Wings of Change and Tears of Joy

Perhaps we underestimate our ability to feel better when faced with tragic circumstances like the loss of a pet. If we can just find a way to overcome our pain and transmute our negative feelings, we can emerge triumphant and free of the shadows of our pet loss sadness, stepping boldly into the brilliant light of the sun. How can this be accomplished? Sometimes, by focusing on the positive joys in our lives, helped a bit by Nature’s gentle encouragement we might just astonish ourselves and begin to feel the strength of our own healing power.

On my morning walk today, I found a red tailed hawk feather and a beautiful angular gray stone with a perfect orangey-brown stripe through the middle of it.

When I spotted the third thing, a cat toy; an unlikely plastic golf ball parked conspicuously to the side of my lonely country lane;

I knew it was Mersey at work, again.

Mersey, AKA “MRSN” (pronounced “Emerson”: orig. “M” from the markings on her forehead that formed the letter; and later “EmEm”, then “Emmers” and finally “MRSN Kittypaldi” after Emerson Fittipaldi the famous race car driver.) Mersey was a grayish tabby cat with orangey-brown and black stripes.

She always knew that computer keyboards are NOT for walking and that cats make the best paperweights. Each day, when I came back from the chicken coop, she made it clear that she wanted a fresh egg and had the silky coat to prove it. Mersey would “march” earnestly on her beloved blanket, lips touching the fabric ever-so-softly; her resonant purr lulling herself (and us) to a blissful sleep. She was a cat with a fine sense of humor and a heart big enough to warm the world.

My folks were visiting from Portland and we were seated on the patio early one evening. The cats had essentially disappeared during their visit as they are not too comfortable around strangers.

It was the kind of deliciously fragrant twilight with a cooling breeze that our northern California hills are famous for. A monarch butterfly seemed to appear from nowhere and fluttered about my father’s head as he sat directly across from me.

Dad was quite pleased and held very still as the black and orangey-brown creature circled his head and repeatedly landed on him.

Resting on his glasses and slowly fanning its wings, the butterfly stayed for 15 minutes or so before it flew off into the encroaching night. We have lived here for over 6 years and never seen a monarch butterfly until that evening.

“Hmmmm,” I speculated out loud. “Butterflies can mean transformation and immortality. And the Ancient Greeks saw butterflies as the souls of those who had passed on. Weird, I wonder what that was all about?”

My folks left a couple of days later and my uneasiness about not glimpsing MRSN for several days had me calling for her as they pulled out of the driveway. I wandered around the property in ever widening circles calling and calling.

I was in the pasture when I saw a monarch butterfly again. “Twice in as many days…” I thought, and watched as it flew up toward the meadow, cavorting, dancing and spiraling and then “poof!” it seemed to disappear. I began to call louder.

Walking around and down the road I was startled to see a vulture standing on a fence post.

It wasn’t the bird itself that I found alarming, we have lots of buzzards in our region; it was the peculiar dance she seemed to be doing that made my heart beat faster.

She dipped and swayed while spreading her glossy black wings, back and forth, back and forth, seeming to gesture down the road.

I followed where the Mother of Death and Rebirth seemed to be pointing. And then I saw her.

I could smell the syrupy sweet stench of death before I reached her. Like a cast-off Goodwill donation of a ragged fur stole she hung in heart breaking surrender. Hindquarters off the ground, her small trapped toes twisted tightly in strands of loose wire on the fence. Her broken leg distorted and bent at an impossible angle.

Her empty eyes gave me no clue to the unfolding of her final hours as she lay there in quiet agony. My MRSN. My sweet darling Mersey, was gone.

Flies buzzed around her stiffened carcass, ripe in the heat of the high desert sun. Her once shining coat was dull and lusterless, her mouth opened slightly in silent appeal.

I was devastated.

Everywhere I turned, she wasn’t there. No happy chirrup with a head-butt and purr greeted me as I walked multiple times each day from my wee home office to the house. No cozy fur ball nestled at the head of the bed with one body part (at least) always touching me. No soft sentinel waiting patiently by my bath for me to get out. I didn’t know I had so many tears.

“Why Mersey?” and “Why NOW?” seemed to be my mantra.

We buried her at the top of the garden among the flowers.

I sprinkled frankincense oil on her and tucked her into her earthly nest with rosemary (remembrance), mugwort leaves (protective talisman) and sweet calming lavender flowers.

On the first day I visited her grave, I stood there with tears cascading down my cheeks. From behind a hummock of orangey-brown Rudbeckia, one of our wild rabbits appeared. She had just given birth to a new litter of bunnies a day or so before. The black fur on her breast had been pulled out to line the underground nest in her burrow. She hopped right up to the pile of rocks marking the place and lay down not a foot from where I was standing! She went right to sleep and stayed there as I eventually crept away. (rabbit=sympathetic magic)

The second day I found a three blue jay feathers (feather=reincarnated soul) in three different places on my way to put flowers on Mersey’s grave. Later that day, I counted 5 or 6 orangey-brown salamanders floating serenely in our pond. (salamander=transformation and grounding in the present moment) I had never even seen salamanders on our property before!

At the grave on the third day, a female hummingbird suddenly appeared, landing on a nearby flower.

She sat still with me for several minutes before she flew once around the grave and then...

zoomed off across the garden.

Now, I’m not entirely spiritually thick and I was starting to get a message. I know that hummingbirds can symbolize joy and come to think of it, Mersey was truly the embodiment of joy in my life; joy and pure unconditional love. I had often commented that she was my perfect role model! I felt a sweet whisper of relief and peace on that day.

Since then, Mersey has been my inspiration. When I feel her absence, I fill that lonesome spot with the love and joy that she so generously gave during her short life. Several times each day, I feel an abundant appreciation for the many lessons I’ve learned:

  • have a lust for living and live each day to the fullest

  • ndulge in total unabashed silliness at every opportunity

  • react with great happiness at seemingly insignificant events

  • delight in my own physicality and inner and outer beauty

  • relax with passionate abandon and sleep until I wake up

  • relish with enthusiasm each and every moment as it unfolds and remember that All IS Well.

These days, I frequently remember to “lighten up”, to slow down and smell the roses and to roll with great relish in the proverbial catnip patch.

Mersey. Sweet Mersey. Merci! Thank you.

BIO: Sara McGoodwin is an Animalist, Creatrix, Colorist and Frangranceur. She is an Idiolalian Word Spinner Goddess, a Website Weaver, an Intuitive Lightworker and a Certified Laughter Yoga Instructor.

She and her fiancé live in beautiful Southern Oregon. Sara has a small home-based kennel and raises Chocolate Teacup Yorkshire Terriers, uniquely colored, NON-drooling Newfoundlands, Golden Retrievers and Golden Newfies.

Sara is passionate about baths, writing, reading, gardening and observing and interacting with animals.

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