So, my cat died four weeks ago. Still hard. I still keep thinking I hear the cat door open and close while the other cats are clustered around me. There are just two, now. The house seems empty without Bastet around.
One night I’d been playing Destiny PVP waaaaaaaaaay too late. Like, till maybe 2 am (shhhh, keep it a secret). And I was probably killing it in the Crucible. Because I do.
Anyway, that’s just some slang to show how IN I am in the hardcore gaming world. (I mean, I’m not. Not really.)
So I finally had the willpower to not play just one more match, and I got into bed. When I closed my eyes, all I could see was the heads-up display radar flashing red at me.
That’s fine. I mean, who hasn’t overdosed before on a video game and while trying to sleep has the jitters from holding their arms too close to their body for long periods of time? Common problem.
But as I tried to sleep, still seeing the game in my head in a sleep-deprived fog, I realized that maybe I’ve been immersing myself in the fantasy construct of the game to numb the painful and loud absence left by my old companion, Bastet.
With my eyes closed, I thought of her. I flashbacked to the vet’s office and holding her as the doctor gave her the barbituate.
And I couldn’t get my head around the fucking idea that she’s gone. And that I held her tight in that moment, and now she’s in the ground and what I knew of her has fled–the light that made Bastet, Bastet. The animation. The purrs. The sounds. The fragrance of her fur. The blinky-eye kisses that she’d give me from across a room.
My sleep-deprived brain settled on the grotesque image of her body, a white skeleton in the ground (though yes, I know it will be some time before that actually happens), a strange entity that bears no familiarity to the cat I knew.
And I suddenly understood elephants. I mean, you know how elephants are said to revisit the bones of a departed family/herd member? I GET THAT NOW (it’s not necessarily true, however, see links). I felt like an elephant, in my head, wrapping myself around the rib bones of my cat, keening about my loss.
Do elephants keen? I could be making this up, this info about elephants. Don’t use this as a source for your biology report on elephants.
This is kind of psychedelic and is likely a result of the black maw of sorrow in my chest and the aforementioned overdose of Destiny PVP.
But let’s all be unflinchingly honest for a moment about American culture–there is no built-in method to channel grief. To deal with grief and the struggle to move on when a loved one passes on.
Bear with me here.
We have a funeral. And . . .
That’s it, guys, a FUNERAL. We close the casket or scatter the ashes and boom, that’s it. Good luck moving on, friend. And then those of us least affected by the death do tend to move on well enough.
But if you’ve lost a lover, a child, a cat or a dog (let’s face it because they’re with us as often as humans), how the hell do you deal? How do you get your instinctive, animal-brain around that sudden, malicious absence?
I say that it’s the old part of the brain that really struggles, because I think it is. I’m sure there’s likely research or info out there to back me up, but this isn’t a research paper. This is my OP-ED piece. It’s my opinion. And I’m saying that it’s the old part of the brain because I think the newer parts of the human brain grasp death, in a way. Those are the parts that comprehend time. The past. The future. The present. And they’re all trying to mix and mingle in the middle of the brain, the part where we live.
But death, death is confusing, and it goes against the old part of the brain, where we live in the now. That is the part of our heads that looks around to find our friend, and then the other parts of our brain are like, “Dude, get a grip! They’re GONE.” And we are like, “What does that even mean? How can they be gone? They were just here! I JUST SAW THEM.” None of this is making sense. But consider that it doesn’t make sense because DEATH DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.
In other cultures, there are complicated funeral rites that sometimes last up to 100 days after the death of a loved one. These traditions aren’t meant for the dead, though it’s said that they are–they’re for the living. They’re designed to channel grief into something meaningful, into a roadmap of how to make it the hell out of the valley of the shadow of death to where you can manage to move on without wanting to collapse in a waterfall of tears, implode into a blackhole of rage and sorrow.
And we have nothing like that. We have our shared American religions that tell us our dead friend or lover is living again with God or Christ. But that’s not really enough. Because it doesn’t involve us in doing something that means something. To help us move from the space of catastrophic sadness and loneliness and “I can’t go on” to the place of “I can deal, I can go on, OMG I don’t want to, but I will.”
In any case. That’s all. I’ve been using a game world to find solace. And it’s working.
But still. I miss her. So much.
And see, here are these quotes from The Unnamable, by Samuel Beckett, which is how death and grief feel to those left behind:
If I gave up! If only I could give up! Before beginning, before beginning again! (What breathlessness! That’s right, ejaculations! That helps you on, that puts off the fatal hour. No? The reverse? I don’t know.) Start again, in this immensity, this obscurity: go through the motions of starting again – you who can’t stir, you who never started. (You the who?) (Go through the motions? What motions? You can’t stir.)
You launch your voice, it dies away in the vault. (It calls that a vault – perhaps it’s the abyss: those are words). It speaks of a prison (I’ve no objection), vast enough for a whole people, for me alone (or waiting for me). I’ll go there now, I’ll try and go there now.
I can’t stir.
And then this clip:
I don’t know: perhaps it’s a dream, all a dream. (That would surprise me.) I’ll wake, in the silence, and never sleep again. (It will be I?) Or dream (dream again), dream of a silence, a dream silence, full of murmurs (I don’t know, that’s all words), never wake (all words, there’s nothing else).
You must go on, that’s all I know.
They’re going to stop, I know that well: I can feel it. They’re going to abandon me. It will be the silence, for a moment (a good few moments). Or it will be mine? The lasting one, that didn’t last, that still lasts? It will be I?
You must go on.
I can’t go on.
You must go on.
I’ll go on. You must say words, as long as there are any – until they find me, until they say me. (Strange pain, strange sin!) You must go on. Perhaps it’s done already. Perhaps they have said me already. Perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story. (That would surprise me, if it opens.)
It will be I? It will be the silence, where I am? I don’t know, I’ll never know: in the silence you don’t know.
You must go on.
I can’t go on.
I’ll go on.