Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Further On Up the Road

I was talking to my friend TS Elmwood earlier today. I was telling her about Will’s cat being very ill.

“That’s so sad. I feel so bad for him and Mary – you’ve told me how much they love their animals.”

He said that they are worried that their old girl is near the end.

“Our dog died last year. During her last weeks, I found myself trying to come up with ways to express what I was feeling. Metaphors, analogies, whatever, for the experience.”

For instance?

“I would think about walking with her, along a path near a cliff, and being scared to death that she was going to fall off the cliff. I realized that wasn’t quite right – she was old and sick, she wasn’t going to fall off a cliff. Then I would think about fog.”


“I would think about walking through a thick fog with her, and she would be by my side, then she would walk a little farther away from me, and it would be harder to see her in the fog, and again, I was scared that she would walk away from me, and disappear into the fog, and she would be gone.”

Will was telling me that one night he saw their cat sitting in the doorway to their bedroom, and then the cat walked away and disappeared around the corner.

“Poor Will. That does come close to describing how I felt about our dog. So along with cliffs and fog, I also thought about different paths – that is, paths or roads, with forks or branches.”


“When I realized that our dog did not have long to live, I realized that we were on the path to her death. Day by day, I would think about the path ahead, and my impressions of how long or short the path might be – when she had a good couple of days, I would think that the path had changed, and we still might have a ways to go. But then her symptoms would get worse, and I would feel that we had taken a different path, one that would be shorter.”

Will was saying that he hopes to get her to her next birthday in a month.

“And we had hoped to get our dog through the holidays. She made it, and then we had to let her go.”

This is probably a stupid question, but do you believe any of that rainbow bridge stuff?

“I don’t know. Have you heard the story about the man, his dog, and the path to heaven?”

Not that I recall.

“Let me try to adapt it to a man with cats. Ummm…“

So a man is out walking. He feels as if he is just waking from a dream, and he is just becoming aware of his surroundings. He looks around, and he sees that a number of cats are walking with him.

He remembers that these cats were his, through various times in his life, and that they all died before he did. And he realizes that he too, had died.

He and the cats walk for a ways, and they come to a big, fancy gate. There is a man sitting on a chair in front of the gate – he sees the man, and smiles, and the gate opens.

“Come in,” says the man at the gate. “We’ve been expecting you.”

The man with the cats looks through the gate, and sees a beautiful village, with many beautiful buildings and beautiful people. He asks the man at the gate, “What is this place?”

“This is Heaven,” is the answer. “Come in and join us.”

The man with the cats starts to walk through the gate. But the other man stops him, and says, “Wait,” and points to the cats, “they’re not allowed here.”

The man with the cats looks at the beautiful village behind the gate. He looks at his cats, and they look at him. He turns to the man at the gate, and says, “No thanks.”

So the man and the cats walk a ways further. They come to another gate – this is a simple wooden gate. Behind the gate he can see what looks like another village. An ordinary-looking village, with ordinary people. And the people are walking with dogs, and cats, and horses, and lots of other animals.

There is an old couple standing at the gate, next to an old pump. They smile at the man with the cats, and they put out several bowls of water, from which the cats drink eagerly.

“What is this place?” asks the man with the cats.

“This is Heaven,” says the old man.

“Come in, we’ve been expecting you,” says the old woman, and she motions to the cats – “all of you.” And the gate opens.

As the man and the cats all walk through the gate, the man turns to the old couple and says, “You know, there’s another place up the road, and they say that they’re Heaven.”

The old man nods. “They would say that, wouldn’t they.”

“Doesn’t that bother you?” asks the man with the cats.

“Nope,” says the old woman. “The people who really want to get to here – they always find their way here.”

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