Saturday, January 21, 2012

Death -- a catalyst not an end

I had the opportunity recently to 'test' my progress on my spiritual path. One of the main reasons I started on this journey was to gain more understanding about life, its meaning and its place in the universe. I have always struggled with death...I guess that is not unusual. But my fear was based in a deep seeded feeling of failing  because I couldn't stop the inevitable from happening or control the outcome.

My Great Aunt Dot who has been here for over 97 years often shared one of her mantras that helped her get through the many losses she experienced in her almost ten decades.... "to live is to die" she would say. Truer words have never been spoken. There is no other way which life ends.

Before my spiritual consciousness woke from its deep sleep those words were distant and somewhat abstract. But now that I am exploring life, spirit and faith they have gained a new life. In fact I have begun to find those words comforting and somewhat freeing.

I had a difficult childhood...I know so many say that...but my childhood was lonely and filled with much sadness. In some ways I was closer to pets and various stray animals that walked into my life than to the people who surrounded me on an everyday basis.  Although I am much more connected to people in adulthood I never lost my connection to the animals in my life.

A few months ago myself and a small group of friends began feeding some stray cats in the parking lot where we work. Over time the cats came to depend on us for food and water and would even wait in our parking spaces for us to arrive each morning. We even set up a weekend feeding schedule so they would be taken care of on the weekends.

A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday evening, I was getting ready to start my weekend and was feeding the 6 cats. Five of the cats were part of a feral family and one stray named Molly had joined them. Molly was different and wanted to play, be petted and purr. While I was playing with Molly a car came around a turn very fast, hit one of the other cats and sped away.

Once I realized what had happened I began to panic. The "old" me would have somehow felt responsible and grabbed the badly injured and obviously dying cat and tried to get help while flying into hysterics and getting bit. But a calmer me with a different perspective acted quite differently.

Although a deep sadness loomed inside I knew I had to pray. Pray to God to take him quickly. He was in so much pain and had lost so much blood I was afraid to pick up the cat for fear of being bitten. I sat by him for what seemed like hours but I don't think it actually was more than a minute or two. The others from his cat family joined me as he passed.

I didn't really know what to do....except I knew I couldn't leave him there. He was such a sweet soul. I contacted the public safety office and they came to help me. I remained calm through all of this realizing there wasn't anything I could do about the death. But on the way home I began to cry uncontrollably sobbing. His little life shouldn't have ended that way. But it did.

I decided that I would do what I could to honor his little life that was taken too soon. With the help of my friends we found a new loving home for Molly. We are planning to capture the other 4 feral members of the "family" and have them fixed so there will not be more homeless cats starving and wondering into the paths of oncoming cars. And I have pledged to do what I can to raise awareness about spay and neuter programs.

The point being that as living things we will be witness to death and suffering, but out of those experiences must come lessons, ideas for change to make the world a better and kinder place, we can learn as much from death as we can from life if we only open ourselves to it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What Do I Celebrate?

As the Holidays of 2011 approached my ten-year-old  asked me if I would rather celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah.....since I am identifiable (through the eye of formal religious training) as an Episcopalian I really wanted to respond with "Christmas"...and then I thought about it...

I realized it really didn't matter to me. Hmmm.....should it? And, more importantly why didn't it?

For me the holidays are not about trying to comprehend the significance of a birth that happened over 2,000 years ago, or how long a light burned without enough oil. It seems funny to me that it takes beliefs in essentially abstract events to bring out the best in humankind.

The holiday season is about love, faith and kindness....sprinkled with a miracle or two.

The season is about our common beliefs rather than our differences. The common belief in a power (or powers) greater than ourselves--a common belief that we should treat each other with love and compassion---and a belief that, yes, miracles have--and will continue to happen around us--all we have to do is pay attention.

When we concentrate on the small differences between us we allow the the world to become fragmented and polarized, and we move ourselves further from divine intention.

Our world needs to heal. Our world needs to be bathed in rays of beautiful divine light from each of us as we work to channel the "magic" we feel during the holiday season and bring that "magic" into our lives year round.

So, for me it is not what religion or holiday I celebrate. It truly is about how I celebrate God's love and how I make it part of my everyday life.