Otis’ Song

Two months ago, I laid down on the couch for an afternoon nap.  My boy cat, Otis, came to lay down next to me, curling into my chest as I laid on my side. He purred loudly into my face, his whiskers tickling my chin, and I slowly closed my eyes.

The worries of the day gradually fell away. Distractions cease, thoughts slowly faded as my body and mind relax into the healing experience of sleep. Distantly, in the background, I heard cars racing by the house. More closely, I heard Otis purring. As the minutes pass, and I no longer moved to pet him, his purring slowly ceased. More time passes, and I listen to Otis’ breath as I drift off to sleep. And then I heard it.  A small, unmistakable wheeze with each breath he took.  Every breath, without fail.  Sadness filled me.

Damn it.  I thought that I had bought Mr. Otis a month of good health, a pleasant spring. Yet that afternoon, that moment, when the steroid shot should have been helping him the most, he was still wheezing.  That was when I knew the end was near.

Life’s mortality rate is 100%. For humans, for other animals, for plants. Sooner or later, we all die, every one of us.  The gift of a beginning means the gift of an end. We won’t all die today, nor tomorrow, nor next week – but some will.  Our brains and ego would like there to be cause and effect – this action or that action magically keeping us safe. But, really, on a fundamental level, there is no cause and effect other than that which is alive must die.

Fast forward to five weeks and three days ago.  It was time.  I said goodbye to my best friend Otis, and let him go.

Before I buried him, I found a song written by Starhawk that resonated with me.  I said the words over his grave, but didn’t have the time nor energy to learn the rhythm and notes to share it as a song.  At that moment, though, I decided I wanted to share it… that that would feel like a good tribute to my dear geriatric cat.

At the Druid training I am participating in, performance of song or story or poem is encouraged in new trainees.  A nice outlet, a nice encouragement for potential creativity.  I decided to learn the song for the next month’s training weekend.  I worked to find a key that fit my voice, strove to find chords to go with the song written for voice… I spent weeks experimenting, trying different things.  It was actually quite fun.  I cared enough about performing the song for Otis that I tried my hardest to find what would sound good.

Frustration ensued.  A lot of frustration.  Or, perhaps, I should frame it as experimentation that did not produce the desired result.  The sound, the song was not coming together the way I wanted it to.  Nothing sounded right.  After several weeks of frustration, I turned to friends for advice.  The deadline was approaching – what should I do?! Several suggested I try expressing myself by writing since that has worked so well for me with my blog.  So I started writing about Otis, too.

As with all time, it passed. There were two weeks until my next Druid weekend, then a week, a few days, and finally a few hours.  No time to prepare more – time to pack and go.  What I performed last Saturday was a combination song and story/poem.  I share it here:


Otis
You came into my life March 2001
And left May 2015
14 years with you
Beautiful gray tiger stripes
hidden under black fur
Silent yet watchful
Gentleness and fear mixed
in your every movement.

(Sung)


All things must pass away
All things must pass away
Nothing that’s born can ever stay
Nothing that’s born can ever stay

My garden companion
Resting quietly under plate-sized leaves of gourd
Twining through garlic stalks
Baking on tilled Earth, looking on
Somehow you fit yourself
easily into my quiet pursuits
Anxious yet soothed in the noisy city
by the garden, much like I was.

(Sung)


The sun so bright at noon
The sun so bright at noon
Gives way to night and dark of moon
Gives way to night and dark of moon

Year followed year
Piling one on top of another
Youthful health and exuberance
giving way, eventually, to maturity
then age and infirmary.
An autoimmune disorder
An allergy to the bacteria on your teeth
Who had ever heard of such a thing!
I hadn’t.  But I learned.

(Sung)


The apple ripe and round

The apple ripe and round

Must fall to earth and seed the ground
Must fall to earth and seed the ground

The last six months
were a slow waltz to the end
I knew it
I will never know if you knew it
You died in my arms
Every breath rattling through your wasted frame
Until it wasn’t
The sun hot on your body
The wind playing through your fur one last time
A truly beautiful day to die.

(Sung)


So in the arms of night
So in the arms of night
May we be rocked ’til morning’s light
May we be rocked ’til morning’s light

Your spirit is gone, moved on
Your body lovingly planted in my garden
Yet I live
One hour after another
filling the gulf between us
I walk on, alone
I miss you, my friend
Your gentleness and attention
warmth and kindness
Dedication and love

(Sung)


For all that falls and dies
For all that falls and dies
Just like the sun must surely rise
Just like the sun must surely rise

Goodbye Otis
I love you
Blessed be


I started crying before I got past the second line.  Then I cried on and off all the rest of the way through.  I had to stop several times to gain enough control to continue speaking.  For all that, no one interrupted me. I did not feel judged while I performed nor afterwards.  A very respectful environment.

Youth

Youth

Adult

Adult

Elder

Elder

After I finished performing, I was terrified by how vulnerable I felt.  I couldn’t look at anyone else, couldn’t allow myself to see their reactions.  Part of me shut down then.  Exposing myself so deeply created a strong desire to run away and a strong urge to attack, simultaneously.  Eventually, after rest and time alone, I was able to reengage in the rest of the weekend and proceeded to have a variety of other adventures.

Sunday afternoon.  The end of the training.  All activities were complete and it was time for me to go.  I packed everything into my car and climbed in the driver’s seat to head home.  There, I found something unexpected.

An unexpected gift of beauty.

An unexpected gift of beauty.

So beautiful.  Wings glimmering, colors strong. I decided to receive her presence in my car as a gift, as a small reward for my bravery.  Not as a new possession, but rather as a moment of beauty in the afternoon sun, the lifting of spirit inside me.  A gift.

I tempted fate and drove home with my windows rolled down.  She stayed.  And she stays still, wedged of her own volition into the bottom of my windshield.  A beautiful gift of the world.  Thank you Universe.  Thank you.

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6 Responses to Otis’ Song

  1. Shannon Drowne says:

    Thank you for writing this. Beautiful as always!

    Like

  2. Ruth Wittorff says:

    Lovely tribute, Kim. I’m sorry for your loss.

    Like

  3. Laura Lucas says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of Otis’ passing. This is a beautiful tribute.

    Like

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