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Loving and Letting Go–Lessons from a Fur Angel

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A Sunny-style hug in “lap lounging” position

It’s hard to believe that just  a few short weeks ago, we held Sunny for the last time and said our final farewells as he journeyed out of this physical life. I am sharing a bit of our story and the lessons he left us on loving and letting go, as a tribute to our truly remarkable feline “fur angel.”

Sunny came to us 10 years ago as a direct answer to the most specific request we’d ever made to the Universe: we asked for a golden boy cat who would love us all. And two weeks later, he showed up, literally, on our doorstep, an abandoned, sick little kitten who was tenderly nursed back to health by my daughter, Angela. This forged a truly extraordinary bond between them—though, just as we had asked, Sunny unreservedly loved us all.

For Angela, Sunny became her constant, truest friend for over a decade—a painful and turbulent decade for her in many ways. But through it all, Sunny was just Always There—by her side, on her lap, draped over her shoulder, stretched next to her in bed, brushing against her legs, sitting on her feet, wrapping his tail around her knees, patting her face with his paw. Even just gazing earnestly at her, as he had been doing a lot more in recent times, he absolutely radiated Love—it was visible and palpable. He was, truly, Divine Love incarnate for her–and  for us all, including our other cats.

Kitties 011 At 10 years old, he had slowed down considerably from his younger wall-jumping and Angela-chasing bursts of kitty craziness. He was, instead, an unabashed foodie and ultimate Zen master of the art of lounging–on the floor where he blended exquisitely with the golden hardwood, in “my” chair (really his own kingly throne), across a full half of the couch,

100_4107 Critters 002 Critters 091DSCF0242and most especially, settling into Angela’s lap JUST as she was about to get up to go do something that he obviously considered completely unnecessary and irrelevant.

“What’s your rush?” he seemed to ask. “Let’s just BE together for awhile….” And she would inevitably melt and just BE with him for awhile, lounging, actively cuddling, or sometimes playfighting, as the energy level dictated. And all those “awhiles” blended into a decade-long string of golden Sunny moments that we thought would never end….

Until the fateful October morning when he settled onto our rug and GAZED at me, as he had once before when he had a special message to convey. That first time, I got the meaning “I’M WITH YOU” when we’d contemplated moving to another state and wondered if he’d be better off with friends. This time, it felt different–something I simply couldn’t take in right then, something that sounded like, “THIS IS IT…”

That afternoon, he failed to make an appearance when treats were distributed–an utterly unprecedented event for our resident gourmet. Huddled on Angela’s bed, he was listless and seemed feverish. And so we rushed off with him into the Twilight Zone of all-night vets and hospitals and tests that kept coming out negative for days. There was a brief respite early on, when the fever abated and we had him home for one more “normal” night and got our final photo of him Zen-lounging on Angela’s shoes–a last golden moment at home.

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But that same day he stopped eating and drinking again and we re-entered the Twilight Zone at 4 am, at a different vet hospital. There he was finally diagnosed–pancreatitis, they said. We see it all the time, they said. The prognosis is usually very good, they said.

But not this time. Complications kept arising, and information seemed always to be too little, too late. After days of downward spiral, the vet offered only two options: a risky and painful surgery, or euthanasia.

And so we went to him for what would be our final golden Sunny moments. One more earnest GAZE that said, “ALL I WANT NOW IS TO GO PEACEFULLY, WITH YOU AND LOVING YOU TO THE END.” Our acceptance of that message. The final snuggles, strokes, loving words of gratitude for the gift he had been to us for ten amazing, wonderful years. We felt, even in our pain, a sort of supreme spiritual clarity that allowed time to stretch so that we could express and receive all the love that was meant for us in those last brief moments. There was, somehow, a deep sense of completion and satisfaction within us all.

When the vet came in to administer the final injection, Sunny slowly, deliberately turned in Angela’s lap so his face was cuddled up to her right side–that way his back was to the vet and the hospital tubes were not visible, so we could see him at the end as the Sunny we remembered. He laid his head on Angela’s hand, and relaxed into sleep and into his passing. It was indeed peaceful and just what he wanted–our hands holding him, our love surrounding him, to the very end. I sensed the silver cord connecting soul to body dissolve, and as his soul soared upward I could swear I heard singing and saw him somehow SHIFT into a form still golden, but more angel than feline.

His pain was over; ours was intensified. Letting go of all that Sunny had been to us–a unique and fascinating friend, a beloved family member, and a true source of radiant, unconditional Love wrapped in velvety golden fur–it ripped our hearts open as we had never experienced before. Not even my divorce had hurt like this. It felt like what Emily Dickinson wrote, “There is a pain–so utter–it swallows substance up….”  We were both swallowed up, for a time. We are making our journey back, day by day, helped by family and friends.

Now we can better absorb and relay some of what Sunny had been teaching us about life, love, and letting go:

1. Savor ALL the joys of embodiment–food 🙂 , physical touch, the outdoors, good long stretches, zesty activity, utter repose. Being physical is truly a magnificent and all-too-brief experience and is meant to be treasured, golden moment by golden moment.

2. Lounge more with those you love. There is no substitute for simply, fully, BEING with one whose love you share. Talk is optional, snuggling is not.

3. Pay attention to ALL inner prompts to express love. We are so thankful we listened to the still small voices that urged us, “Get his favorite food this week…play that paper bag game again…take a few more pictures…cuddle up just a bit longer…play now, work later…” Especially that last one.

0044. Be fully present when it is time to let go. Feel everything, honor everything, including accepting the ache of missing a beloved embodied form, and allowing  that ache to soften by opening to Love in other forms.

But if you’d like to know the largest lesson Sunny taught us about Love, you can find it written hereon the page my sister created as a memorial fund to honor Sunny’s life and our final days of caring for him. If you  feel an inner prompt, perhaps from a special fur friend of your own, to share in this fund to honor Sunny, please know that this Love shared is Love multiplied and will ripple back to you in yet more forms. And if you sense a certain golden glow around you afterwards, that would be Sunny’s heart and ours sending hugs and thanks to you. And, of course, more Love.