Our cat Gus died this morning. He was at least eighteen years old. The last few days were difficult for him. I woke at about midnight and checked on him and it was clear he was going. My wife, Chrisoula, sat with him until he was gone.
Gus’s full name was Augustus Bradley Reagan. He was named for Gus McCrae in Lonesome Dove and the road on which he was found. He had my surname because I was the one who found him. Most of the cats get Chrisoula’s last name. She’s the cat person, really.
In June of 1996 I was walking to law school, en route to God knows what class, and I spied a dead cat on the side of the road. As I passed, it lifted its head and mewed piteously. I sat next to it for about an hour until a passerby slowed and asked if I needed help. I explained the situation and she helped ferry him back to our apartment.
I slept on a tiny porch with him the first two nights because we figured he was going to die and didn’t want to try to integrate him with our other cats. But he didn’t die. He had a lot of health problems his first year, but he was a fighter. A fighter with so much fur we often marveled at how clean he kept it. He was popular with friends and family. He wasn’t a lap cat but he loved people. He always played the King in our tiny kingdom. Cats are like that, most of them.
Gus was the last of our pre-kid pets. When Chrisoula came in to tell me he was finally gone, we held each other and cried. We missed Gus, of course, but I think too we realized a chapter in our lives had finally ended. We are all in motion.
Bodies come and go. Change is what form is. Cats and dogs grow old and die. The leaves are turning outside. Last week I found the crushed body of a hummingbird on the road. The marigolds that broke my heart with their beauty in June break it differently as their blossoms darken and sink towards the earth. We fall in love with this form or another, are happy for a while, and then grieve when it passes. It’s okay. It’s a pale substitute for inner peace and joy, but it’s okay. God’s patience is endless.
The peace of God – the peace that surpasses the understanding of the world, which includes our brains – cannot be limited to a special cat or a special friend or a special place. So long as we hold one element of perception above or beyond the others, we remain enmeshed in in the apparent separation from God.
To fragment truth is to destroy it by rendering it meaningless. Orders of reality is a perspective without understanding; a frame of reference for reality to which it cannot really be compared at all (T-17.I.4:4-5).
Yet all is not lost. When shared with the Holy Spirit, our countless special relationships and our fearful guilty reasons for establishing them are gently brought together, the way singular sparks are joined to make a glorious light.
[F]orgiveness literally transforms vision, and lets you see the real world reaching quietly and gently across chaos, removing all illusions that had twisted your perception and fixed it on the past. The smallest leaf becomes a thing of wonder, and a blade of grass a sign of God’s perception (T-17.I.6:2-3).
And so in our special loves – for each other, for certain landscapes, for certain animals – we can, when attentive and willing, begin to see the Light that is Christ shimmering in each of them. It’s not special to them: it glimmers in all things. All cats are sacred. All children are holy. All forest trails are beautiful. The are no exceptions.
Love is one. It has no separate parts and no degrees; no kinds nor levels, no divergencies and no distinctions. It is like itself, unchanged throughout. It never alters with a person or a circumstanced. It is the Heart of God, and also of His Son (W-pI.127.1:3-7).
We aren’t there yet. But we are getting there. And along the way we are blessed with travelers in whom that Light glows with particular intensity. The Holy Relationship is nothing more than the old relationship “transformed and seen anew (T-17.V.2:2).”
We think we say goodbye but the Light that infuses everything remains. It is the divine condition of what we are in Truth. It is nameless and formless. It is not born and does not die. It was given to us in Creation. It is us.
How grateful I am to those who radiate the hints of Light towards which – with you – I stumble. Cats, horses, bears, rocks, flowers, trails, children, friends, books, apples and stars. “Rest in peace,” we say to the dead, as if any other Home were possible. The evidence is forever all around us.