Death has been my companion for some years now. Back then he came unexpectedly when my best friend suddenly died and ever since I have been contemplating my own mortality. Last month death stepped into my life once again, but this time he took on a very different shape.
And all of a sudden he knocks at my door again. Standing in front of me he looks at me friendly. This time I have called him. This time he didn't show unexpectedly. This time he is gentle.
A thought runs through my head. Life only consist of two things. Of loving and letting go.
But how can I let go of something I love so much?
It's one of the greatest acts of love, when you can let love go, he responds.
Once again death stands in front of my door. We know each other. He touched my life several times before, but we truly met four years ago, when one of my best friends, Aline, went with him. He appeared unpreparedly, was harsh, destructive and earth-shattering. He hit me with a vehemence that let my whole world collapse. I thought he would take me with him as well, because a part of me died with Aline. But that's not why death came into my life. It wasn't my time, but the time for us to meet personally. As you can imagine I didn't like him very much back then. I had to forcefully let go of someone, which I was absolutely not ready to. We were all so young and this encounter didn't make any sense to me.
Then, a few months later, he announced himself once more. My grandmother was dying. But this time he was gentle and soft. I felt his presence the night she passed away and he was kind.
Over the course of the last years we got to know each other better, death and I. Not because someone passed away, but because I had questions and I wanted to know what he really looked like. I realized that death belongs to life, whether I wanted this to be true or not, and that we actually encounter death on a daily basis. Every time something ends, death is there, too. Once more nature is the best example. Year after year the plants are dying in the fall. What we forget about in our society, though, is that after winter there is always spring. That after death comes rebirth, a new beginning.
So, letting go is not something eternal, but something temporary?, I asked death.
Yes, he said, love, life always goes on.
Although I feel connected to death on a soul level and I think I know what he means by that answer, my chest ist aching these days. Our cat Mimmi is getting weaker and weaker. She is a very old lady, almost 19 years old, and we all knew that the time to let her go would come sooner than later. But Mimmi has been part of our family for over half of my life and now I have to let her go just like that?
Over the last few months she has been living with me and it was simply wonderful to pet her soft fur, to be welcomed by her little sounds and be woken up by her loud meows. I love that animal so much! Even when I have to mix her meat-smoothies because she can't bite that well anymore.
In secret I have wished to accompany her until the last moment as I have always felt very connected to her. During the last months I have often asked her to show me when she is ready to go. The first sign came in a dream. I dreamed that she wouldn't be able to move her hind legs anymore. The second sign came on the anniversary of Aline's death when she wouldn't eat anymore.
Even though a visit at the vet's granted us two more weeks, it becomes very clear now that her life force is fading. Suddenly her hind legs don't work anymore. Like in the dream. I know I have to relieve her and that she will suffer if I let her live, just because I don't want to say goodbye yet, just because I'm not ready yet. And so I call death.
Like an old friend he comes and gently carries Mimmi away on his feathered wings. As she is putting Mimmi down, the vet says that it is only due to our care that Mimmi became that old and that it is our responsibility, too, to help her move on as she would have never grown to be that old in the wild. This makes sense to me and on a rational level I know it's the right decision. But still: I was the one who called death. I interfered with a life. I decided to let go of something I love so much...
I don't have final words for this text yet. Mimmi visits me almost nightly in my dreams and every time I have to decide again to let her go. I miss her so much, but in this act of missing her the love and the letting go resonates, too. They sound like the opposites, but actually they belong together, I realize. Because by letting an animal into our life we know that we will probably have to let it go again someday. And only by letting go, something new can arise, for me as well as for Mimmi.
My old friend, death, puts his hands on my chest in a comforting gesture. Do you hear your heartbeat? Do you hear that you're alive?
Yes, death belongs to life, loving belongs to letting go and that I find terrible. Terribly beautiful.