Those moments when you are in the courtroom articulating your case, or directing a board meeting at your company, or teaching kids in your classroom to remember each state and capital in the country, or…in other words, those moments when you are performing your craft – such as, in my case – standing up on the podium teaching yoga class, flow their best not just from the preparation you’ve put in, but from your relationships that you carry in your immediate world, including the one you share with your pet.
In 1998, my mom passed away. From that difficult moment until 2003 – a five year span – I was very busy and very much on my own. I had a few wonderful relationships, a handmade, inspirational greeting card business, and a commitment to doing and teaching yoga. In that time, however, I didn’t realize how much I had closed up until I met my new partner, Jesse, a grey tawny cat that I adopted at around age one on the recommendation of our BYSJ teacher, Anna Morey.
I’d never had a pet before, not even growing up. So, having Jesse was quite a surprise. Actually, Jesse was the first cat I met when searching for one to adopt. And it was love at first sight. I recall being so fascinated by her tail. What was a tail? How do you move a tail? Humans don’t have tails so it was very foreign to me. What is so amazing about cats is that they pick up on things that intrigue (or even bother) you and know exactly what to do to tease you in just the right way. For Jesse, she knew that I loved her tail so it became an ongoing game to swing her tail in my direction so I could hold it and then within a few seconds take it away. And then do it all again.
If you have a pet, then you know exactly what I am talking about: these expressions of endearment. It didn’t take long for Jesse to climb into my heart with every climb into my lap. Over the years, we developed several routines together: our normal spots when on the couch; our closing gestures before bed; our positions when reading and meditating in the early morning. Every day was a day of companionship. She was my furry friend.
What struck me the most when I first got Jesse in 2004 was a similarity that I had felt with my mom over the last years before she passed from Alzheimer’s disease. My mom could not talk in those years, yet we found ways to communicate. The same was now true with Jesse. A cat can’t talk but can still communicate. Jesse was clear on letting you know what she liked and didn’t like (Jesse had this strange habit of meowing super loud whenever I was on the phone as if to say, “get off the phone and pay attention to me”), and she was clear on what she wanted – and most of the time that was me. Pets are angels in disguise. They absolutely love you unconditionally. You can never do wrong by them. They are excited to see you all the time. You don’t even have to say a word and yet they understand everything you are feeling, and know just the thing to do to tell you they are there – always!
Pets are so over the top in love with you that you don’t have a choice but to accept it! Licking your face, wrapping their tail around your leg, wanting to sit wherever you sitting – these are the silliest and most precious acts of love pets do. In time, for me, I noticed how these acts of love were acts of affection that I was not only getting used to but giving more of too. I loved to hold Jesse’s paws as I slept at night. I loved giving her favorite treats every evening when I got home. I couldn’t wait to finish my work at night so I could have her sit in my lap and watch some TV before bed.
Having a pet is such a gift but it does have a price: they eventually leave us. Jesse passed away July 25 from kidney failure. It is clearly one of the hardest things to deal with – losing a pet, a best friend that you’ve had with you every day through everything for years. As I reflect on my amazing time with Jesse, I am filled with such gratefulness and fulfillment. Jesse, like all pets, come into our lives for a brief period. We play out a perfect dance that is a mutual exchange of love and energy. From this perspective, I now see the teacher Jesse has been for me. Through our dance, Jesse opened my closed up heart. She taught me to be maternal, to be silly, and to trust in the practice of unconditional love.
My yoga practice has been especially important to me these days as I use it to help with the grief. It is not only the actual practice itself that helps as the stretching and the breath work pull away the sorrow that I feel, but it is also the connection with each of you in our community that helps heal as well. Yoga is THE resource we need to find love for ourselves, and the community that surrounds us is THE resource we use to demonstrate our care for others doing the same. I feel so comfortable being in this space as I take class because all of you respectfully give me and each other the space to be what we are each day.
I wish so much to be with her now. I wish that I could have more days together. I am in awe at how final death is. There is nothing beyond that for us here on earth. We can transform, make changes, recover from traumas, but we don’t get to come back. I am so grateful that I know that. It makes each day worth more. My time with Jesse was appreciated every day. I remembered to remember the times we had so I have a mental book of memories to hold onto for the rest of my life. And, I take away from all this a beautiful sentiment to my God as I can’t be more thankful for this magnificent creature to have graced my life. Pets are the perfect example of rejoicing in the mystery of creation. Pets are a blessing!
I love you Jesse.