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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Learning To Let Go

It’s taken me a while to write this post, but it has been something that I’ve been meaning to write eventually. It has to do with death, and the eventual “letting go” that we who remain must deal with. This is not the first time I’ve had to do this, and it most certainly will not be the last. Still, no matter how many times I go through this, I still find myself so conflicted and unable to get through it, like I’d forgotten what to do since the last time. It hasn’t ever been easy for me, but throw genuine care and attachment into the mix and it becomes a life-changing situation that usually leaves me devastated. This is how it was with “Panda-kutty” the day that she left us all, and went to that big Animal Paradise in the sky.

Setting The Stage

A few months ago, when I was at home at my Grandmother’s place, I had the unique opportunity of finding myself with enough time to get reacquainted with many of the cats whom I had only happened to see for a weekend at a time before that. They always looked at me like an outsider who would leave soon enough for them to resume their normal lives. Of course they’d come up and beg when I was eating something, being particularly sure to hang out around the dining table around meal times. It’s like they had secret cat watches that we didn’t know about. Either that, or they had figured out the human concept of time and learned to read the clock that was in the dining room. But, if I took food out of the equation, I suddenly became the outsider all over again. Now, however, here I was rather indefinitely, so eventually I figured that they had to get used to me being around. I have to point out at this time that I consider myself to be a bit of an animal person. Had a pet dog who died a few years ago after a long life. And although he was more attached to my mother and should really have been her dog, every time he was up to no good people would come to me with, “Look at what your dog did!” Now, I like cats too, and interestingly enough, I can remember a time when I was really little and we were visiting my grandmother, and there were almost 14 cats and kittens around the house. The reason I bring up the cats and the number of them who used to be around is because the numbers had swelled to the same level. Actually, when I first got home on my indefinite break, many of the female cats were pregnant. Funny thing about that, because apart from two of the cats, all the rest are female. 

As I had hoped, the existing cats did warm up to me, and my particular brand of doling out snacks at a moment’s notice, while being very wary of my ability to admonish and throw something in their direction if they were being naughty, like going through the trash in spite of their incessant snacking. It was a love-hate relationship that we were both comfortable with, and the most contact that was made was 12 seconds of petting for those that allowed me to touch them. And then, almost as if on cue, within a two-week span, all of the females had given birth.

When I say “all the females had given birth” I’m referring to five of the females; three cats who had already had litters before this, and two cats for who this was their first time. I make this distinction because the experienced mothers had located and occupied the best spots in the house, the most prized location being somewhere in the woodpile near the kitchen because it meant a nonstop access to food throughout the day. In all, there were 12 kittens. Within a week, the ones who were born at the beginning of the fortnight were walking around and getting ready to cause havoc, while the rest still hadn’t opened their eyes but were loud enough to be heard if not seen, when they were hungry.  Soon enough, all of them were mobile, and slowly finding their way towards the kitchen where their mothers used to hang out. Pandemonium ensued on a daily basis with my mother trying to half discipline them and half keep the kitchen from being totally destroyed by overly curious kittens running amok. It was quite cute, obviously, since I was only observing. However, there is a lot to be said for pets getting used to the human concept of hygiene and being “house broken”. Well, I did help with clean-ups every now and then, mostly in the mornings when I came downstairs and discovered oddly colored puddles all over the place. Potty training hasn’t really been an issue once the kittens grow up, going by previous experience at home, because there is enough land around the house for them to do their “business” outside, something that they learn once they’re old enough to jump in and out through the windows and observe the other cats. Before you ask, it’s a 150-year-old house with thick wooden doors that are thicker than all the doors in the average house stacked one on top of the other, which means a cat flap is out of the question. In spite of all this, and the apparent extra stuff that we had to do around the house cleaning up after them, it was still really cute. I took tons of pictures and short video clips of them, mostly for my own amusement. Curiously, the more I hung around the kitchen or thereabouts to photograph them, they got used to me being around, and many of them resorted to playing around my feet and playing hide-and-seek near my ankles inside my lungi (think ‘sarong for men’ and worn all the way down to the ankles, the South Indian equivalent of track pants, or shorts, or whatever house wear you’re most comfortable in). That was the icing on the cake for me. They were comfortable with me, so much so that they almost always assembled near my feet whenever I was around; hiding, seeking, and occasionally missing their mark and clawing my with their tiny claws in the process. This continued for another couple of weeks, and the different litters did this in batches, almost. The older they got, the more inclined they were to discover the bigger world outside of the kitchen and the house, so playing hide-and-seek with my lungi for a screen just got boring. Well, that and the fact that I used to jump up yelping when better developed claws had my feet and ankles looking like a sheet of graph paper with fine, red welts everywhere. I think it was the second litter of kittens that delivered a surprise to me, in my lap literally. There were three of them, and they all looked rather regal in their own way. Their mother was one of the older cats, one of a pair of cats that had survived for more than five years. This is a big deal among feral cats at the house, and I imagine in semi-rural India, where they have to keep their eyes open for feline-hating humans, dogs, jackals, and other cats who were constantly trying to muscle in on their territory. 

Meet “Panda-kutty”

Sure enough though, in this litter, there was a kitten, the prettiest of the lot, who began climbing into my lap instead of keeping to the games going on at my feet. My uncle named her “Panda-kutty” (“kutty” being the Malayalam word for “child”) because according to him, she looked like a miniature panda bear. Even if this wasn’t the case, I kind of agreed with him. More importantly, she was really cute to begin with, and the climbing into my lap only endeared her to me no end. It was like a special bond had been formed, and I don’t know why, but I guess I let myself get carried away a little, being perfectly willing to let her treat me like a couch of sorts. If things weren’t particularly well for me at this time, this was the one thing that made it all worthwhile. This was the first time that I had made an animal friend like this. It had all the promise of becoming something near-legendary, as far as human-feline relations went.

Panda-kutty sleeping on my lap

Panda-kutty grew into a fine young kitten. Together with her mother and her two sisters, she learned to go from the kitchen to the living room and back on her own. She learned to jump through the window in the living room to get outside, when she was able to jump that high. And one day, I found the whole family waiting on the bottom-most branch of a neem tree. What were they waiting for? The mother thought it fit to teach them how to climb onto the roof , which was at the same level as the branch they were on, even though it was at least two-and-a-half feet away. To my astonishment, the kittens didn’t follow their mother onto the roof on that day. A couple of nights later, however, as we sat down to dinner, I heard some frantic meowing from right above my head. I looked up at the rafters and the tiles resting on them, but I couldn’t see anything. I grabbed a torch and went outside, and when I shone the beam on the roof, I found a perplexed Panda-kutty cautiously pacing around, trying to make her way down to ground level. Without a second thought, I called out to her, and coaxed her to the edge of the roof near where they had tried to jump onto the roof a couple of days ago. She came down, still cautiously, and when she got to the edge, she looked doubly confounded. I kept calling out to her, and I kept assuring and reassuring her that it was alright. I even told her that I would catch her if she jumped towards me, but who was I kidding, right? Still nothing, except scared meowing. In the dark, among plants and trees, with a torch in my hand, I decided to try and look at things from her point of view. I looked at the branch again, and I noticed a few new shoots that seemed to be obstructing her landing. Immediately, I put the torch in my mouth, jumped a little bit to reach the branch, grabbed on with one hand, and with my other, now “free” hand proceeded to snap off the branches that were apparently causing all the trouble. With my simian antics complete and my feet back on solid ground, I transferred the torch back to my hand and  resumed calling out to her, still in as soothing a tone as I could muster. The adjustment seemed to be the answer, because after a couple of gentle words she jumped onto the branch and climbed down the tree. As I led her into the house, through the kitchen, and made my way back into the dining room to continue my dinner, Panda-kutty in tow, my mother made it publicly known that I was off my rocker for trying to teach a cat to climb down off the roof. Yes, I’m pretty sure that the neighbors heard her. As far as I was concerned though, it was my duty to ensure that Panda-kutty or any of the other little kittens were never in distress. It felt right. It felt like I could make a difference. And quite honestly, the image of Adam, as caretaker of the Earth came to my mind. It almost became an ideal that I should work towards, and I was determined to prove wrong all those opposed. 

Plot Twist

Life has a funny way of making you question your beliefs. It also has a sense of humor or something to that effect that I haven’t yet managed to put my finger on. Whatever it may be, it resulted in the overall cat-and-kitten count dropping to six! For whatever reason, and I even did some reading online about this, but it appears that feral kittens are particularly prone to a kind of disease that resembles the flu, and it often results in a slow and painful death. It was heartbreaking and gut wrenching and unlike anything else I had experienced before. My dog passed away early one morning, I was told. My aunt’s dogs, the ones that had to be put down because they had developed some kind of cancer, and I had to take them to the vet to do it. That was pretty bad. This? This was far worse. One by one, we watched the kittens die. Even a couple of the adult cats succumbed to this epidemic, which was very rare according to my online reading. Thinking about it all over again is quite painful, especially when the images come flooding back from the dark recesses of my memory. It was sad, strange, and so frustrating to not be able to take them to a vet or anything. On the first day, they would refuse to eat anything, and it sounded like they were wheezing. Then, after a day of starvation, they would stop consuming anything at all, including liquids. That second day, as their little bodies seemed to battle the hunger, and the spasms that periodically wracked their bodies while struggling to breathe through all of this. I tried my level best, bringing them water in half coconut shells, and trying to tell them that it would be OK and they’d make it. To no avail. The morning of the third day, whoever discovered a tiny feline body automatically took on the task of burying it. Between my mother, my uncle and myself, we buried them all of them. It was horrific, made far worse by the questioning glances of the mother cats looking up at you, and then their fallen offspring, as if to say, “Please, do something.” But anthropomorphizing or not, the devastation was unbearable.

What really got to me was one morning, when I woke up, and after my customary cup of tea, on my rounds to see how all the surviving kittens were doing, I found Panda-kutty laying on her stomach, paws folded regally in front of her. Nothing seemed amiss. Nothing, until I approached her and she looked up at me with a little wheeze and a cough! My head started spinning. This couldn’t be happening to her. I think I cursed out loud. I grabbed the water bowl, washed it out, filled it up with fresh water and took it to her. She looked up at me, opening her eyes slowly almost as if it hurt her to do that. Then she looked at the bowl of water in front of her, and turned her head away. I think I wanted to cry at that moment. I moved the bowl of water away from her and sat down next to her. Almost instinctively, she climbed into my lap and laid down. I shed a tear, and stifled a sob, almost. This was the first day, and I didn’t know for the life of me what I would do all of the second day. I wasn’t even thinking of the morning of the third day. I can’t explain what I really felt, but I know I felt a lot of rage. When I opened my eyes again, I saw red! I was furious at not being able to figure out a way around this and somehow limiting the spread of this virus, or whatever it was. I was frustrated that of all the things we tried to do to nurture these little guys, they ultimately surrendered their lives to a debilitating illness that seemed inevitable, judging by the literature I had come across. Also, I was extremely upset at my mother and uncle for telling me to get Panda-kutty off of my lap because she was infected. Perhaps they meant well, but it didn’t quite come out like that. All I knew was that it hurt like hell. And, it hurt even more because although there was an encouraging sign on the second day when Panda-kutty was at least drinking a little bit of water, the fact that she wouldn’t eat anything still worried me. I hoped for the best. I prayed to every god I’d ever heard of. I even wished in my heart that if it were possible I would give up my life so that she would grow up to be a cat and make the most of her feline life. On the evening of the third day, when my uncle stepped outside with some rice to feed the cats their dinner, he found Panda-kutty laying near the door, motionless. I was watching TV when I heard him call out to me. I couldn’t make out what he was saying, so I decided to go find him. My heart sank when I got there and saw Panda-kutty there. Still. Not breathing. Face contorted as if horrified by the first glimpse of death, completed by her tongue hanging out of her mouth. I froze for a second, before recovering to look up at my uncle who had been asking me to get the shovel. I went back in to get it, but my mind was blank. I had hoped against hope that Panda-kutty would make it out alright. Now? Well, I guess I was simultaneously preparing myself for the worst. No matter who much you prepare yourself for something, life sometimes has a way of throwing a wrench in to the works. No wrench here, just a void. I handed my uncle the shovel, and right outside the kitchen, near the jackfruit tree he went right to work digging a hole. He worked fervently and at a furious pace. As I watched him, I could tell that he too was trying to cope with this tragedy in his own way. Despite my constantly reassuring him that he had a deep enough hole, he kept at it until he was satisfied, telling me that you could never get deep enough to avoid the marauding jackals for who carrion was always on the menu. When it was all over, he scooped up Panda-kutty’s body, and put her in the hole he had dug, covering her up gently as if the falling dirt might have caused her some last minute discomfort.

The End Came Slowly

I was at a loss the next day. Where I expected to see a healthy, robust Panda-kutty come bounding up to me expecting a snack, or at least for me to sit down so she could climb into my lap, there was nothing. Only a couple of other kittens in various stages of slowly having the life force drain out of them. I started to think back to when I first saw her, and when she first climbed into my lap. No other kitten had ever ventured that far, so early on she showed a lot of promise to be a more exploring and adventurous cat. She had oodles of potential. “Had,” I guess, being the key word in that last sentence. I even thought back to how just a week before she fell ill she had discovered the portico upstairs, and me sitting at the computer. I remember that amused gleam in her eye, as she jumped up on the table and proceeded to investigate what was going on, finally settling down into a Sphinx-like pose near the computer, tilting her head with genuine animal curiosity. But, that was the week before all this. And now, well, 12 bundles of “potential” and joy and cute-and-cuddly had starved themselves to death for no apparent reason. In fact, two cats from an earlier litter had disappeared. One of them had given birth to two kittens in the midst of all this death. And now, the mother was gone. Presumed dead. Well, “presumed dead” until I found her at the base of one of the coconut trees, fighting for her life. Two days later, she came back into the house, skinny as all hell, but alive and hungry. That was a good sign because it meant she had fought it and one, technically being a “cat” and not a “kitten” having delivered her first litter. It was fortunate. Unfortunately for her, two days away from her newborn kittens was two days too many. They died, somewhere in the wood pile, crying out for their mother,  or some kind of helping hand, from anyone, or even any of the other cats that was willing to play surrogate mother. Did I already say that this entire ordeal was emotionally devastating?

A Lesson, Somewhere

I still think about this, and it has been a long time, I know, but still, it just seems too hard to let go. What am I holding on to? Well, the memories of Panda-kutty and all the other kittens that I had played with, fed, and gently persuaded to avoid doing anything that would upset my mother. All the time, I kind of grew closer to them as I observed them and tried to share in their world. Sure I was anthropomorphizing again. Sure I treated them like children, almost. At times. But the fact of the matter is, I developed a sort of connection, whether imagined or not, and I let it get to me. I mean, if I really think about it, part of the whole “cute” animals thing is the fact that they’re just trying to survive. Most of the attention I receive from these feral cats and kittens is food related. They’re always around when there’s food available, and most of the contact that they’re willing to make, perhaps even coming up to you and rubbing up against your leg when you’re holding a snack even though five minutes earlier they ran for their lives when you tried to reach down and pet them. Still, regardless of what the motive may be, there is a connection that develops. And sometimes, with some people, it’s all about how you deal with that connection once it no longer exists..

Thinking about this makes me think about and appreciate the lessons of the Buddha. To understand that desire is the cause for suffering is a truly profound concept to grasp. I tried puzzling it out for myself, like really putting it through the cogs and wheels of my mind to get a handle on it, especially in light of this disaster. Especially since we lost Panda-kutty. The fact of the matter is, and I’ve thought about this, if I’d treated Panda-kutty like anyone else would have treated a normal, feral kitten -- ensuring that they didn’t get on the furniture, if they were allowed into the house in the first place, an advantage that came from my family being far more tolerant overall -- I probably wouldn’t have been so attached, and this wouldn’t have been so hard to deal with. I would have probably swatted her off my lap the first time she tried to climb into it, and that would have been the end of that. But that’s the kicker. I would never be able to do that. It’s just the way I am, I guess, and I don’t really feel the need to change it. And that’s when it struck me! 

I had arrived at a “Eureka!” moment! I wasn’t like that. I was not capable of not falling in love with a kitten who thought nothing of trying to climb into my lap, or anyone else’s lap for that matter, whenever the opportunity presented itself. It was too cute. And it wasn’t something that I was capable of keeping my grimy human hands off of. Too bad, perhaps, but it’s just the way I am. This is my true nature with regard to how I interact with the cats at my grandmother’s house, and as a result, I would like to interact with all cats and other living things in like manner. And now that I had arrived at this point in my journey to myself, it was for me to act upon this new information, by understanding that life passes us by when we least expect it. To word it otherwise, and more closely to resemble the events that I refer to, even though I know that death is inevitable and that it’s the one thing you can be absolutely sure of, I shouldn’t think of any pain that I experience as being a problem for me because it limits my ability to give of myself the next time it is needed. As my friend Lotay puts it, “The moment we are unable to feel pain, is the moment we are unable to love.” Truth be told, in the past, I’ve walked past many a stray puppy or kitten on the road, and even shooed some of them away, trying to keep a brave face and giving people the “c’est la vie” argument for not helping out. The moment I get back home, or have a moment to collect my thoughts, I can’t get that cute, furry little face out of my head, and I spend the rest of the day playing all the “worst-case” scenarios back in my head, wishing that help, or the end, came quickly. Sure it’s confusing, and sure it can be a cyclical argument if you wonder about it being better to save a starving life, or to choose to not interfere and disrupt the workings of “fate” whatever they may be. My only issue with the first scenario is that many times, people consider feeding to be a form of help. And, it is for sure, but there is a lot more that goes into “care”. I mean, can you imagine if your parents only fed you, either when you begged or when they saw you starving and trying to fish any edible morsel from the trash? What would you do about hygiene needs? Worse, what would you do if some of the food you ate was tainted and made you feel sick. Perhaps the food was poorly prepared, and it has tapeworm larvae in it. You’re in pain, and quite possibly dying all the while, but every time you show up at your human Samaritan’s door, all they do is have more food waiting for you. Even if they notice you limping, or twitching on the floor in the near-final throes of death, all they can hope for is a quick death to happen, before they close the door and return to their life with a “That’s too bad.” The second scenario? Well, that’s a little cold-hearted, even for my taste, but I learned as a child that by appearing to make it work, people left it and you well alone. Having said that, however, I have to say again, it’s the toughest thing to try and do.

If You Let It, History Will Repeat Itself

I’ve posted a couple of times about the two new kittens, here at my friend’s place in Hyderabad. The names Patches and Whitey seemed to pop up, and so they stuck. For me, it was interesting to see how the stray cats around, though petrified of people, would still come running up to us when we held out a snack. Some were more aggressive, often resorting to playful clawing or vigorously rubbing up against our legs. It was like I was witnessing the setting up of what was to become a dynasty of feral cats and kittens. It’s a curious place to be, as you see the alteration of behavior; some of it learned and then altered to suit changing living conditions, like having a roof overhead and a “place” to come back to, while the rest of it is reacting to instincts that tell them that human beings are dangerous, but who seem to be feeding them and caring for them. And that’s how it was with these two. We’d feed them just outside the side door of the house, so that their mother could come up and share in the meal, this being while she was still feeding, and just in case any other bullies came along and tried to cash in on the food bonanza. Once she stopped feeding them, we moved the feeding inside because that eliminated the need to keep an ear out for any random attacks by one of the marauding, bulbous-headed tom cats around. Of course they were allowed on the furniture, and for  the longest time we enjoyed their antics and took great pains to try and entertain them. A big positive seemed to be the fact that by the time they had come to us, they seemed to have already been housebroken by their mother, so there wasn’t all of that cleaning up to do. They feasted on snacks a plenty, and sampled every little thing that we either made at home, or brought home from a fancy restaurant. In between, there was a bit of a scare with Whitey, because she fell ill on a couple of occasions, and watching her lose her appetite and sleep all day long, I thought she was a definite goner. Still, whenever possible, I tried to see if her condition would get better, making sure to offer her something every time we sat down to eat, or whenever we gave Patches anything. Remarkably, she bounced back after letting the illness work its way out of her system, and we knew this by her extra loud meowing when we opened the fridge or the kitchen door. And so it seemed to go for the better part of the last six months.

Then, one day, I happened to be trying to write something, or maybe do a little bit of reading up on something, and so I used my friend’s room to do it without any interruption from the kittens. By now, they were both old enough, pushing 6 months of age I think, to be able to visit the neighbors’ houses and see if there was a bite on offer. Still, I took it upon myself to ensure that their bowl of milk always had some milk in it, and that they would get something to eat whenever I was eating. I placed a little bit of a rice and curd mixture in their little feeding dish, and called to them. Patches was sitting in a Sphinx-like position, with her nose resting on the cushion that she was sleeping on, and Whitey craned her neck to look at me from on top of the TV. I told them, much like I would tell other people, that lunch was ready. They didn’t really budge, so I assumed they had feasted elsewhere and were going to let the curd-rice sit there and rot. A few hours later, maybe around 8 or 9pm, I happened to step out of the room having finished what I set out o do, and I found Patches still on the cushion. Her head was up, but her eyes were closed. It reminded me of the posture she adopts whenever I’m telling her she was bad for doing something that she shouldn’t have done. I went up to her with a, “Hey, lazy bones. What are you trying to do? Set a World Record?” No sooner had I said it, I finally saw it, and I really, really wished I hadn’t been so offhanded with that remark. There was a large wet patch under her, and when I looked a little closer at her, she was shivering a little. Oh no! I didn’t know what to do, but I did think about cats not liking water, or anything wet, so I tried to get her to move into the little box we had lined with old clothes for the kittens to sleep in. I tried to ease her into the box, gently, bringing it all the way over to the couch, then lifting the cushion and placing it in the box. The cushion was only half the size of the box, so I was hoping she would move, taking as much time as she needed, from the cushion to the box. For some reason, this startled her enough to climb out of the box entirely, and go sit by her bowl of water. Did she want water? I quickly threw out the water I had filled that morning, and refilled it with fresh, up-to-the-minute water from our large, drinking water canister. Nope. She didn’t want water. I tried giving her a snack, one of her favorite things, but she didn’t want that either. I sat down next to her, asking her what was wrong, and hoping that there was some way to make her well again. I know that in that instant, much like with Panda-kitty, I was wishing whatever was happening to Patches would happen to me, even if it killed me. After a little while of my attempt at verbally alleviating her discomfort, she hobbled up to the window and hopped outside, like she normally did. As much as I wanted to follow her, I didn’t. I mean, Patches used to climb into people’s lap whenever she wanted to, so the fact that she didn’t seemed to mean, to me, that she wasn’t about to do that. I kept an ear out for her, though, just in case she needed something. Sure enough, a little before I went to bed, I heard the amorous, baritone meowing of a stray tom. When I went outside, there was one of rowdy looking tom cats, missing half his left ear, sitting face-to-face with Patches and in all probability, dishing out some cheesy, feline pickup line. I chased him away, as far away as I could, boundary walls of the house permitting. I reassured her that I was right here if she needed anything. Then, I went to bed, sleeping as lightly as possible, lest another randy tom cat try and take advantage of our dear, little, convalescing kitten. 

The following morning, I woke up to find myself sleeping on my side facing left, which happened to be a great vantage point to quickly scan the living room. There was no sign of Patches. So, I jumped out of bed, opened the front door, and looked around the house. Still no sign of her. My heart sank a bit, and even though I was telling myself it was all for the best and whatever had to happen had happened, I couldn’t help but feel a couple of tears well up. I waited all day, in case I heard her crying from somewhere, even from the neighbor’s compound. But there was nothing, not ever a whimper. I waited the next day as well, hoping that like Whitey, she would suddenly pop in and surprise us all by letting us know she was back, and ready for a snack. Maybe it’s just me and my misguided optimism when it comes to this sort of thing, or perhaps I just haven’t evolved enough mentally to be able to deal with this thing in a mature way. Either way, I didn’t take it well when on the third day, my landlord informed my roommate that Patches had found her way to his apartment -- where she spent her earliest days, as it turns out -- and in spite of his best efforts to offer her some comfort and nurse her back to health, she had died the night before. I didn’t see her, and somehow it was better that way. I don’t care that I didn’t get to say goodbye to her. In fact, when I think about it, she seems to have known me really well in the short time that she had come to know me as one of the people at home. She knew me well enough to have left, so that  I didn’t see her lifeless corpse, because quite frankly, I don’t think I would have been able to handle it all over again. But look at me trying to rationalize her passing away, by putting myself at the middle of it all. I just hope she hadn’t suffered in her final moments.

Patches on my lap. One of the last times we'd share a moment like this.

Since Then

It’s been a little over a month since Patches left Whitey and the rest of us behind. That’s how long it’s taken me to try and write this. Weird, but it was really tough for me to think back to all of this suffering that I had witnessed with these kittens I had come to know this past year, and to admit to myself that I had done nothing but play “observer” as they painfully trudged towards their horrendous ends. I blame myself for not having the courage to get any of these suffering kittens to a vet, or someone who could have helped them better than I did. Well, that was before I got down to writing this. How so you may ask, and my answer would sound selfish by most accounts. But I guess I have a better handle on how to care, or at least seem to offer care, without really caring. Wow! When I say it like that I sounds like a typical, scum-of-the-Earth politician. But, it’s not quite feigning care and consideration that I had in mind. No, it’s more along the lines of being more accepting of the fact that death is a part of life, and that there is no use feeling anger and frustration at forces that are outside of your control. The Buddha had it right, of this I was sure already. But I have already explained why I can’t or won’t follow the idea that attachment causes suffering. To a large extent, attachment forms a large part of our existence as human beings, and I imagine as any sort of living thing on this planet. But it is also the cause of some of our greatest sufferings. Yeah, the Buddha had it right. But what he didn’t count on was people admitting that although they understood his idea, it was beyond them to employ it in their lives, simply because they owned up to being lesser human beings in the first place. Hey, I’ll be the first person to put my hand up and say that I’m not a saint. There was a time in my life when I aspired to saintliness, but after seeing kitten after kitten die, one labored breath at a time, I realized that even the great, omnipotent, omniscient God up there in Heaven did his fair bit of observing. No matter how I looked at it, the only way I could allow myself to move on from this, and to give myself a sliver of hope of achieving peace, was to accept what happened as just something that happened. One day, I would be face to face with my own end, and all I can hope for is for it to be painless. But hey, if pain is written into the plan, then all I will be able to do will be to grin and bear it. C’est la vie, after all, full of glorious joy, but also of unimaginable suffering. Rest in peace Panda-kutty and Patches. Thank you for all the love and the warm, fuzzy feelings that you allowed me to feel.
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