In the past few weeks, quite a few people I know have had pets die. This included two 14 year old dogs, a 16 year old one and a charmingly loud cat.
A beloved animal dying is a graduation of sorts. The original impulse to include an animal in your home created countless changes that led to a release. The release of a pet creates a freedom. It may be a reluctant freedom at first, but a space for something new to happen is revealed.
Spiritual work exposes us to divine order. In 2011, one of my cats, Luna, died in an maddening accident. I was devastated and furious at God. Yet, in my heart I knew that there was a reason this cat died. Luna was so smart that if you dangled a stick with a feather on it in front of her to play with, she would give you a “Are you serious??” look. You had to work to challenge her mind, like creating a new maze of pillows each night in which she would chase that same feather at full speed with lightning reflexes. So how is it that this smart, strong cat could die by falling out of a seventh floor window? The answer came from connecting with Luna herself shortly after her death when she hopped on my bed just as I was falling asleep and showed herself being uninjured. She said she was done being a cat. If it hadn’t been that exit point, then another would have presented itself. A hard truth, but unarguably clear.
The divine order I discovered in her death was understanding death. Specifically, what works and what doesn’t regarding death. What happens when beings die (or are dying), what we who love them can do to help them die and after they pass, how we then process grief and how spiritual work can help both.
These insights came from one exchange with a well intentioned spiritual friend just after Luna died, who advised me to “Just think of the good times with her.” This seemed utterly absurd to me, as my entire body hurt. But her attempt to help sparked a revelation. Insights came:
– Our bodies know how to grieve.
– Animals know how to die.
– Our souls also know how to release a physical body. Our minds do not (but can learn to let go).
– Permission to go helps our loved ones pass gracefully.
– Acknowledgement, presence and holding space are the ways we can best support those in grief (“I know this is a hard time. I am right here for you. I know it may not be clear right now, but there is order in your loved one passing now. You will be ok. This will get better. Let’s pray together.”)
– There is a logic in how and when people and animals die.
– Systems help enormously in times of death. The system of intuition, angels and mediumship.
– Grace is everywhere when you look.
In the hours, days and sometimes weeks after a loved one passes, we walk around seeing how precious life is and how connected we all are. This same awareness, this clarity, this grace, is how we will establish unending peace on this planet. We will do so through insight and choice, rather then grief and suffering. The work is to release our fear of death. Animals, with their particular life spans, help us define chapters of our lives. We are leaning toward a graduation from being frightened of death and of each other. Our ability to unconditionally love animals hints at what is possible.
The 16 year old dog I mentioned came with her owner to an animal communication workshop I did last year. Without attachment, she clearly gave her loving owner a heads up that she was getting ready to leave the body, and on her own terms. She also communicated how happy and content she was with her life.