I had a cat named Sam when I was little girl. Sam slept with me every night. He was a beautiful siamese. He became ill and we were told that he wouldn’t live long. I moved his cat litter into my closet so that he wouldn’t have to walk down the long hall if he needed it. One night I found him asleep in his litter box. He was barely able to lift his head. I lifted him out and held him to me. I sobbed uncontrollably as I cradled him. He was suffering and I knew that. As a young child I could feel his suffering. I felt an ache in my chest at such a young age. I didn’t know children could feel so deeply. I remember thinking it wasn’t normal for me to hurt this badly for my cat, and yet I did. Sam passed away. I still remember how that felt.
We got a new Sam named Sammy or Samantha for Christmas. Sam, Sammy, Samantha was NOT my Sam. She was a Siamese too but they were not the same. Samantha lived for 21 years(I am not exaggerating, she truly lived that long). Eventually I grew to love her almost just as much as original Sam. She lived long enough for my daughter to meet and fall in love with her. My daughter and I were at my mother’s house on the day that Samantha died. My daughter wanted to see her one last time before she was buried. She pet her head and said soft words to her. My daughter was only around 4 at the time. She picked flowers and put them in with her to be buried with. She then put flowers on her grave. We all were crying and my daughter had a tenderness and calm about saying goodbye to Sam. I’m not saying that Sam’s death didn’t affect her, but she showed such a peace about it.
I wish I were able to feel such tenderness and peace at the loss of second Sam as my daughter felt. But I felt a deep ache and sorrow similar to how I felt when I was a little girl. I am profoundly affected by the suffering or loss of an animal. My heart is easily broken and it takes a long time to mend. I am affected equally at the suffering of a child. I know it upsets everyone, abuse, loss, suffering, but I feel such deep pain at these things. The sufferings feel internal to me. Even before I was abused myself as a child, the suffering of other children was almost unbearable to me. I’m not sure why my heart is this way, and in a world full of such suffering, my heart sometimes feels it just won’t survive.
The good thing about my heart is its ability to love. Because I feel, I can love. My heart is open and in that openness I can experience wholeheartedly the power of unconditional love. It is because I love so intensely that I experience loss so intensely as well. As painful as it can be to feel suffering at such an enormous level I feel fortunate that my heart can then love at an enormous level as well.
My heart is what led me to do wildlife rescue. It is also what led me to volunteer as a chaplain in nursing homes and with hospice. It makes me fiercely protective of my animals as well as my daughter. My heart is what makes me move an earth worm off the sidewalk so he doesn’t dry out in the sun. My heart makes me chase a tree frog around the house to be able to set him free. It makes me sob at the sight of a bird with an injured wing or a kitten who was dumped on the side of the road. My heart leads me. My heart feels immense love and immense loss. As a little girl I wished I didn’t feel as intensely as I did. I now know that I only feel because of my capacity to love and that is something I wouldn’t trade for the world.