My tears for Rati, our brown Devon cow, who meandered over our small plot of land for nineteen years, are gradually subsiding. This morning I poured kitchen scraps into the bin outside for Chakra. I’ve always called out Rati’s name first. So today I did again. Raaaa . . . I stopped. I didn’t even call for Chakra.
The familiarity of routine in our physical environment and emotional states embeds themselves in us to give the appearance of stability. Life repeatedly fights to endure and express itself and it wants stability for its existence.
But Rati is gone. She’ll never walk our field again. Chakra grazes alone. D. says that we have to watch him. If he starts moping—walking slow with his head down—then we may have to move him to a place with other cows. Someone told me that cows and horses won’t sleep unless they are with at least one other member of their herd to watch out and alert them of any danger. They take turns sleeping. If they’re alone and don’t doze they become high strung and agitated. Just unhappy.
Is my grief for Rati worthy? Aren’t other losses more important?
There is so much more to grieve.
The night before last, three young men in our spiritual community—in their 20’s and early 30s—were killed in a collision with a tracker trailer outside Jacksonville, a coast city within an hour of Alachua. The tractor trailer hit too close to home. It claimed lives of our kin. There are three funerals scheduled this week. Three days in a row. Nearly everyone is deeply grieving.
Is this grief any less worthy of the emotions I felt when I heard about the fire in Paynes Prairie last Sunday morning? The smoke choked the vision of travelers on I-75 causing a pile up of a dozen cars, six tractor trailers, and a motor home, killing 11 people and sending 18 to the hospital.
My conviction is that I have to feel for all of life—fully—in order to find genuine, spiritual love. I believe the Heart has to embrace all feelings. If not, if I close down to one or another, as I try to avoid the pain, I’m shutting down parts of the mechanism that loves. And love is too precious to shut down any part of it. Without feeling love there is no meaning to life—whether it be a physical or mystical experience of it.
Therefore I must feel pain.
Nog brought Rati water around 9:00 a.m. the morning she died. But she wouldn’t help to get water on her tongue by extending it.
“She’s not going to be long,” Nog said. “She didn’t take water.”
“Well, I’ve been praying for that for many days. I can barely stand each hour as it passes, knowing how much pain she’s in.”
I’ve been holding her, stroking her chin and neck, singing mantras to her, and talking to her every day. I felt I should honor her existence, acknowledge it, by staying with her for a while. I spent about three sessions with her over the week. I had to let her know I was there and everything was all right. But I was also sensitive that she might want to be alone in her death throes. Some animals prefer to make that transition by themselves.
An hour and a half after Nog had brought Rati water, I walked toward the shed to have another session with her. She hadn’t moved her head off the ground for three days. But I always knew she was alive because one ear moved around to the various sounds around her. She was conscious and taking input from the environment. When I walked or drove by, she would try to raise her head. Life was moving along without her. It was the life she knew, and she was leaving the life I know.
When I got within twenty-five feet of her I could see she was gone. Her ear lay motionless close to her head. The soul, Rati, had left this place. I walked up to her. The soul behind her eyes was gone.
As I walked away from Rati, I looked back at her several times. Before I reached the house I was crying. Why am I crying? I thought. The tears were for my own death.
I cried because I’m going to die. But I wasn’t crying because I have to die. I realized I was crying because love wants to live in the relationships it develops. We grieve when love moves from one relationship to another. I want relationships that are permanent.
“Can you come pick up a cow,” Nog said after dialing the phone.
There was a slight dissonance in my body. It was visceral and emotional. It was the type of moment I’ve always pulled away from. Either by being oblivious or ignoring the sensations in my body. These types of moments signal the possible pain of feeling.
It’s taken me many years to be aware of the feelings in my body. Now I recognize them and the moment my mind and body tries to resist feeling. Now, as an observer, I can judge whether the feeling is worthy of owning or not. I choose feelings that support the evolution of my being—the emergence of my spiritual being. I embrace all feelings that support my heart broadening its band of love.
I begin with loving myself and my family. If I can effect change here in one little house, then the world is one house closer to a spiritual experience of life.
As my heart continues its quest for love, it takes in the grief of loss. Rati, three young men here in my spiritual family, and the people who lost their lives a few miles south of here. All griefs are worthy. All souls are worthy.
With an open heart, my love to you and your family,