October 5, 2003
Last Monday my cat, Oscar, died. He’d been with me for 19 years. He was about 23 years old, an old guy by cat standards. He’d been deaf for a couple of years, had bad arthritis that bothered him even after pain killers, and eventually succumbed to renal failure.Oscar had always been “more than a cat”. For instance, about a month or so after he first showed up in my life, one of our other cats was hurt: she liked to hang out with the horses in the pasture across the road, and somehow managed to get kicked or stepped on by a horse. We found her dragging herself up the driveway by her front legs, her pelvis broken. We took her to the vet, who told us there was nothing to do but keep her confined for six to eight weeks in hopes that her pelvic bones would heal on their own: the bones were too fine to operate on, and she was a very small cat to begin with. So we got a large wire dog cage, put in a litter box and some blankets, and put the little cat in the cage until she healed. She was to remain in the cage for three to four weeks, after which time we could open the door and hope she could manage to regain her hind legs. Oscar either slept on top of the cage, or beside the cage, for the entire three weeks we kept her confined, and every hour or so he’d poke his paw into the cage and tap the little cat on the head. She’d wake up, they’d make eye contact, and then go back to sleep. He kept watch over her the whole time. When we finally opened the cage door, the little cat at first had a very hard time walking. Oscar would sit in front of the cage door and quietly meow to her, coaxing her out of the cage a bit at a time. As she struggled to walk across the floor, he’d sit just in front of her and call her, encouraging her to make the effort to walk. When she’d finally make it to him, he’d lick her on the head. With Oscar’s help, she finally regained her rear legs, and could walk once again.
He treated people in much the same way. When I was down or depressed he’d come sit by me, or try to get me to play with him: anything to make me feel better. When people would come to visit, he always insisted in being in the middle of the conversation, not just as a cat looking for attention, but rather as a participant. If we were sitting on the floor talking, Oscar would join the group as if he were another person, his eyes and head turning to follow the conversation. And every person he met he treated like a new friend.
Three or four weeks before he died, he began losing weight drastically. At that time I noticed that I’d sometimes look into his eyes and couldn’t see his pupils or irises. Instead of seeing his normally greenish-yellow eyes, I’d see an iridescent deep blue that seemed to go on forever. At first I thought it was just a trick of light, but it wasn’t: it was present in all kinds of different lighting conditions.
About five or six days before his death, I was thinking about what an amazing being Oscar was, the things we’d gone through together, and how much our relationship had meant to me. In that frame of mind, I sat down on the floor next to him. I started talking to him out loud, knowing full well that he was deaf and couldn’t hear a word of what I was saying. At one point I said to him, from the heart, and without even thinking about it beforehand, “I hope your relationship with me has meant as much to you as my relationship with you has meant to me.” I was sitting with one hand on the floor, with the palm facing up, and as soon as I had spoken those words, Oscar reached out his paw and put it in my upturned palm, and left it there. He had heard what I said, and his reaching out was his way of telling me he’d understood, and what our relationship meant to him. I closed my hand around his paw, and we just sat there.
The night before Oscar died, I’d had a sense that he was close to going. I was hopeful he’d make it through the night. I went to bed, but every time I turned over or moved in bed, I’d wake up, and every time I woke up I’d get up and check on Oscar. At around 2:30 in the morning I got up, checked on Oscar, petted him and ran my hands down his body to smooth him out, and then went back to bed. Oscar had been lying on his left side, and as soon as I got back into bed, I also automatically rolled onto my left side. As soon as I did so, my body became a large cat: Oscar and I had basically merged consciousness, and we were overlaid on each other like two flashlight beams blending, shining on a wall. I could sense him, and his body, as well as my own body, merged. In the middle of “us” was a large glowing blue white light, with an even more intense white light in the center, and I was saying to him, “this is where you have to go when you die. Remember this, pay attention. This is what it feels like,” as I took him, merged, into the white light at the center. I took him in and out several times, each time telling him to pay attention, reminding him not to get distracted, and telling him that if he got lost he could think of me and remember again. After some time, this process stopped and I came back to my normal body.
The next morning Oscar was obviously worse off, so I spent the day with him, keeping him comfortable, keeping him company. About an hour before he died, I sensed a change in him, and knew he didn’t have much time. To comfort him I began running my hands over his body, and began talking to him, once again knowing that he was deaf and couldn’t hear me. I suddenly found myself saying to him, “remember what we did last night, remember what I showed you. Don’t forget. Remember.” I said it over and over, hoping he’d stayed focused. In the midst of all this, I suddenly began telling him, “this is your last physical life. You don’t ever have to do this again. Remember what we did last night.”
A couple of minutes later, Oscar died. I sat with him for ten minutes or so, and then got up and wandered around the house. I decided to phone my mother to tell her about Oscar’s passing, but when I thought about talking about it, I couldn’t manage the words. I realized I hadn’t eaten anything in over twelve hours, so I decided to fix some dinner and give myself time to regroup. I was sitting in the living room chewing away on my dinner, staring off into space, thinking about Oscar and our life together. I was sad and tired. So I sat, chewing and staring at the wall, when suddenly there was a bright flash of light in the room, bright enough to block out everything in the room, and at the same moment there was an explosion of absolutely intense joy and bliss in my heart. Absolutely intense, enough that I went from chewing and blankly staring to having tears streaming down my face in an instant. And I immediately knew that Oscar had become one with the light, that he had made it, that he had remembered, and that I was feeling what he was feeling at the moment he broke free. I was ecstatic. I hollered, “Oh my God, he made it! He did it! Holy shit! He did it!” I was jumping up and down in happiness for my dear friend.
Later that evening I sat down to do a short meditation before finally going to bed, and as soon as I sat I went back into the bliss and joy, and I could sense Oscar’s presence totally immersed in an ocean of love and bliss—and I was experiencing it with him. Moreover, I could “see” what he was experiencing: he was moving through world after world—there were worlds with golden-white spirals and spheres ascending and descending , all in a state of intense bliss. There were animal worlds, people worlds, faces; faces going by very rapidly (I interpreted the faces as being Oscar’s past lives).
Before Oscar’s death, I had seen a blue-white sphere about the size of a ping-pong ball, floating around and near his body. This was the being who had been Oscar. Now, at the end of the “flight” through all the worlds, all the faces, I finally saw this being once again, but this time it looked like a miniature sun: instead of being blue-white it was a brilliant white-gold, with streams of white-gold light pouring out of it. And all in an infinite field of white-gold light, a sun in a sea of suns.
I buried Oscar the next morning, and the house felt very empty. For nineteen years he had been waiting for me outside my bedroom door when I got up in the morning, and now there was no one there. I missed him very much. But whenever I find myself missing him, I also find myself remembering when he reached out and put his paw in my hand. And as soon as I do that, I can still feel him just as I felt him on the evening he died, breaking through into the ocean of bliss and love.
I now have another cat, Yogi, who first showed up at my place in the spring of last year, while Oscar was still alive. At first he would just sneak in through the cat door and steal food (or so he thought, I’m sure. Actually, I had a spare bowl of food out for other cats; more than one would come in at night looking for dinner, but Yogi was the most persistent). By about mid summer I’d managed to make friends with Yogi, enough that I could pet him outside; he was still to nervous to do such a thing indoors. By September or so, Yogi was nervously comfortable about being in the house, but never seemed to have any kind of strong relationship with Oscar: they just seemed to tolerate each other– Oscar was very old, and dying, and involved in his own processes, and Yogi seemed to want to stay out of the way of that.
One the evening before Oscar died, Yogi was in my bedroom, hanging out with me, when Oscar staggered in. Oscar was pretty toxic at that point, and didn’t look too well. He was very obviously on his way out. Yogi took one look at him and ran to hide under a chair. Oscar came further into the room towards Yogi, at which point Yogi started shaking and threw up– twice– and then bolted from the room and out the cat door. The next morning there was no sign of Yogi, and no one had been into the cat food.
By late afternoon there was still no sign, and I begin to worry that Yogi had been so distressed by Oscar that he’d run off with no intention of returning. That evening, about five or so minutes before Oscar died, I saw above his body a blue star, as I mentioned before, but at one point that star was joined by a second star– both hung in space, perhaps three inches apart, and then the second star disappeared. Less than a minute later I heard a meow behind me, and turned around to see Yogi standing in the doorway. He’d been gone over twenty four hours, and had returned just at the end of Oscar’s life. And I realized that the second blue star I’d seen with Oscar was Yogi, and that Oscar was handing off the torch to Yogi, so to speak. It’ll be interesting to see what he does with this life.