Before a difficult surgery yesterday I was fortunate to spend some quiet moments alone with a cat. He snuggled up to me for security and warmth, I snuggled up to him for primal peace that only an animal can give. His purring radiated through me in soft waves and melted away my worries and my very thoughts. There was only the cat and myself in the universe, the two of us oscillating with dumb gratitude for our lives. But since I can't banish thoughts for very long, they came back soon enough. I though about the less healthy animals I had held like this, some on their way to recovery and others at the end of their life's journey. I thought about who would be with me when my turn came to say goodbye to life, and for the first time I gave it serious thought. I knew it would not be my dear husband - I hope not, as he is incapable of being alone. I hope he precedes me, but not because I want to live longer. While I would be devastated to lose him, I have a feral and solitary self I can revert to. He does not. We have no children, and I do not wish to be comforted by strangers. Right then I knew that I wanted to hug an animal close to me as I made my exit. If I am fortunate enough to plan this moment and lucid enough to make this request, if I have enough feeling in my shrivelled skin to delight in the softness of fur, the warmth of a sniffing nose and a tongue grooming my face, I will go out with this kind of flourish. I would like to hope I have earned this privilege.
The surgery went well, and for that I am thankful to the cat. He made my hands steady and cautious, and my purpose bold and brazen. He reminded me that the rest of the world is none of my concern at such moments.