Sunday June 26, 2011

Dear friends,

I would like to interrupt my usual lighter-hearted banter with acknowledging the heaviness in my heart. The last six months have been chock full of creativity and excitement. I have never known myself to be as inspired and energized by projects and commitments as in this last period! What’s more,  I have been taking solid actions towards supporting these projects, taking a swing and having some follow-through!

However, with all this newness and excitement, I have also experienced many  losses. In February my fairy god-mother died, in early March a very close friend of the family died, in late March my beloved massive cat, Santino died, and now his sister, Severina is dying of cancer. On a daily basis loss is experienced with the end of each day…. But some loss does not get resurrected with the morning coffee.

Loss on this level is a new experience for me, as I near my 45th birthday, I still have two living grandparents, all of my parents, real, step and imagined. I don’t know what to feel or think and find my self frequently in a state I call STUNNED.

The shock of the sudden passing of Evelyn, my sponsor of nine years, the regret that I couldn’t say goodbye to my dear friend, Michael Cook, and how Santino literally died after a short seizure in my arms. Now  I watch my little princess Severina wasting away while still licking the crevice of the inside of my elbow…  A mix of emotions, feelings, thoughts, that I cannot begin to sort out, just hangs like a dead weight in my heart, a thunder cloud ready to burst but just hovers, threatening. I walk blocks and have hardly any recollection, and seem to arrive at my destination by remote. Specific loss, loss which shall not be replaced. A dead end could be  the nicest block in the area, but it’s still a DEAD END, final. Fact is, I don’t know how to deal with loss. My self-preservtionist self-centeredness prevented me from ever connecting enough with anything I might lose, and I got away with it until six months ago. I lost my wallet, I replaced it, I lost a relationship, I met a new guy, I lost a pair of heirloom earrings, I pretended I didn’t have any actual attachment.

In February my old responses began to shift. With Evelyn’s death I was willing to accept that there is a natural flow to this human experience, birth+death=life. Acceptance was the answer to my shock. At four o’clock in the afternoon I’d felt an odd pull to dial the number, speak to Evelyn, check in with her. Frequently  now something happens in my day, and I wish I cold tell Evelyn about it. Yet, it’s also seems part of the course of events that her baton has been pitched to the next human.. Evelyn was 90.

With Michael, the shock was not so great. He has been battling cancer for two years. Michael was like a favorite uncle to me. One of the few positive, accepting, and generous men in my life, and I knew him since I was five years old. I felt, however, that despite being a grade school teacher, he treated me more like a peer. He treated me as if I knew all that I needed to know, and he wanted to know what I knew if I wanted to share the information. He and I met accidentally on the crosstown bus one day about two years ago. He was coming from a therapist who was helping him deal with his feelings surrounding his eventual death. I was impressed that he was seeing a therapist. Only because I thought of Michael as being the MOST together man ever! Why would he need a therapist! I was also in my own little state of denial… Surely Michael was going to beat this… And he did, until it came back. And sadly, there were no more chance meetings on the crosstown bus. I had a short list of people who should have gone before Michael. Acceptance was not a key element here. I decided that God had made a big mistake and I set myself more to the task of trying to comfort my mother who had been struggling so much with her own cancer these last two years as well,  who adored and admired and loved Michael, who wanted to express her grief without adding to Michael’s family’s grief. The memorial service for Michael was a touching, real, loving tribute, and at that time, I was moved. Then, I went back to being stunned.

About two weeks later, I was home on a Wednesday afternoon with the Love of My Life. Although he and I spend Wednesdays together pretty much every week, I am home hardly at all during the rest of the week except to sleep. Santino came into the bedroom, urinated in an odd way on the carpet, I had never before seen, and then commenced to foam at the mouth and simultaneously make a choking sound. I realized pretty quickly that something was seriously wrong. We packed him into the cat carrier, swiftly arrived at the vet down the block, but as I lifted Santino from the bag to the vet’s table, he was pronounced dead. DOA? The vet handed me tissues, but I wasn’t crying. I was stunned. For a second I walked out of the vet’s room and out to the front desk and told the LOML that Santino was dead. I was still stunned, still no tears. We made the arrangements, paid for the cremation, and no,  we didn’t want the ashes. We walked back to the apartment. I made lunch. We ate a bite. And we wondered how Santino seemed to wait until we were both at home, which happens basically for about four hours a week… The probability is so much greater that neither of us would be home… yet, he died in my arms on the way to the vet, because we were home. I am still stunned.

So, today, June 26, I woke up to see Severina, my little cat, Santino’s sister, meowing at me from a distance, I think she had nibbled a prohibited rose petal that her Aunt Abby Collins brought the other day. Severina is as chatty as ever, but she looks like she has lost half her body weight. That’s what happens when you have cancer… human or feline. Last Monday I took her back to the vet and from an X-ray it was determined that she has liver cancer. Her liver has rounded edges, the edges should be sharp. I know what it means when a human gets cancer in the liver. The vet told me she has two to four weeks. I refused chemo treatments for many reasons. Both Santino and Severina were nearly fifteen years old. Not ancient for a cat, but certainly a respectable age. Great, so I left the vet with some pills I grind into her food, if she feels like eating they seem to keep her in good spirits. She still spends a lot of time in the shower stall, but if I bring into bed with me she will spend about 20 minutes lying on my chest. She might even reach out her paw to touch my face. I think she is bonding with me, as she used to. I know I do this to force her to KNOW I love her, and value her in my silly little life. Maybe she just wants to stay in the shower stall. But I WANT to spend “Quality” time with her, whether she wants to or not! I didn’t get that with Michael, Santino and I never spent as much time with Evelyn as I should have….. So, aren’t we all dying??? Shouldn’t we all be spending time with the people we love, doing the things we love, eating the food we love, as if we may never have tomorrow???? But then how would I pay my rent??? I’d never go to work, that’s for sure! So, some where lies a balance. I do what I can. I can’t  know if Severina will wait for me to come home, as Santino did. I have no guarantee that I will have lunch with some one, as I did with Evelyn just two days before she died, and at least feel like I made sure she knew how much I valued her in my life. I cannot say that I shall never again feel as if God sent for the wrong person at the time another dear friend is plucked away… And, oh how Michael would cringe if he knew I was using the “G-word”! So, in my moments, I have some tears for what I miss, and what I will miss soon… However, overall, in my day to day, as I await my day to be plucked, I remain stunned.

Abby Kaufmann
Abby Kaufmann

Abby fell in love with yoga at Kripalu, which led to a 200-hr teacher training at Yoga High in New York’s Lower East Side. With a seeker’s mind, whose appetite had just been whetted, she signed up for the follow-up advanced 300-hr training. Abby’s diverse education includes a Bachelor’s degree in social work and certifications as a Health Coach, Pilates teacher and Karuna Reiki master.

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1 Comment

  1. Kenneth Hollomon says:

    Awesome Abby . Truth always is . Stunned is an acurate word for that state of wakefulness without complete awareness. I’m glad you found a way to share.
    I love you and value every moment we share, even electronically.
    Press on My Love…
    blessings Always,
    Kenneth