When we form deep connections, we absolutely breathe love. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Everything feels so gooood! Sudden loss on the other hand, is a force so powerful it can be simply devastating. But my intention for this post is not about a process to determine what is more or less devastating about a death. Rather it is that loss, like love, is based on what meaning a particular person/thing/event has for the other.
For some of us, a ‘devastating’ loss could mean the death of a beloved spouse, a job or one’s eyesight.
For others it could be a relationship, a home or a treasured piece of jewellery. Regardless of the ‘item’, loss in itself has a way of triggering such a deep and wide range of emotions that it can leave us breathless, with the world we knew turned entirely on its head. Because it’s always about what’s going on inside of us, isn’t it? My father, who was always quite pragmatic about his own life (especially towards the end), would often laugh and say “Death comes to us all; none of us escapes it.” Which of course is true, but when I was young I was puzzled by this because I never really understood it. Death was an enigma, and now that I’m an adult I have learnt to acknowledge it more fully, and how much I appreciate my very presence on this planet and the opportunities gifted to me in each day.
I have also learnt that death in itself is not always devastating.
The death of a struggling relationship is not always a bad thing; the death of a set of limiting beliefs can be a really good thing; the death of a job is often the birth of a wonderful new opportunity; the death of one animal is a nourishing nutrient-dense food source to another. I have also learnt how we can move into automaton-coping-mode when necessary, to deal with the practical elements that always seem to follow a death (and by death I mean of anything, right?!) and how much resilience we have when things really get shitty. Because yes, although death IS a normal part of life, we have been taught to fear it and keep it at bay for as long as possible.
My gorgeous cat of almost 13 years was perfectly healthy until a couple of days before she died. And then she got sick and then she died. Just like that. And let me tell you, despite knowing all that stuff about death being a part of life, her demise threw me in a way I would not have foreseen and certainly could not have imagined. Because Satara was more than ‘just a cat’ – and well, because I am not invincible either. That sassy, fearless feline was invincible to me though. She was always by my side, moved countries with me three times(!) and moved house with me countless others. Feisty and spirited, she drank from the showerhead of Life, was mad for a dollop of Greek yoghurt, and would jauntily head out for nature walks alongside me. Satara: named after the rest camp in the Kruger National Park in South Africa where we’ve always seen lions. A true lionheart, she taught me the power of zen, and blessed me with the power of love. A magnificent teacher and a mischievous creature with a lot of cat-titude (hmm, sorry).
Truthfully, she was a small being with an enormous presence, who left such a hole in my heart that I wondered if I would ever recover from it. Satara for me was pure, unconditional love. Despite all my musings, I struggled to process her death because I was so attached to her life and our relationship. Her death eventually came to symbolise the loss and simultaneous birth of an entirely new chapter for me, for which I am profoundly grateful. I still wonder sometimes why she left. And perhaps that’s what coping with death really means: the ability to find the beauty in the pain, the compassion to grieve as and when we need to, and finally the realisation that all matter really IS just energy.
“May I live this day compassionate of heart, clear in word, gracious in awareness, courageous in thought, generous in love.” ~ John O’Donohue
And yes I have recovered from her death, as we all do with these things. I still miss her dancing up the path to greet me though! I miss seeing her curled up on the sofa, or purring softly in my lap. But I also know she’s ‘still around’, and I know for sure that her fiery little self ignited a flame within me that will not die out. I too, am a lionheart. And much like the rejuvenation of plants in the veld after a ‘devastating’ fire, I too am growing, more generous in love.