On Resting in Peace

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.

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Cheryl August 30, 2013, 11:32 am

    I hope you find comfort, Sean, in sharing such comforting words with others. Your generosity of spirit shines through in every word. Peace to you, Chrisoula and your children.

    • Sean Reagan August 30, 2013, 11:42 am

      Thank you, Cheryl! I appreciate that. Have a great day . . .

  • janine August 30, 2013, 12:15 pm

    Dear Sean,

    Your Gus was a damn Lucky cat !!!
    No doubt his blessings are all around you all,

    Much love janine

    • Sean Reagan August 30, 2013, 12:23 pm

      LOL! He was, Janine. And we were lucky to share some time with him. Thank you!

      Sean

  • zrinka August 30, 2013, 12:17 pm

    There is great compassion in your and your wife’s relationship with Gus, from the beginning till the end. All of you are fortunate to have shared so much love and kindness towards each other. Augustus *Gus* is beautiful. Like little aslan. Incredible eyes. He has Light in his eyes, shining golden islands. When I saw his picture, that was the first thing I noticed. I thought to myself, wow, it is as if he has gold in his eyes, perhaps it is a reflection of Sean’s wife Chrisoula (gold), nurturing him. That Light was a reflection of the Love all of you shared, as it always is. Those with whom we have privilege to travel and who shine their Light on us, truly are our treasure, a gift God has given us, and although there is nothing to own, and nothing to keep, their movement through our little life, – for us – will always be precious, and extraordinary. I guess the only thing one can say after witnessing someone’s life and beauty is – Thank you.

    • Sean Reagan August 30, 2013, 12:24 pm

      Thank you, Zrinka. Yes – Aslan. That is perfect! And yes – gratitude for sharing another’s life and beauty. What else is there? Thank you so much.

      Sean

  • Jeanne August 30, 2013, 12:50 pm

    Hi Sean,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Our little pets bring the best out in us, don’t they? They give us the opportunity to be gracious and generous.

    I am allergic to cats so I had to look up their average lifespan which is 12-14 years. Wow! He beat the odds in so many ways. With as many health problems that Gus had, he lived a very long, and I suspect, a very good life. He was a lucky cat in so many ways. But particularly the fact that he ended up under your family’s roof.

    May your home continue to be blessed by these little beings.

    Jeanne

    • Sean Reagan August 30, 2013, 12:57 pm

      They do bring out the best in us!

      Thank you so much Jeanne.

      Sean

  • Claudia August 30, 2013, 5:30 pm

    Sean, this one was tough for me to read. We recently lost our 14 yr old calico that we’d nursed since birth and she died in my arms, looking in my eyes. Dealing with the thought of “loss” of the symbol of her physical being, I have been comforted by the knowledge that what Love creates is eternal and never “dies.” I can still feel her, and she still comes around, much to our delight, to remind us of just that. My heart is with you and yours.

    • Sean Reagan August 30, 2013, 6:06 pm

      Hi Claudia.

      Yes, it is hard to say goodbye to them – and to be reminded of it. There are good lessons in it too, though. That willingness to look for love – to focus on love – is so important. It is a real gift. Thank you, as always, for reading.

      ~ Sean

  • JayCee August 30, 2013, 6:17 pm

    I am sorry for the loss of your beautiful cat Gus. They are beautiful in they remind us of unconditional love. This statement from the course is always comforting to me “I have saved all your kindnesses and every loving thought you ever had.” T-5.IV.8:3 All kindnesses and every loving thought saved. Saved. The kindness given to Gus saved and all the love Gus gave saved. That brings peace to our hearts. Rest in Peace. My loving thoughts for you and your family. J

    • Sean Reagan August 30, 2013, 6:23 pm

      Thank you JayCee . . . Yes, unconditional love is the right phrase and that passage from the course is right on! Thank you for reminding me of it.

      Sean

  • Aleta August 30, 2013, 10:43 pm

    Sean, I am sorry about Gus. What a beautiful cat! He was so lucky to be able to share his time on earth with you and your wife, as you were lucky to have him! We are cat people; we have three. The oldest is an estimated 14, but she thinks she’s 3, which is fine with me. Isn’t it amazing how animals live in the “now.” They have no sense of time, and I’ve observed how accepting they (I’m speaking of cats now since that is what I observe mostly) are of whatever comes their way on any given day. They are FORGIVING of whatever troubles may seem to arise. We can learn from them! They surely are a blessing.
    This is a beautiful post; thank you for sharing!
    Peace & love to you and your family during this difficult time.

    • Sean Reagan August 31, 2013, 7:13 am

      Thank you Aleta! I hear you on cats that don’t act their age – I wonder if that is part of living in the now? I wasn’t a cat person until I got married but they absolutely bring a certain quality to a home. Can’t imagine life without them now. We have a couple of younger ones still.

      Thanks for the kind words!

      Sean

  • Fred Wahlstrom August 31, 2013, 12:19 am

    I know sorry don’t help, my 11 year old yorkie”cheese” died in Nov. I bottle fed him from 2 weeks. I always figured he was immortal, if you know what I mean.
    Fred

    • Sean Reagan August 31, 2013, 7:15 am

      I know exactly what you mean. I felt that way about my dog Jake. When he died, I didn’t know what to do with myself. It’s funny how powerful our relationships are with animals. They are great teachers. Thanks, Fred.

      Sean

      • Fred Wahlstrom August 31, 2013, 1:20 pm

        I don’t know what to do with myself in this world is what is implied, it was for me anyway. It brought my plight to my attention.
        The presence of absence, its like a splinter in the mind, what is this?
        Will I blow by it and let time “heal”it. Is it possible to actually know the nature of this negitive presence.
        Makes you wonder if this world is really a good place to hide out.

  • Pamela August 31, 2013, 4:24 pm

    So sorry that Gus is no longer with you. That is what was hardest for me each time one of our cats went on. They were not with me any longer and I could hardly bare their absence, their little odd and wonderful behaviors that made me smile and laugh daily, all the love we shared for so many years – now it had ended. I had a dream several months after my tuxedo cat, Rowdy, died. I was standing on a corner and a big black limo pulled up. The driver said, “You wanted to see him again, so here he is.” I got inside and he was sitting inside on this white leather seat. I petted him and kissed him and loved on him and then I picked him up and started to leave; but the limo driver told me, “Not yet. You will see him again and be with him, but not just yet.” That comforted me beyond words and I do believe it. I believe it about all of my cats. The body may be form but the mind and the love behind those little cat eyes, that is all about Real.

    • Sean Reagan September 3, 2013, 10:01 am

      Thank you so much, Pamela. I love that dream, by the way – and also your cat’s name.

      It is interesting reading back through this thread all the lovely stories about cats in particular and pets in general: for some reason they are a form that it is easier for us to see beyond to – as you so aptly put it – real love. What a gift they are!

      • Pamela September 3, 2013, 11:30 am

        Yes, they are a great gift, although I wouldn’t say ‘they’ are the form, just their bodies. Regarding seeing the love, what I have found with my pets is that it is just soooooo easy to see them as utterly innocent – and that fact is especially surprising and interesting to me because they are such little predators, taking great joy in both the hunt and the kill.

  • Eric September 2, 2013, 10:13 am

    Hi Sean,

    I read this yesterday and thought, “Wow!” I didn’t get a chance to respond though.

    I’m very sorry to hear about Gus. Being an animal lover and a pet owner, I know how hard it can be to lose our pets.

    Yesterday, my wife reminded me it was the one year anniversary of one of my cat’s passing. Like Gus, she was a rescue. Well technically I stole her from the neighbors, but I considered it a rescue.

    The neighbor kids abused her and would swing her by her tail. She had permanent nerve damage and a twitch in her tail for the rest of her life. They also did not feed her and she was skin and bones, with no hair on her backside, but many bleeding scab like sores.

    I remember the first day I saw her. I came home from work and this little black and white cat, came out of nowhere and flopped down in front of me. I tried to pet her, but she took off. Seemed she liked people, but was afraid of them at the same time. This went on for a few days.

    I saw that she was so skinny, so I started putting out a little cat food for her, but the other neighborhood cats decided to make my house the buffet restaurant. By this time, she was less timid and I somehow got her to come into the house with the promise of some tuna. I let her stay in the house that night and my other cat was not too happy, LOL.

    I awoke the next morning and couldn’t find her. I ended up finding her curled up on a dish on the kitchen counter. I assume, the cool feel of the plate felt good on her skin. I petted her and she purred away, seeming content with her new situation.

    I made the decision, she was now my cat and took her to the vet for hundreds of dollars of medical attention she needed. That same day I asked the kids what the name of the cat was, “Baby”, they said. She never ventured in their yard again, and they never said anything about her being in mine. We moved not too long after that.

    Baby liked people, but she didn’t like being held. Yet she loved it when I held her. In fact, she would follow me in the morning until I picked her up and gave her attention. She and my other cat were more like dogs. She would sit on the toilet seat to wait for me to take a shower and then follow me around the house. When I went to bed, she was one step ahead of me, jumping on the bed to lay down as I came into the bedroom. She often thought my pillow was hers.

    I never knew how old she was when I got her, but we were together for another 12 years. I think she lived a good life. In fact, I know she did. Yet, there is something funny about pets. They’re teachers too. She taught me about relationship and that no matter what the day brought, whether good or bad, whether I was upset, or angry, or scared, her relationship to me was always the same….loving.

    I sometimes miss “Babygirl” as I used to call her, but she’s buried in our yard with a nice plant we planted in memory of her. Sometimes while sitting outside reading or something, I’ll happen to look over at the plant, and I start thinking of the time we had together and I can’t help but smile.

    • Sean Reagan September 3, 2013, 9:47 am

      Thank you, Eric. That is a sweet story. Even though I don’t know who Gus’s original people were, I suspect the story was largely the same. It is very touching to be able to give like that to an animal and have them reciprocate. They are absolutely our teachers. Even though the course doesn’t really allude to it so much, I think we can forgive and be forgiven by animals and trees and plants as readily as by our human counterparts. At a minimum, animals can teach a lot about unconditional love. And we learn something about our own capacity to give, as well. I’m grateful. I need all the help I can get!

  • Bet Carbery September 4, 2013, 6:57 am

    Gus – another little ship that passes in the night.
    Brings to mind something Eckhart Tolle said – something like ‘I have lived with two masters – both of them cats’.
    Bet

    • Sean Reagan September 5, 2013, 3:31 pm

      Thanks, Bet. They do have that master energy, don’t they? Cats know something.

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