A couple of months ago, at the start of winter, I wrote about the energetic presence of death in my life at that time. I could feel it hovering, waiting in the wings. Indeed, my aunt passed away and I struggled to comfort my grieving grandmother and explain the loss to my young daughter.
The death crone came again right after Valentine's Day, when we lost our beloved cat, Scully. She was almost twenty-one years old and in failing health. We knew she would leave sometime soon, but it was unexpected on that particular night. I thought that I was ready to let her go, but I've been crushed with sadness. She was with me for most of my adult life. I got her soon after college; she and my other feline familiar, Phoebe, moved with me to New York in 2001. We experienced 9/11 together, as well as various bad boyfriends and nasty break-ups (Scully's wide, panicked eyes and whining always let me know when a guy wasn't right for us). When I met my future husband, she adopted him and they began a deep love affair. We affectionately called her our dark overlord because she was sweet but grumpy, and my husband freely admitted that she was the #1 woman in his life. His endless care likely kept her alive for years longer than she would have otherwise lived.
These cats have been part of my identity. It was always the three of us, until we expanded our clan with a husband, a dog, and finally a human child. I don't know how to be without her. It feels like part of me is missing.
We are carefully planning how to honor her. My husband does not follow my spiritual path, but he has asked for a permanent altar, or ofrenda, for Miss Scully. We are taking inspiration from "Coco," the lovely Disney movie about Dia de los Muertos. We are not of Mexican descent, and we mean no offense in adopting this practice. But our daughter is obsessed with the movie. She wears Coco clothes almost exclusively, and her preschool teachers know to call her "Hector," for her favorite character. While this holiday and its practices are not ours, through our child a version of this tradition has taken hold in our family and I suspect will always be a part of our memories. So we will construct an altar with photos, candles, and silk marigolds, just like they do in the movie. This film has been such a blessing in communicating the concept of death to my daughter through these losses. She has some understanding that our cat, and my aunt, are in the Land of the Dead, while we remain in the Land of the Living. And - as I believe is true - I can tell her that the Land of the Dead is a joyous, vibrant place of life and reunion, just like in Coco. Thank you, Disney Pixar.
Scully died on the new, or dark, moon. It seems only fitting to consecrate her ofrenda on the next dark moon, reflecting the black of her gorgeous coat and symbolizing her disappearance.
As a spiritualist, I keep reaching for some comfort in my belief in an afterlife and reunion, even with our animals. I've heard Scully meow in the quiet moments. I tell my husband that she is now his alebrije - an animal spirit guide, like Mama Imelda's Pepita in the movie. I remind myself of the sacred cycles of life, death, and rebirth. I grasp for a sense of spiritual connection or revelation in this experience, even hope to glimpse the magic and beauty of the goddess of death.
It's not working. I'm just sad.
Alas, I remain human - quite spiritually inclined, but solidly human. And my kitty is gone, at least from the Land of the Living. So I cling to the lessons of grief that began at the start of winter - there is nothing to do but grieve, remember, be grateful, and continue to love.
I feel like begging Mother Earth to hurry up and bring me spring. I need her support to lighten my load. I need the warmth and sun and flowers. But as with our human experiences, we have no control over her seasonal transitions. The spring will come when it comes. I have a desperate faith, or at least hope, that this crone energy will shift then, when the maiden returns.
But if it doesn't, at least we have "Coco."