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Closure

At my last visit to Costco, I bought a bucket of kitty litter. We’ve had two cats for many years now, but I never had to buy litter before. They always stayed outside and went to the bathroom in the backyard. That was because we had dogs in the house, and the cats couldn’t stand being in the same house with the dogs. For most of the time we have owned this house, going on three decades, we have had dogs. I wrote about our older daughter’s dog Kahvi in a story on my website The Dog That Ate Stalin. In the last several years we lost two dogs to cancer. For me, the loss of Audrey was the hardest, even though she was our younger daughter’s dog, not mine. Still, I had gotten quite close to Audrey who started out her life with intestinal problems that nearly killed her. After a couple of operations, she lived quite well until cancer claimed her unexpectedly at age 8. Now, with no dogs in the house, the cats have decided to come in to spend the cold, rainy nights. One of them likes to go on the pantry and bathroom floors. Getting tired of cleaning cat pee and poop off the floor was my motivation to buy the litter and construct a temporary litter box out of cardboard. I am sure I will get a regular box eventually.

At a memorial service a few weeks ago, I spoke to my friends about the time it has taken to find closure over the loss of our pets. I said I didn’t know if I will have another dog again. They are quite expensive, and my income has decreased greatly over the last few years. One spoke in support of pet health insurance, saying it was a good deal. Thinking of it later, I realized it was more than the monetary expense. Pets take a lot of our time as well. I know I could have done a better job training her. She was a pain to take on walks, lunging at other dogs when I had her on the leash. If I decide to have another dog, I would need to consider that time investment, as well.

For about a month after Audrey died, I didn’t feel like doing much. I would miss her nosing my bedroom door open in the middle of the night and plopping herself on my bed with a thud. I would imagine the bed shaking and look over to see if she was there. No, I had to realize, Audrey won’t be jumping on the bed anymore. Now, while watching TV, I will have a cat (or two) on my lap. That is how closure can happen sometimes. One door closes. Another opens.

A few years after my adoptive mother Alice died of breast cancer, I had a vivid dream about her I will never forget. It seemed the two us were in standing in her bedroom, having a normal conversation, nothing out of the ordinary. She started looking through her dresser, trying to find something. I don’t know what. Suddenly, she turned around and gave me a big hug. I felt that hug. It was very powerful, like she could crush me to death with it, but it was intentionally restrained in order to convey her message. When I woke up, I realized what that message was. “Don’t worry about me. I’m OK. Keep going without me.”

I adopted Quakerism as my religious faith, though I confess to being an agnostic. A few Quakers have admitted to me that they are atheists. I don’t know if there is a God, or if there isn’t. I do believe in the possibility of a reality that is greater than what we experience and call reality. I wonder if that hug was my connection to that greater reality and if Alice was sending the message that our existence does not end with death.

I have been wondering if I should write down any special instructions for my own memorial. The Quaker Meeting I am a member of, Strawberry Creek, has been encouraging its members to write up a final affairs document that the Meeting can keep on file. I guess the big question for me is where the memorial would be held. Strawberry Creek does not own a meetinghouse. We rent space in a school. I’d rather it not be held there. Either Berkeley Friends Meeting or Berkeley Friends Church would be good locations, as both are accessible by public transit.

At one Meeting workshop on the subject of final affairs, we discussed what kind of music, if any, we would want for our memorial meetings. I asked if it would be in bad taste to request Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from LIfe of Brian. A good memorial should include humor. Eric Idle’s song would lighten things up a bit. Or I could choose the Kinks’ Celluloid Heroes. “Celluloid Heroes never feel any pain, and Celluloid Heroes never really die,” wrote Ray Davies. The actors we see in the movies have transcended death. Their art keeps them alive. That would be inspiring. When I heard Patti Smith sing Peaceable Kingdom, the song she wrote for Rachel Corrie, I immediately thought it would be perfect for a Quaker memorial meeting.

The problem with song requests is that it would take away from the spontaneity of silent worship. Maybe the songs could be sung at the reception afterward. The memorial itself should leave plenty of room for messages. If I could deliver a message to that memorial meeting it would be “Don’t worry about me. I’m OK. For those who remember, loved ones still live.”

May the memories of those who have left us bring us the closure we seek.

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February 22, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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