Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A little light Sanskrit

There's a word in Sanskrit, dukkha. It means suffering, the inability to adapt to change, and the inability to accept the impermanence of life and everything around us.

Of course being human we primarily think of ourselves as experiencing dukkha, but in the last couple of days I've seen something that's made me more aware that we are not alone in clinging to a past, and it makes me sad, because I know this is a story played out thousands of times a day, and probably many more.

Last February we lost our elderly cat Salvador, who was a boisterous and outrageous personality. It is no exaggeration to say that we are still mourning the absence of our enormous red "boy". The grief is still acutely painful at times, and for those who think that's over the top - well - that doesn't make it any less so. And if you don't understand it's because it wasn't your relationship, and the hole is not in your heart.

It was really only a matter of a couple of days after Sal's death that I knew I couldn't live without a cat, which is how Smoky came into our lives. The woman we got him from said he'd belonged to her neighbours, who grew tired of him, or bored or busy or whatever… and simply "threw him away" in the middle of an Alberta winter. She asked permission to take him in and find a new home for him, which is how he came to us.

From the beginning it was clear he prefers men and he absolutely loves our older son. When Ian arrives Smoky is all over him. Yesterday our younger son Zak arrived for his first visit since we got Smoky and Smoky spent almost the entire day and evening in Zak's arms. It was clear he was totally smitten. He spent the night sleeping at Zak's side, and now, when Zak is out with friends, Smoky is curled up in Zak's suitcase, on Zak's dirty clothes.

And it occurred to me that Smoky is in much the same position as we are. He's suffering the same grief that we're feeling. We're attentive, loving, replacements for a young man he loved very much, and who discarded him without the least thought for the pain and unsatisfied longing that will never ever be resolved in that stout and loving little heart. Their separation was as final for him as the death which parted us from Sal, but at least we understand old age, pain and death. There is no way for a small and completely devoted cat to understand how the person he loves could be so callous.

But there is this. Grief is impermanent too. We comfort each other, and in time our wounds will heal.

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