Good Grief

September 9, 2020. Two weeks now since my son’s death. He was here the seven weeks prior, seldom leaving the house except for a daily walk around the block. The Labrador and two cats blinked at furniture rearrangements and accepted my son’s desire to be left unlicked, unrubbed. That said, he spent hours observing the canine/feline maneuvers and interactions. It was soon clear they were meditative entertainment through long hours of “just sitting” in the living room. I’d peek at him from behind my computer screen … or gaze at him from my rocking chair … grateful for the nonverbal companionship he enjoyed. Pets don’t ask questions.

Labrador and calico have acclimated, but I keep finding the ginger cat prowling the now-empty room we turned into his bedroom and sitting on the doorstep – signs of searching: where’d he go? For seven weeks his energy filled these rooms, and that remains. I sense a smile of sorts penetrating the space, his pleasure that this cat is seeking him. Perhaps he speaks to her in ways I cannot hear – perhaps they’re engaged in an adventure game. So much I cannot understand.

43 thoughts on “Good Grief

  1. Hi Jazz, I cannot imagine anything worse than losing a child, a potential I keep an eye on with a son with a condition Mayo Clinic tracks every 6 months. He is doing well at this point sans covid so far. But what I really want to share with you is the story from my husband’s work as a palliative care physician. This occurred when we lived in New Zealand and he worked at a hospice in Invercargill. Living at the hospice was a large black cat named Humphrey. His observation confirmed by the staff at the hospice, was that Humphrey sensed who was closing out their life and he spent a lot of time in that person’s room. The staff began to watch where Humphrey was spending a lot of time. Even when a person seemed healthy, if Humphrey was in attendance, their time was shorter than the staff would have predicted.  Humphrey sensed who needed his comfort. This was not a singular observation. This is a well reported observation from hospice personnel where an animal/cat is present. I wonder if your cat may have been aware of your son’s approaching death. Best,Janice Janice Keller Kvale, PhD, FACNM 4818 Berkman Drive Austin TX 78723 You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. C.S. Lewis

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    1. Janice, thank you for sharing about the hospice cat. I’ve heard similar tales. When we brought Tom home from Minnesota, I crossed my fingers Brie would be a therapy cat even though she’s never been a snuggler. She proved the perfect match for Tom, who did not want to be touched – performing all sorts of antics a few feet from his feet, never once asking anything in return. I can easily believe they had a silent communication between them, that she recognized he was getting weaker and weaker, her sensory powers beyond mere visual, auditory modes. BTW this was my first hospice experience – they came here to the house the last few days – WONDERFUL people.

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  2. Although they have no words, animals express so much. Blessings are indeed mixed – thought of you this week as I was in hospital, no visitors allowed – how blessed you were to have your son close by. Ah, life. Hugs friend.

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    1. VJ, thank you. Hope you are progressively feeling better. Glad you’re home with Ric and your pups.
      Hospitals are essential at times, but NOT a desirable place to be overall.
      I’ve learned many things from my son over the years – his last shot was demonstrating the advantages (the feasibility!) of Hospice over hospital when the body fails. Things I’ve thought “I could never do that!” proven otherwise.
      Here’s to rising to meet our challenges. (& indulging in a cleansing cry when we need to.)

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    1. Ben, thank you … condolences appreciated … and I agree that there is more “to this” than I can absorb, let alone comprehend. Nothing is wasted – my experience of his death will serve me somehow sometime somewhere. I trust that his choice to “not fight it” put him at ease with transition and perhaps that model will guide me in years ahead. Meanwhile memories swirl and I can only sit in awed gratitude that he was in my life. Years alive do not measure value or duration of influence.

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  3. Beautiful words Jazz! I really like where you say “I sense a smile of sorts penetrating the space, his pleasure that this cat is seeking him.” And the last 2 lines of the poem
    “We miss him – together
    _a good grief pairing”
    I love how you are honoring your son. And honoring his relationship with the non human members of your family.
    My daughter was here for 6 months doing online classes because of the pandemic. When she went back to college in August I noticed that our cat was acting different and I think she misses my daughter. I wish I could communicate with the pets about what is or has happened to their beloved people.

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  4. Betty, please give your cat a few strokes for me.
    Isn’t it intriguing how an occupant’s energies remain in surroundings even after the physical being has gone elsewhere? My mother would talk about this after we’d been to visit her with my kids for several days … she kept expecting to turn around and see the kids. More than wishful thinking, I believe. Cats seem to experience such also.

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  5. So beautifully written and so moving! Thanks for sharing this. Cats are so connected to the other side. I always loved that about them. Slowly my heart is opening for a cat or dog to come into my life again after a long pause to let grief pass through fully and just be in the emptiness.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your animal awareness – I have never lived w/o a companion animal except for the days in college dormitories … and I went home to visit my pets as much as my family during those spells. I understand how the loss of companion animal wreaks havoc with many things. We listen to our hearts.

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  6. My friend, Lilie, linked me to your site. I am grateful to her. Your memories of those last days/weeks with your son are so poignant and comforting. Your poetry is beautiful, heartfelt, gripping. I lost my only sister last week. My heart feels your pain, understands the ache of emptiness. I’m grateful he could be with you in his last weeks. With COVID preventing travel and visits, I was not able to see my sis in person since this pandemic started. ZOOM helped me prepare for her departure. Alzheimer’s took her away day-by-day, piece-by-piece, until she is finally at peace. There is comfort in that. Thank you for sharing your grief thorugh your gift of poetry. It is much appreciated. ❤

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  7. Jan, please accept a virtual hug. Losing a loved one is tough, and not being able to visit your sister surely added to your load. Thank you for sharing. I feel the peace in your assessment “finally at peace”. I feel that about my son, as well.

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