Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dear Friends:

Jasmine, my eleven year old calico cat, passed away early on Monday morning, September 27, 2010, due to sudden, unexpected kidney failure. She died at home, comforted by me, and in the presence of her feline friends Sunshine and Squeaky.

This has been a season of loss. My father passed away on March 15th of this year. When I returned from his funeral on March 18th, I found my cat Reba, Jasmine’s lifelong companion, dead on the bedroom floor. And now, Jasmine has joined her.

There is not much to say of Jasmine. She was a cat. Yet, it was her very cat-ness that made her so extraordinary. Nothing troubled Jasmine. She took what came in life, accepting even her own death with a grace I have rarely seen anywhere. She behaved with an excellence I have never seen in any creature. She was not a cat that cried, yowled, scratched, jumped dramatically, or got into “cat capers.” Her favorite place was on my desk, watching me work. When she walked, it was with an ease I envied.

I had often said that if Jasmine could be human she would have worn white gloves and carried a parasol. And spoken softly, which she always did (unless she was at the vet’s, where she routinely let the doctors know that she would prefer that they not live through the day---yet, that too, was “behaving with excellence.”)

Somehow, some years ago, she got locked in the garage for several days when I was away. When I came home, I didn’t even notice her absence. By chance, I went into the garage. When I opened the door, she simply walked out of the garage and went to her water bowl. There were no cries, and no dramatics. She did not dart for the bowl. She walked as if nothing had happened at all, as if this was just the norm. Yet, she had been in there at least three days in the heat and humidity. When I checked the garage, I discovered that she had been using the padded seat of my exercise bike as a place to sleep, and that she had used an empty spare litterbox for her needs. She made do, trusting that what was to be was to be.

She was almost forgettable simply because she was so undemanding, and yet is immeasurably memorable because there lived in her little body a sentient spirit that was always in the moment. It took me too long to realize that Jasmine’s spirit was one that could be a template for my own life. I was in the presence of an accomplished Zen Master who loved, lived, and did only what was needful, whether it was eating or grooming or comforting her companions. Just to be in her presence was soothing. She always was just where she was, and she always acted kindly; it did not matter if she was in the presence of humans, other cats, or dogs. She treated everyone well, and was liked by all. Even my Dad, who was not a cat person, called Jasmine, “My little girlfriend."

Did I say that there was not much to say? I should say rather that so much of who Jasmine was has to be left unsaid to be appreciated. There was not a wasted moment, extra motion, or unnecessary action in her life. Truly, she was a Bodhisattva in the shape of a seven pound cat.

It was an honor to be her “owner.” A greater honor to her will be if I can live just as she lived.

Thank you for your kind thoughts and good wishes.