I don’t sing. At least not particularly well.
But lately, in this scary, sometimes shimmering final stretch of Kitten Girl’s life, I have taken to singing. Singing to her. Singing a lot. TV theme songs, commercial jingles, snippets of old 70’s songs stuck in the mental cobwebs. The kind I’d listen to on tiny handheld AM radio as a kid. Back in the days of banana bicycle seats, bell bottom jeans and blue eye shadow.
Singing, whether we’re “good at it” or not, is a very human thing. I suspect we’ve been singing to ourselves and one another as far back as recorded history, and beyond. It does a body good. A brain, too. So I sing to Kitten Girl now, especially when she is lying draped across on me in the recliner. Sometimes I hum, and she purrs more loudly then. Her head drops by degrees, until her chin is resting on my shoulder. Lord love a duck, but that makes me smile. I kiss the top of her head to tell her so.
We are happy in these moments of melody, of “everything still all right”-ness. She has no idea of what’s ahead. I do, but when I sing, I can forget for a few minutes the inevitable outcome of decisions she and I have made together. Choices to pull all of the life prolonging medicines that have kept her alive with kidney disease for over two years. When it became clear a week and-a-half ago that her dignity and uninterrupted repose had been lost to the daily regimen of medicines, needles and thinly veiled desperation (mine), I could only stop. And when I stopped, I explained to her why I did.
Understand the words? Perhaps some cats grasp every syllable, each nuance, but hold their cards close to their vest, lest their poker faces give them away. “I know nothing! Except that it’s time to eat, that half-empty glasses should (of course) be knocked over, that dogs are generally rude and smelly, and cleaning one’s undercarriage within view of everybody is actually good manners. (Ahem).”
Something changed when we had that talk. Without exaggeration, I saw things transform tangibly, perceptibly. Yes, I am (admittedly) given to anthropomorphism, but when I poured my heart out to her, it was clear from the bloom of her pupils, big as nickels, that my beloved old cat was listening. Searching my face with her gaze, ears swiveling, paws tucked serenely beneath her. Listening. Witnessing my vulnerability, hearing the fear of death catch in my throat, seeing the tears that puddled on my pillow.
And she was calm. Instead of turning away, she reflected all of this back to me with uncanny equanimity, the self-possession that cats everywhere seem born with, as if to aristocracy. Mistaken for aloofness, it is anything but. Instead, it is exquisite attention to the moment, attuned to things that we humans — with our dulled and domesticated senses — can no longer easily grasp. I have no idea what they see, but I am sure it’s far more than I can imagine. That mystery has long delighted me, and probably always will.
This most heartfelt of any talk we’ve ever had calmed us both. The restlessness of indecision evaporated. I could not make any decisions about her until I had poured myself — the fears, the hopes, the uncertainty — forth in her presence. And her tacit understanding set me free to feel everything I had been holding back. After the storm of emotions, peace fell upon us like an invisible cloak.
Peace is all I want for her now. Peace, safety, comfort, pleasure, and most of all, love overflowing. I could never explain to her how deeply my feelings run, but I know I have shown it. I hope she has grasped it, way down deep in her tiny, beautiful bones. Because there are few beings I have ever cared for as sincerely as this creature. Life with her has changed me, and continues to change me every day.
Though sadness sometimes rises in my throat, I know I am blessed. Like her, I want to be present, exquisitely present, and not turn away from what it means to live in the moment. She has taught me this by example. Time and again.
This, and all the unconditional affection, is a grand gift.
Thank you, my lovely one. My Kitten Girl.
Note: The blog will be on hiatus for another week, except for further entries about my days with Kitten Girl. Writing my way through this has helped keep me from falling entirely apart. I hope that some of you find it helpful. I realize it is upsetting to read about, but I speak only my truth. Because I can only talk about mine, I’m no expert on anybody else’s. Words are my primary way of navigating life.
That and mediocre singing, apparently. And chocolate.