By Gigi Cast

     Angel chose to consciously die. The thought had been lingering in her mind as she was waiting for the timing. Angel, our cat, was nearing her fourteenth birthday. Our son, at one years old, had picked her out of an array of kittens at an Animal Rescue League. She patiently sat waiting for his decision. Characteristically, she held the moment as if suspended in time. We grew to be aware of her subtleties as she moved in the world with deliberate grace, dignity and unassuming humility.

     Angel often opened her body with sprawled out legs and relaxed, hanging head for me to energetically heal her. She entered the space of healing with abandon and engaged with total consent. Experiencing energy healing was one of her favorite things to do. Being and working with the land and nature spirits was another. We live on a tidal inlet from the ocean in Maine. In the active period leading up to Angel s death from kidney failure, she walked our land saying good-bye to her most cherished spots, the trees, water, ground, rocks, animals and spirits. She was completely conscious of her closure. Most likely she would not be coming back.

     Through out the winter Angel had been finicky with her eating. I decided to take her to the vet for her opinion. The vet intravenously gave Angel fluids for dehydration and suggested to continue giving her fluids to help her kidneys. Though Angel did not object to the treatment, she made it clear she did not want any further help. Knowing I was getting a clear message, it was at this point that I chose complete acceptance of Angels choice to die. My husband, son and I became the midwives and support team for her process. Angel was empowered by our giving her permission and blessings to go, no strings attached. Each step was her choice. The open space of our downstairs became Angel s threshold. She chose here to be present in the activity of our lives. Life went on as usual yet each moment was clothed in gentleness for Angel s wishes and the awareness of our sacred shared space. Life as we knew it would soon be changed.

     Angel continued to go outside but her long walks stopped. Instead she would curl up at the base of a tree or lie in a sphinx position on the large flat rocks in front of the door. The power of the earth and the "spirits of place" engulfed her aura helping her to release from her body and knit the fragments of time. She was to go whole. Complete... all aspects of herself healed and connected as one. She radiated peace, even on her most trying days. I offered her comfort from any pain with energy work and homeopathy. She was grateful to us for allowing her, her space and choices and being able to disconnect slowly within the container of our love.

     Angel and I wove together our life by remembering stories of our past together and honoring the special places we shared together outside. We talked about our future and the truth of our connection. We listened to the continuity of the tide and the beauty of nature and relationship. Together we often journeyed to a space on the other side where the spirit goes in process of disengaging. In the very beginning of Angels deterioration, she spoke of the possibility of going out to the woods to die so as not to cause us pain. I told her I d respect her wish... but I hoped she would consider my being with her at her crossing. I was not sure until the end if her wish was to have me present. I learned that she had always wanted me with her. I needed to totally accept her profound love for me and love myself as that love. It was as if all the pieces in a puzzle fit and a synthesis on each level connected.

     The closing days of her dying had been "sugaring" days. The earth was softening, the air palpable with light and the maples breathed the liquidness of sap. Upon entering the house one late evening, I felt the atmosphere had shifted. It had become more billowy, more cushioned yet edged in transition. As with a mother in labor, Angel had entered the beginnings of a transitional stage and graced herself with its moment. By Angel s mood and stability to walk, it was not clear how long she would be with us. But she beamed, "It won t be long yet." I stayed with her for quite a while that evening, just the two of us alone with the fire. My commitment and respect for her choices allowed me to experience myself balanced, open to move in any direction, unattached. It was through my unconditional love for her that I was able to witness and cradle her passage. I sat there with her exchanging an understanding born from a deep appreciation of each other and profound trust. In this imminent time together, I had a moment of doubt whether I ought to have intervened and asked her if she would like to be euthanized. She quickly reassured me her choice was to go consciously from her body. The velvety night air enveloped the house like a protected womb and the moment approached for me to leave Angel to go to sleep upstairs. I was walking a delicate balance of respect for her choices and needs and listened intently to respond to the degree of closeness, comfort and space that she needed. I kept checking into myself and to her for that fine line. I left her to herself for the rest of the night.

     In my sleep filled awareness, the next morning I felt my husband leave the room and go downstairs. Moments later he was back, saying "I think you ought to come. Angel s not doing so good." In her preciousness when she saw me she tried to greet me and lift her body off the floor. Yet her strength had ebbed through the night and she floundered for a moment to greet me or surrender to her body. She looked into my eyes and said, "I can t go on anymore. That s alright, isn't it?" She lay there in an outward appearance of powerlessness, yet lay open to the power of surrender and trust in herself. I reaffirmed to her that it was OK to go and gently asked what she needed. And thus began the day, where as in childbirth, the body speaks from an unfathomable source of knowing and rhythm.

     Angel and I were alone together most of the day. My husband was busy boiling a large amount of sap and our son was in school. Angel and I danced the dance of cooperative caring and the magic of death. I began to realize that she was not the only one being cared for but that I was intimately involved in my own transition, birthed by her. In her abandon and her body becoming inch by inch cold, she offered me life. Her awareness of my unrequited love, a piece unbeknownst to me, sought to heal.

     At the end of the day for an hour or so I had to leave to take my son somewhere. I did not know if she would be alive when I returned. I trusted that this space offered Angel an opportunity to die alone if she wished. Upon our return, to my somewhat surprise Angel was still with us. My son spent some time with her sayings his good-byes. My husband and each of our other animals had shared moments with her through out the day. I lay down on the floor with her, curled my body around her as if she were in my belly and began to breath with her. My hand gently cupped her heart and its pulse. I became overwhelmed with the acknowledgement that she granted me my request to be with her for her crossing. I cried allowing our love to wash through us and continued to breath with her, helping her to release on the exhale. The spaces between her exhales became longer and lingered into resolution. Her heart s pulse slowed and weakened into silence. I lay there with her body and felt a sense of awe and deep completion. A stillness prevailed and expanded into texture. I was overwhelmed with the gift and lesson in receiving and for the tangible kinesthetic sense of the energy of surrender.

     In the moments of Angel s release from her body and the moments of my body still cradling her body in a womb like position, a healing took place. As if the winds of time blew between us... a traumatic past life death of her as my 2 1/2 year old human child who died in my arms, melted away. My presence and love supported her to experience and integrate within herself a spirit without pain and suffering. And she passed to me four aspects of herself, one from each body; physical, emotional, mental and spiritual that was shared from my own soul. These aspects merged as one quality of self acceptance and wove a balanced wholeness. Our innate understanding of each other possessed deeper mysteries and purpose. No wonder I had such a soft spot for her.

     Not quite ready to detach myself from her body, I finally picked her up and swaddled her in my arms and walked into the evening dampness down our muddy driveway, to the steaming sugar house and my husband. I entered the misty room and softly said, "Angel died." My husband felt to be part of the soft misty steam, its sweet fragrance and ambiance. Reverently, he moved to Angel, swaddled like a baby and caressed her head, speaking to her softly. Her death was accepted without judgment and comforted with his love. I stood there for some time walking about a bit, talking to my husband, breathing the maple trees sweetness, singing softly to her, and interacting with the normalcy of any day. For a second I wondered, how "funny" I might appear if someone saw me walking around with a dead cat in my arms. The thought quickly vanished as I completely accepted the truth of the naturalness and beauty of death and its power cushioned with love. Angel herself was quite pleased with the transaction and was softly witnessing the moment. Shortly later, I walked back through the evenings light to put her down before her next resting spot in Mother Earth. To this day, I continue to reflect on the grace of her death.

In closing, Angel would like to say:
     "I am ignited with the source of my knowing, the source of who I am. I am the whisper of the heart, the gentleness of the soul and the mystery of life. I am me, One with All Things. I am happy."

Angel died: March 17, 1999

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