No Clinging

January 13, 2008 | By | 4 Replies More

Tragedy struck our family suddenly, as it sometimes does, with no real warning signs or portents. One moment, contentment, a morning ritual of oatmeal and coffee, conversation about daily plans, and then a new moment – horror, blood, panic, and my oatmeal bowl in mid-air, suspended. That instant, so short so brutal, shattered us. Driving, driving to the animal emergency clinic – is this too fast? This is too slow – get in that lane – stave off panic, full of dread and fear, breathe in, breathe out dare to hope. So sorry, so sorry, no words to capture the sorrow.

The history – years of love and effort and training with a much loved but unpredictable dog with and for whom we worked so hard (not hard enough?), and a greatly treasured older cat who ruled our home like a feisty queen, and from whom the dog always backed down, isn’t the point here. But that history was the the fabric of our home, our life. Much effort, so much love and constant awareness. Years and years of vigilance, training and exercise wasn’t enough, and now we lose two beloved beings in one short time. We live with that, we grieve, we work to move beyond remorse and guilt.

During one of the many trips to the hospital, (so many, an eternity in a few days) I think – this is why we need a heaven. This yearning to know that loss isn’t how we end, that there is some goodness waiting to counter this searing pain. That hope would help with my sorrow, with my anger, with my guilt and regret. To know that my beings will live again, free of pain, happy. To be sure that the damage led to perfection. My yearning tastes of tears, so sorry, no words.

I don’t think the biggest difference between people is a belief in God or not. I know too many people who seek God who are also full of compassion, kindness and a desire to help themselves and others. I know too many atheists who are strident and arrogant, and I also can say the opposite. For me the two are different languages that ask the same question – how do we live with compassion and openness. What gives us meaning in the midst of suffering, what helps us to grow? Both stances can do that, and sometimes neither – thus the question of which is better is flawed.

During all this pain (because of it?) I thought a lot about the discussion on this site regarding friendship between god people and non-god people. What I seek in friendship and connection is simply connection and a desire for compassion and understanding. I expect an ability to build a bridge between difference, regardless of the material. When a person is so attached to a belief that it becomes a bludgeon and a barrier to understanding, the belief itself causes a problem, but isn’t the problem. Attachment is the problem, as it so often is. We cling to things that comfort us in the face of the unknown, or in the midst of pain. That clinging is human, but it can hold us back from becoming, from learning, from peace. When we think we already have truth in our back pocket we can’t learn any more, and then we are limited. We can be so attached to what we know we may miss the truth before us.

My yearning for an afterlife where my beloved beings are happy and beyond the pain comes from such an attachment. I grieve for myself, for my loss, for my regret as much as I grieve for their suffering and dying. Eventually I must let go of my guilt and anger, and sorrow – they steal my present, and tarnish my memories. They take my joy, and there was so much shared. We had good lives together, and now, even after they are gone, they are helping me understand. For that I am grateful.


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Category: Bigotry, Friendships/relationships, Religion

About the Author ()

Lisa lives and works in the city of St. Louis, and is striving to develop the right mix of both while asking herself what it means to live a good life. You can follow her on twitter

Comments (4)

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  1. Ben says:

    That is quite a bummer. I hope neither of us ever has to endure another trip to the hospital.

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    Lisa: Nice poetic post. Much more striking than my post last year when our 23 year old cat died.

    My Young Earth friend and I have commiserated over several cats in our time together. One of his cats actually died in front of me, in the arms of my wife, while he was at work.

    I'd never confront him at such times as to his position of the prospects of animal family members in heaven. He knows that he is going, and is doing his best to lead his family and friends. He's given me up as incorrigible. Yet we stay friends.

  3. lisarokusek says:

    One of the most amazing things about life is the potential of connection. That capacity helps us find meaning, foundation, love, and identity.

    I often wonder why some folks become more attached to animals than others, and I make no value judgments about it. I think it is just a difference not unlike other traits. How do we choose companions of any kind? What makes a friendship? Who do we love? I am certain that the more we learn of animals the more they seem differently conscious – not necessarily less conscious. No, they don't write sonnets or build skyscrapers, but they are aware, and they do connect, at least for me.

    As a society we value human life more than that of animals, I understand that. But then, as a society we have often valued similar humans more than those who were different in some way. Other seems always to mean lesser, until we learn otherwise.

    As in most anything, we make and apply our own meanings. For me, the attachments I had to the pets in my family were very deep, the bonds very real, and so the soul searching, and grief are quite poignant.

    I am aware that not everyone shares my world view, and that is fine. I don't think pain or loss can be compared from person to person. We are not allotted a portion of love or pain for any particular experience – we just feel, we just live, and we must also learn to let go. Live, love, let go. Learning to do it thoughtfully, gracefully and whole heartedly seems to be the biggest lesson we can learn.

  4. Catherine says:

    I'm so very sorry for your loss. I hope your family heals well.

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