Our beloved Merlina died this morning. We loved her deeply. We loved each other.
A lot of things come up around this.
It happened very suddenly, and in a very unexpected way, so it feels like a dream. It doesn’t feel real. It can’t be true.
How will life be without her? She was such a center in our lives. It feels like having lost a best friend and daughter.
Billions of people and beings of all species have experienced this. We all lost someone we love. It’s a deeply personal and profoundly universal experience.
She would want us to have a good life. She would want the best for us.
When we tuned in with her after she died, she felt happy. A little later, very curious about this new existence for her. We feel her as whole, curious, content, and in transition.
We buried her next to the terrace where Ale does yoga in the mornings. Merlina was always there with us when we were there, often looking at the birds. The three of us were together there yesterday morning.
Over the last few days, Ale and I both had images come up. I saw myself posting on social media that she had died. I saw us here without her and the emptiness without her.
Two or three days ago, Ale said “I don’t know what I would do without her” and I responded “she will be gone one day, so you may take the opportunity now to find some peace with.”
I feel raw and naked. I want to reach out to friends I haven’t been in touch with for a while. These experiences show me what’s important in life.
I have a sense that I will lose more in my life in the time ahead. My parents are old. My brother is quite a bit older than me. How can I find a good life with all the losses? Can I find deep gratitude? Aliveness? Can I get my visceral priorities more in line with what’s actually important?
I know the grief will come in waves. I know it will be mixed with a lot of emotions and images – gratitude, sadness, guilt, what ifs, and more.
She had a long and good life. Ale adopted her when she was just a few months old and very sick, and helped her back to health. She was thirteen years old but everyone thought she was just a few years old.
When we brought her to Finca Milagros, she was scared at first with the new environment and all the smells and animals here. The last few weeks, she got more and more comfortable. She climbed trees. She found several ways up and down from the roof. She would come with us when we did things outside. She would go for walks with us on the land. She loved to watch birds and didn’t try to catch them. Yesterday, I mentioned how happy she seemed to be here. She seemed comfortable and content. We had our own little paradise together.
The three of us, and maybe especially Ale and I, have had lots of challenges over the last few years. Finally, it started feeling like things were falling a bit more in place. We have found solutions to things we were not happy about. We have our own place. We have dreams and visions for this place. We resolved some things between us, even if we still have challenges. We had a small and good family. Then, these things happen out of the blue, as they do.
That seems to be a pattern in my life. Just as something seems to fall into place, something happens.
I know everything thinks their non-human companion is special, but Merlina really was special. She was a profoundly good friend. She was deeply in tune with us. She understood what we said to her. She was kind and unusually intelligent. If there was friction between Ale and me, she would meow and show her unhappiness about it and give us love to encourage us to find a better way to be together. She had pure love and we had pure love for her.
Yesterday, she followed me around everywhere I went.
I also notice something about my heart. During the initial awakening process in my teens and early twenties, my heart was open. It was completely open and nothing seemed to be able to lose it. Then, with a lot of challenges in my life and feeling deeply off track, it gradually closed. These days, it takes strong experiences to open my heart – like this, or the experience with Amma some weeks ago, or being very close to dying the summer two years ago.
UPDATE SAME DAY
It’s now later in the day. I am profoundly grateful for the time we had together. I also see even more how deeply I loved her, and how much she likely loved me. As Ale said: “You were one”. Everything brings up memories of her. I experience a deep grief.
One of my core issues is to feel unlovable, and yet, that seems to apply to humans. Something in me doesn’t trust that another human can love me. And if they do, it’s just until they discover whatever it is that makes me unlovable. That doesn’t seem to apply to non-humans. I deeply experienced and trusted that Merlina loved me. She showed it throughout the day. I never felt alone when I was with her. My life felt full when I was with her. Now that she is gone, a deep sense of aloneness is coming up, even if I am with Ale. My life doesn’t feel as full. I feel incomplete.
I notice an impulse in me to seek community. The Zen Center in The Netherlands. Vækstsenteret in Denmark. Findhorn. If this impulse comes up when I have a great loss in my life, when I feel more raw and my heart is more open, maybe that’s something I should take more seriously. Maybe I should do it anyway. I profoundly loved my time at Kanzen Zen Center in Salt Lake City in the ’90s. I enjoyed living in a conscious and intentional housing co-op. I loved living in monasteries in Nepal. Since I discovered Jes Bertelsen and Vækstsenteret in the late ’80s, I have never felt as much resonance with anything else and I loved visiting that one time in the early ’90s. Why didn’t I go there? Why did I live in other places doing other things while feeling somewhat adrift?
I seem to experience emotions and states “globally”. For me, it’s as if the whole world is grief. Nothing is not grief. I can still function relatively normally. (Although we both canceled our appointments today.) But I am living in and as it while I can still relate to it as an object. I guess it’s both at the same time – all is grief, and I can relate to it more intentionally.
On that topic, I also notice it helps to notice I am grief when grief is here. I am whatever is in experience. It’s easier to be it than see it as something other than what I am.
UPDATE NEXT DAY
We notice there seem to be more birds around the house now. Maybe they sense she is no longer here. When we came back to the house yesterday morning, a bird was sitting on a pole in the terrace. We have not seen that before.
I didn’t sleep much last night. A lot of grief and tears, and it feels empty in and around the house. She was so full of life, curiosity, and a pure kind of love. Now, we have to find it in ourselves more and – hopefully – give it to each other more.
We can be as invested and in love with non-human beings as we can with humans. It’s easier, in some ways, since the love is more pure and less mixed up with our human (thought-created) messiness. The grief can be as strong.
She used to be with us in whatever we did. Sitting on our lap or another chair, being with Ale when she did yoga on the terrace, taking a nap on the bed or – if it was hot – on the floor next to the bed, coming with us when we were in the garden, and sometimes even going for walks with us up the hill. We would give her ghee in the morning, and she would ask for it if she thought it took too long.
UPDATE THREE DAYS LATER
What comes together falls apart. That’s how this world is. That’s how existence is. It’s not wrong. It’s not a mistake. It’s what allows anything to be at all. It’s what creates space for something new.
I wonder if not this grief – and allowing it and being what comes up – heals past grief. It heals parts of past grief that weren’t fully felt, allowed, and expressed. It helps clean up things from the past. We don’t just grieve one thing, we grieve everything.
I suspect this includes grief over my own unlived life. Grief over the lost dreams. Grief over what didn’t happen.
This has also helped me notice that my heart is not as open as it can be, as it used to be. It is more closed down. I have done heart-centered practices to help it open again. (Tonglen, Ho’oponopono, Heart Prayer.)
Grief comes in waves and has different flavors. When I can be it, when I notice I am it, it’s easier.
It rained this morning. She loved rain. She loved watching it.
I am reminded of all the rituals we had. She would be with Ale on the terrace in the mornings when Ale did yoga. She would wait for me outside of the bathroom door. She would snuggle with us in the morning. She slept at the end of the bed on Ale’s side. (Ale is shorter.) She asked for ghee in the morning when we made breakfast. She slept on the table when I worked on the computer. She came with us when we went out in the garden. She would meow if we walked further away, and she would come if we invited her to come with us. She would sit outside looking at everything at dusk. She would come and greet visitors. (Or hide if they seemed scary, mostly with workers and people we didn’t know.) She would take a nap in the afternoon, either on the bed or – if it was hot – on the cooler floor next to the bed. If I took a nap, she loved to come to take a nap with me.
She wanted Ale and me to be good together. If there was a conflict between us, Merlina would come and meow and look me in my eyes for a long time. When I connect with her now, the only thing she wants is for us to be good together.
UPDATE A FEW DAYS LATER
I seem to largely rest in the reality of not knowing in this situation. For whatever reason, my system seems to fall into a visceral noticing that I AM this experience – of grief and pain and love and more. It seems that it allows the mind to settle. (All of this can change, of course.)
I also remember that in times when it’s been more difficult to notice this, the mind is more unsettled and wants answers. It seeks an explanation. It seeks comfort in knowing. Why did it happen? Where is she now? Will I ever meet her again? Will she reincarnate? Is my sensing about her accurate? Is it wishful (or fearful) imagination? All of that is painful mental gymnastics since there are no final or absolute answers. There is nowhere for the mind to settle. It’s all stories and imaginations. I cannot know for certain.
The only place to find rest is in noticing that I AM what’s here. I am this experience. I am taking the form of this experience. There is a fullness here, a wholeness. It’s a return to a home that never went away, and it’s a home that I, in my imagination, have left many times.
The photo is of Ale and Merlina at the terrace not long ago