We said goodbye to Rafael today.
We met him in a mall in the countryside in the Andes. Someone had abandoned him and put a superman scarf on him, and we adopted him. He was old, sick, and almost blind and needed us, and I think we needed him. After treatment for cancer, he did much better. He had a lot of energy and vitality, although he also got tired after walks. And he got much more attached to us and we to him.
Last night, his health took a dramatic turn, and we learned that his abdomen was full of cancer.
We had three good months together. He experienced a lot of love and we experienced his love in return. And he likely had a good life before we met him, judging from his personality.
And I also notice some of the questions and regrets that many experiences when someone close to us dies. Could we have done more for him? Maybe we could have made his last three months even better? (We would have done more of his favorite things if we had known we only would have three months with him.) And I also know we did what made sense and it was pretty good. We gave him cancer treatment. We spent a lot of time with him. We cuddled with him and gave him attention and love. We took him for walks. My partner sang for him. We gave him the best food, although we would have given him more of his favorite food if we had known.
It was heartbreaking and beautiful to spend the last minutes with him. I am deeply grateful for having known him.
And it also brings up the question of what happens after death? Will something move on? Will what we are, at some level between the physical and absolute, meet what he is again? I don’t know and am at peace with not knowing. There is beauty there.
And I also notice the beauty in grief. Grief is what happens when we love someone and they are lost to us. Grief is an expression of love. Grief and tears come and go and live their own life, just like any other experience.
Update a few days later: As with any strong experience, a lot more has been going on.
I experienced a deepened empathy with all life. We are all going to die. We all essentially wish for the same – happiness, contentment, connection, love, safety, freedom from suffering.
It’s a reminder that we’ll all die. Death is necessary for new life. It creates the space and conditions for new life. The death of stars creates elements used in new solar systems and life. The death of a species allows space for other species. The death of an individual creates space for new individuals. Remembering this makes it a little easier to relate to the death of those close to us.
His death made me look at how we treated him when he was with us. Could I have done more? What would I have done differently if I had known we would have such a short time together? How does this apply to how I live my life and treat the ones in my life now? Knowing we all have a short time together, what do I wish to do differently?
I have experienced the presence of Rafael waxing and waning at different times, and this corresponds with what my partner has reported.
For the first five or six hours after he died, he seemed far away which was a bit surprising to me. Then, his presence was very strong and he seemed happy. I wondered if he had spent those hours with his initial family, which he may have lived with for eight or nine years so it makes sense if his bond with them was (and is?) stronger.
Now, a few days after, it’s as if he is everywhere, which I know is a common experience when someone close to you dies. Why is this? One explanation is that he is with me in my own mind, so to me he seems to be everywhere – in the sky, the room, and so on.