult right now because I have had a falling out with the friend in whose house I have been staying, and I am ashamed and saddened by this. No one is at fault particularly; we have simply discovered that our private wounds make us incompatible housemates. But it is hard having to acknowledge that another’s life has been improved by my leaving it. I will also miss my friend’s dog, a black Labrador who has been a hugbuddy and companion to me during my mourning over Blessing.

Sudden, painful change is built in to physical reality. It is represented by the Tarot cards Death, the Lightning-Struck Tower, and the Devil (which I have renamed Pan). These three Tarots are not necessarily cards of moral evil or physical destruction, although they can be. At root they signify the powers and influences over which the human will has no conscious control, powers and influences that trigger physical, emotional, and comprehension changes that one must acknowledge, accept, and adapt to or die. It is human nature to resist such transformation even when part of us longs for it. But in some circumstances, as the Daleks might put it, resistance is futile.

My story is by no means a tragedy. I am moving into a house with good neighbors in a safe neighborhood, and I have been overwhelmed by the loving support of friends all over the country, who with their contributions of time, money, and encouragement are making this move possible. My cat, Urdwill, will like it there, too. And I am looking forward to reuniting with old Santa Fe friends.

But I can no longer deceive myself. No change is permanent. Reality is both a particle and a waveform, and life is a balancing act. And when you are old, as I am, you must give up the fantasy of total self-reliance and total independence and embrace interdependence, community, and mutuality. As my friend Jerry told me the other day, “It’s time for you to accept the love people want to show you.” How strange that this is so difficult.

A Gentle Death

Ruby was an 11 or 12 year old Australian shepherd dog who had been kept confined in a trailer and overfed to the point where she was virtually immobile. When my housemate Dina adopted her back in June, they lived together in a cabin in the northern Colorado wilderness. They took long walks through the woods and played in the fresh sunlight and breezes. Ruby began to lose weight and get more fit. She joyously greeted her friend Dina every time Dina returned to the cabin. Feisty and long-coated, Ruby was a working dog with a deep sense both of loyalty and of her rights to her own body; Dina was the only human Ruby permitted to stroke her belly-fur.

When Dina and Ruby moved to Aurora not long ago, it quickly became clear that Ruby had reached the point where her body, severely arthritic and spotted with flesh-pads, could no longer support her fiercely independent spirit. Dina made the difficult decision to have Ruby euthenased.

Having a beloved animal mercifully killed in order to spare her the agony of a lingering, painful death is I think the bravest and most unselfish service a pet-owner can choose. My late partner’s Stuart’s wolf-dog Kaz died in my arms on the emergency vet’s operating table after a deliberate hit and run one Sunday morning broke Kaz’s spine. I felt a window in reality open up and Kaz’s spirit drop through it, and then the window closed, leaving a smooth unruffled surface behind, as though Kaz had never been. This took place about a year after I found Stuart’s dead body in his bedroom, dead via brain embolism.

Years later, I held the head of my blind husky, Moon-Pie, when a Santa Fe vet gave him his final injection. Moon’s hind quarters had failed, as had his kidneys, and he faced his death with a growl and a bark. A few years later I lay with another dog, Bear, who went to sleep peacefully, felled by the same symptoms that had brought Moon-Pie to his end. Then, last year, my husky Blessing died at my feet in our back yard, possibly of cancer (there is also the possibility she was poisoned by a mentally ill neighbor who showed up very suddenly while I was mourning her body with a friend). All these losses came back to me as I sat quietly beside Dina, observing beautiful brave Ruby’s last moments in her old body.

The deaths mount up as one gets older. But the hope I cling to, when my emotional body is wailing in grief and loss, is the memory of what I felt with most of my dogs after their last breaths: the persistent sense of their loving spirit presences around me. I am not such an anthropocentrist that I believe a dog’s purpose is to serve its human caretaker. Dogs, like everyone else, have their own private stories which sometimes coincide with ours and sometimes do not.

But I do know that love is never lost. In a dream I saw my dead brother Jeffrey’s spirit move off into light accompanied by all the dogs, cats, and birds we had known and loved in our Connecticut childhood. We are all one, and Love is the evidence of that; and I pray to Wolf Mother that when it is my turn to shed my own noble, sagging, arthritic animal body, she will receive me into her pack with the same loving playful devotion she showed to Kaz, Moon-Pie, Bear, and Blessing.

And of course, Ruby.

Moon-Pie & I, 2008, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Moon-Pie & I, 2008, Santa Fe, New Mexico