What If Death Wasn’t Death At All

Last August we adopted thirteen-year-old Fluffy “Senior” from Mount Vernon Animal Shelter. His inclusion in our home made us a family. After months of failed treatment for a mouth infection, Fluffy recently stopped eating, drawing sustenance from plentiful cuddles and grooming instead.

As we move deeper into his final days, I find myself thinking of my curmudgeonly-but-good-at-heart grandfather, Pops, a man whose photo I keep in my wallet. Like Pops, Fluffy has a sweet-and-sour nature, lived long enough to be called “senior,” and outlasted his prognosis.

Shortly before he died, Pops became lucid in an almost ethereal way, color returning to his ragged cheeks, speech animated. My family thought he might turn another corner. We soon learned he was saying good-bye: the next day he passed.

Until a week ago, Fluffy still dashed after his beloved toy mice. He ate three cans—far too much—of Fancy Feast a day. His spirit, so indomitable, reminds me so much of my grandfather’s I once dreamed he was a reincarnation of Pops. Maybe he is.

This morning I came across Mary Oliver’s poem “When Death Comes,” savoring that eternity is nothing but “another possibility.” Time is “no more than an idea.” Imagine if we stripped mortality of its human trappings and laid bare its sweet nothingness. Darkness would be a welcoming “cottage,” the unknown an invitation. What if.

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