We used to read the Moomintroll books to Isaac when he was small. They were wonderful stories created by Tove Jansson, a Finnish author and illustrator. I’m not sure where we first heard of these books, perhaps from someone at Waldorf where Isaac went to elementary school, perhaps from my husband’s close friend who has been living in Scotland for almost 30 years, perhaps from the Finnish exchange teacher I worked with when Isaac was first born. But whatever the source, these stories added a rich layer to those early years.
The family of Moomins were trolls and each book was filled with adventures, many of which were quite ordinary but peopled with strange and appealing beings engaged in relationship. The books were filled with irony, sarcasm, great wit, and were as enjoyable for adults as for children. Though filled with risk-taking and sometimes uncertainty, there was something particularly gentle about their spirit. These books became so much a part of our lives that when we got kittens, we named one of them Moomintroll.
Moomintroll died nearly two and a half years ago. It was not a quick death, but he waited for it with a patient stoicism that was incredibly humbling. I found the following in a stray journal this afternoon. It was written the day before he died.
My cat listing left,
Neck like coiled snake,
Patiently waits for death.
Concentrates on death.
Sips only tuna water,
Breathing asthmatically as he ingests the fluid
Offered on a spoon.
He waits and does not move.
In a box with one side open,
On a beach towel that has seen warmer, more distracting days.
His urine like a bird’s
Runs directly out of him,
So flushed it does not even smell.
His eyes sink back into his skull,
Every bone readable to my touch.
My cat patiently waits for death.
And I am too afraid to accept
That the pains in my chest are problematic
That my weight is compromising,
My teeth are cracking.
My toes ache from an old break;
My skin is blotched and dark hair grows on my upper lip.
There are mysterious spots on my skin,
One over my right ovary,
One under my left breast.
My cat concentrates on death.
Sprawls with crooked right leg,
Rejects the food I tender
Preferring the cool basement floor.
Hygiene dismissed in preference for the focus,
Meows to broadcast a short discomfort.
Settles back into great dignity.
TEARS HURT AND LOVE
WE MOVE ON
SAY OUR GOODBYES
YOU ARE LOVE
Comes like lightening, striking quickly,
The spark predicts the sound
Of fury, rage and remorse
Struck by the brightness
Of loss, struggles to regain
The ability to see and hear
Temporarily blinded by
Temporarily deafened by
The body reacts
Returning to the soil
Feeding the soil
Or the soul
That which takes, gives
But only if you can stand the wait
I am moved by your poignant, intimate, and poetic response….
Yes, pets never complain nor waste parts of their life anticipating death. They accept our love and they accept their fate. We can learn from them.