I was a Jesus Freak, a passionate theologian, and a Southern Baptist minister. I worked hard to convert pagans. The pagans won.
Discovering magic as a witch with an intimate knowledge of western christianity I explore the juxtaposition of these two faiths. Christianity and paganism alike are undergoing dramatic changes with parallel trends, conflicting challenges, and a growing concern for interfaith dialogue.
I had never been present with anyone dying. It's not that I've been afraid of death, I haven't. But if I had been, I would have lost all fear after Arwen's passage through the veil.
Growing up I sometimes had premonitions and dreamed the future, but as I grew older, I suppressed my intuition. When I chose a pagan path, I figured my prescience would come back and at Samhain it did. During a ritual I slammed with the knowledge that a season of grace was ending and I would be experiencing the death of loved ones during this turn of the wheel.
So it didn't come as a complete shock when my beloved feline companion and familiar Arwen was diagnosed with a terminal illness. In her final weeks we connected more deeply than ever before. Arwen was with me through an abusive marriage, traumatic experiences, she was my constant support in dealing with PTSD, my intervention when I was suicidal, my most faithful comforter. In dreams she represented my soul, my most deeply held hopes and desires. I couldn't imagine living without her.
And yet I found grace in the midst of this bittersweet journey. I deepened my relationship with the Divine which sustains me and gives me hope. I connected with a community of witches, made new friends, found fantastic new housemates, and saw a compassionate community form around me. All of my circumstances fell into place to give me the most supportive environment I could have asked for.
In early June Arwen's condition worsened and I knew the time had come. On the day she died, we lay on my bed together and I pet her and hummed to her and held her. She grew weaker and weaker and I laid her on my chest with her tiny head buried into my neck. I felt each of her heartbeats race through my body, we breathed each breath together. She cried out twice and my heart tore. Then she became peaceful and melted into my body. I felt like I was breathing with her, for her. I couldn't tell where her spirit ended and mine began, in those moments we breathed and lived as one.
And then it happened. We let out a sigh and I knew this was the moment of her death. The sigh escaped both of our lungs and rose with a lightness, higher and higher, further and further, and in that moment everything became peace, everything was OK, everything dissolved and became freedom and bliss and pure love and ecstasy. Our spirits soared and the universe was exactly as it should be and we were liberated spirits in oneness.
It only lasted for a moment before I slammed into my body and there was only me and a cat that was still breathing but devoid of Arwen's spirit. And then the breaths stopped and the body became stiff and the cold descended and I spiraled into the abyss of grief. Later that day I tore my hands through redwood soil in agony, dropping handfuls of dirt on a cold body, returning it home to the earth.
But a month later I keep coming back to that magical moment of dissolution and oneness. This final gift from my journey with Arwen has had a profound impact on my life. I feel much more grounded. I looked death in the eye and I rode the waves of sorrow and bliss and grief. I had a glimpse of the other side and it was beautiful. Death truly is a part of life and yes, I can live with that.
And yet even more grace blossomed from this experience. Since coming out of the broom closet, my relationship with my Christian family and friends has been difficult. But as so often, the death of a loved one helped bridge some of our differences. When my sister died, my father insisted he felt her spirit leave long before the doctors were willing to declare her dead. His story has always been deeply moving to me and I feel like I have a slightly better understanding now. My family went through tragic bereavement when I was young and I have come to admire the strength of my parents and the sacrifices they made in raising me in the midst of their own grief.
When I shared my final moments with Arwen with my family, theology become irrelevant. We connected on a spiritual level again. Defying much of Christian theology, they are certain that our beloved cats have a spirit and that their spirit lives on. Whether it is with the Father in heaven or in the embrace of the early Mother, for once, we are united by death. We all love, we all loose, we all grieve, we all die, and we all know that the spirit lives on. We share our humanity, our mortality, and a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Rest in peace my beloved kitty. Thank you for all of the blessings you gave me in life. Thank you for the gifts you keep giving me in your passing. Now go have fun chasing moths on the other side!