Last night our cat Mao Mao died. My gosh, I loved that cat. I've been a wreck all morning. He was about as sweet and gentle as a cat can get.
He used to lay in the middle of my chess board.
Mao came to us from our former neighbor who was feeding a pregnant cat. The cat had the babies, the neighbor was in a rental and he pulled the old "If you guys don't take them, I'll have to hand them out in front of WalMart" thing that works so well on people like Laurie and I who have "Sucker" tattooed on our foreheads. So this is what came into our house.
We kept one black one and the yellow one and named them Mao and Napoleon because they were little dictators. Mao was the sweetest and very shy although in time he came to be one of the friendliest (he was the only cat who would come and lay next to Laurie until I came to bed at night. He did that every night except for last night.) When he came over to be petted you felt as if you were having a visitation of some sort, like a great honor had been given you. He was even nice to Schubert. Everyone has a hard time with Schubert because he is so needy and really kind of ugly. When Mao Mao would go rub against Schubert it was like the goodhearted popular kid who goes and eats lunch with the hopelessly geeky fat kid because no one else will.
Mao also was the one who got into trouble (we would call him our $500 cat because of his trips to the vet.) He ate a flip flop and had to have his stomach pumped. He was the one who spilled the gallon of black paint that day when I came home and found paint all over the kitchen floor with little paw prints all around the house. Laurie had to hold him down in the shower and scrub him. Afterward they actually had a stronger bond from that experience. He sure loved Laurie! We still have paint spots on the door of our bedroom.
But when he went in to have his stomach pumped they told us that he had a very pronounced heart murmur. We knew a day like this would come, but we didn't know when or that it would be this soon. He went into the newly painted room last night to sleep in the closet and died in the night. I buried him this morning and, as I said, I've been a wreck all day.
About a decade ago, my friend Gary died suddenly in his sleep. He was a very close friend. I didn't even know he had diabetes, but one morning Gary just didn't wake up. It's stuck with me ever since how death can come with no warning for you or any of your loved ones. Every night, around 89,000 people who went to sleep on Earth don't wake up the next morning. Please do remember to live lightly, spread delight, forgive quickly, and may beauty always fall into your footprints behind you.
I have a fairly strong grasp on death, the dispersal of matter and energy, entropy, and a universe where nothing is wasted. Theologically speaking I find my religion's core text silent on what happens to animals at death, so I think it's a open question but ultimately one that it probably isn't profitable to dwell on for too long. I do think that the loss of a beloved pet can be a horrible grief to a person and, I'm seeing very clearly in my house today, to other animals. The grief is real and deep. As well it should be. I think we all ought to revere, respect and love life and seek to end suffering where we can.
Of course in the Christian walk the purpose of Christianity is not to get to Heaven and to avoid Hell. The purpose is to glorify God. I try not to speculate too much on the afterlife especially for animals.
In this regard, I actually find comfort in physics. There has been a lot of talk lately in the field of physics about Quantum Amnesia. Why do we not remember our deaths or what happens next week or see an broken egg as unbroken as well? It's the illusion of time which seems to be just that. It's an illusion. It's a little unnerving for those of us with great regrets to think that what is in the past is written in stone eternally and within the space-time continuum still exists. In the right location of space-time I am being born, passed out drunk, ect. Every moment still exists, we just experience time in a linear fashion. When Albert Einstein's lifelong friend Michele Besso died he wrote, “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Or, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote about the Tralfamadoreans in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five, “The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist.”
Which is a nice thought although I have to admit that I am extremely grieved today. Mainly because I don't get to experience Mao anymore.
I would point out that this worldview works just as well for Calvinists as it does for physicists. The past, present and future exist. We're the poor suckers who have to wait it out.
I take comfort today in having had Mao Mao as our pet these past few years. He was a wonderful cat and is a wonderful cat. No matter what, when, or where, and no matter how grieved I am that I will not see him again in my life as I experience it here and after, nothing will change that we had a wonderful cat named Mao Mao.