Saturday, May 14, 2016

grief and joy

Yesterday we put our sweet kitty Jerome to sleep. He turned 18 in February. His death wasn't a surprise and it wasn't sudden. His health had been slowly fading.

I thought I was ready. But I realize that I was really just holding back emotion, frightened of the flood that would overtake me if I let the grief in.

Up until January, Jerome was my constant companion in my studio. It was his favorite room in the house. Whether he was sleeping in his favorite chair, curled up in a sunbeam beside my table or sprawled out on the floor to cool off on a hot day, he spent even more time there than I did.

cats, siamese, studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

When the stairs got to be too much for him and he wasn't up there any more, I missed his constant presence.

Yesterday as I sat on the floor with him, waiting till it was time to go to our appointment at the vet, I kept thinking of other things I "should" be doing. Running upstairs and publishing a blog post (I had one ready). Vacuuming (nothing like sitting on the floor to get a good perspective on that). I was failing, completely, at being in the moment. Have I learned nothing? I wondered. These last months' lessons from Matthias illness were supposed to be, in part, about living in the moment. How naive of me to even ask that.

Learning to be present isn't just something you can do and be done with. Being present is a lifetime practice. It takes constant mindfulness. Constant awareness. And constant choice.

It would have been easier (at least at first) to have busied myself with chores than to sit quietly with my fading cat. I'm not even sure if he got any comfort from my being there with him. It was hard for me, seeing him struggling and feeling that mix of sadness and guilt and, yes, of joy, too. Woven through the grief were memories of the love and joy and humor that he brought to my days. He was the most affectionate cat I've ever known.

cats, siamese, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And the most stubborn. If he wanted to be on my lap he wouldn't give up no matter how many times I put him on the floor.

kittens, siamese, container gardening, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

18 is a good long life. I am grateful that he shared his time with me.

And I'm grateful that he helped me to remember that being present is letting in the grief and the joy. Yes, I focus on joy here and in my life in general, but there cannot be joy without also grief. The joy will last after the grief has faded.

We buried Jerome in the new garden bed I've been working on.

roses, Above and Beyond Climbing Rose, garden, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

This rose is nearby. We planted a gooseberry bush above him. That beauty, that joy, that nourishment will last. I'll remember the sadness, but I'll remember the joy and love more.

I'm sending out thoughts of comfort to you today and encouragement to practice being present, even when (or perhaps, especially when) life's grief threatens to overcome its joy.

18 comments:

  1. Dear Anne, I'm so sorry to hear about Jerome's passing. It is heart wrenching to put a pet down even when you know its the right thing to do. Somehow I missed your post about Matthias's cancer treatments, which I hope has given him back his health and strength. You have had a difficult year and I love how you are rallying around the present. Planting a garden offers joy in the now, and hope for a brighter future. Sending blessings your way.

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    1. Thank you, Sharon. I really appreciate you kind words and heartfelt thoughts.

      There have been so many instances of joy during the difficulties and I'm so glad that I haven't missed out on those things.

      You're so right about the garden. It keeps you present, brings joy and continues into the future.

      Sending much gratitude and blessings to you.

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  2. Anne. I am so sorry. Useful words fail me as I sit typing this. Jerome was a beautiful cat. His memory will live on and you will think of him as you tend the garden. Sleep peacefully kitty. x

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    1. Thank you, Simone.

      It's hard to know what to say at times like this. Words are pale shadows beside the emotions. You're so right that his memory will be with me in the garden.

      I so appreciate your kindness. Sending much gratitude and wishing you joy.

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  3. I hope Jerome and Henry have found one another. That is such a very joyful thought. xoxo

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    1. Oh, yes. What a joyful thought indeed! :)

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  4. Anne, I am so sorry for your loss. I remember when we had our Kristy put to sleep and how heartbroken we were. Your photos here are beautiful and how sweet that little Jerome is now a part of a beautiful garden. You are a lovely person and I'm happy to call you my friend. xo

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    1. Thank you, Judy.

      It is so hard, isn't it. But all the joy they bring us remains, which does help it hurt a little less. Eventually all that will be left is the joy and in this case, my garden, too.

      I think you're a lovely person, too, and it brings me so much joy to have had you along with me on my journey. I'm happy to call you my friend, too.

      Big hugs and gratitude.

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  5. Dear Anne, thank you for sharing such a tender and beautiful post. I am so sorry for your loss and feel so deeply with you. What a special tribute to Jerome. It appears from your news mail like you find yourself in a real transition and I also just wanted to let you know that I am so impressed with your fabrics and the progress of your work. I am sure Jerome is sat on some pink kitty cloud feeling so proud of everything he has been part of co-creating!

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    1. Hi, Joan,

      Thank you for stopping here and reading my words. The loss and grief are so hard, but our animal friends bring us so much joy. I love your idea of a pink cloud. :)

      Thank you, also, for what you say about my fabric and my art. I so appreciate your encouragement and support!

      Wishing you all the best!

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  6. My heart goes out to you. We had to help Stewart (14) & Otis (19) to their rest but Elsie (10) went on her own just a few weeks ago. It's so hard to let them go, little heart tuggers that they are. M

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    1. Hi, Madeline,

      I'm so sorry to hear about your kitties. 10 is much too young. :( But It is so hard no matter their age, isn't it. Puts everything in perspective and makes me want to give Charlie and Jude lots and lots of extra love and hugs.

      Sending thoughts of peace and gratitude to you.

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  7. Nothing can be said to heal the freshness of wounds like this. Jerome was a beautiful cat and yes 18 years is a blessing to have had him that long... yet it's never enough is it? I know too well. Jerome's spirit will still be with you in your studio. What special places our furry companions have in our hearts.

    tender hugs

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    1. Thanks so much, Jaime. I know you can understand the grief and I think you can also understand the joy and hope that comes from the garden and knowing that he's now a part of it (especially at this time of year when everything is waking up and growing).

      Sending hugs and much gratitude back to you!

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  8. Sending HUGS! You once again wrote a true feeling - my dog Molly is aging quickly. I am enjoying each day with her. I can see she is slowing down, but our friendship is so strong. I can not really explain it.
    Carla

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    1. Thank you, Carla. I think it's even harder with a dog. I know it was so hard when we lost Holden and the house seemed so empty without him. Enjoy each day with Molly. We're trying to do that with Charlie and Jude and have been aware our whole time with them how short their lives are.

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  9. Oh my, so sorry to hear this. I can just imagine how you are feeling. I bawled my eyes out half a day recently when I found a stray kitty someone had kicked out of the house and had to surrender her to the shelter because I knew Jingles would not accept an outsider. Jingles is 12 and has always been an only cat with us. It wouldn't be right to disrupt her world now. She is like your kitty -- when she wants to sit next to me, nothing gets in her way, not the piles of yarn and crafty supplies; it doesn't mmatter how many times I say no, she circles around until she finds the slightest opening and then jumps up and adjusts herself comfortably on the mess. Ha! They bring us such joy but parting is such sweet sorrow. Bless you and your family. May your sweet Jerome rest in peace knowing he was greatly loved.

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    1. Thank you, Tammy. Animals sure make their way into our hearts. I laugh at your description of your cat's determination. Jerome was the same way, although he was really good in my studio and didn't try to get onto my painting table.

      I so appreciate your kind comments.

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