The trip to Festival in England is off. Why? Because one of my cats has taken very ill. In fact, for a few days there I thought she was dying. She has made some improvements in the last 12 hours – she can actually transport herself from one spot to another. Wobbly, yes. But, unlike the previous two days where she couldn’t stand, this was a huge improvement.
I haven’t yet told my teacher I’m not coming. I fear her disapproval. Others have already questioned my decision, and acted as if I were forsaking my spiritual path for a mere object of attachment. Everyone has stories how people have forsaken loved ones at critical times so they could sit at the foot of the guru. Great. Good for them. But, it’s not the decision I’m making.
If as a Buddhist, I am expected to develop this mind of bodhicitta, a mind that would gladly take the bullet for any and all living beings, I would think that I would be supported for sacrificing my spiritual vacation to care for a helpless creature who needs me. If she is to die soon, I want to be there to help her and keep her mind peaceful. If she is not on her way out, I still want to be there to help recover from whatever it is that is causing her to not be able to walk. I want to hold her and sing OM MANI PAME HUM to comfort her in the night when she’s confused about why her little body no longer works.
She is my main practice right now. Trying to separate the love from the attachment in my mind. To use the suffering I’m feeling myself and turn that into the mind of renunciation. Watching my mind swing from deep suffering to excitement with every small improvement she makes. I’m trying to stay calm, peaceful and loving when I am around her, and keep my attachment-based crying jags for my friends and alone time in the car.
She has always been “my girl”. From the moment when I found her as a sickly, abandoned kitten who had less then a 50% chance of making it through the night, we’ve had a connection. I look into her eyes and there is such a recognition. “Mom?” (Yeah, believing your cat is an incarnation of your mom is not something I share with the folks at work). She’s the cat who just sits quietly by my side. Content to be near. Never in my face, or demanding of attention. Whatever room I settled in, that’s where she wanted to be.
This state of not-knowing is a very uncomfortable state to be. I was preparing for her death. Praying that it comes quietly in the night, and that I don’t have to make The Decision. Teachers in our tradition have told me that you simply do not euthanize animals. You make sure they are comfortable and you let them go in their own time. And I agree with that, if you can indeed keep the animal comfortable and out of pain, and they are failing anyway and their time is growing near. However, in this situation, her mind is alert, her pain is managed, she simply cannot move. What to do?
If it comes to it, if her life becomes too painful for her, I will have someone come and put her to sleep. She will be in my arms being comforted and loved. That to me is the most important thing. I want her to go to her death with a peaceful and happy mind with mantras being sung into her ears. Her body will remain untouched for several hours, and I’ll gather some friends and do powa for her. This is the sort of death that I would want, and she deserves no less.