February has been a challenging one so far. It’s confronted me with the question, ‘In the face of grief, where do you find strength?’
At the beginning of the month my partner and I found a kitten with a broken pelvis. We took her to the vet and though her injury was significant, he said that she should heal up fine. It was love at first sight, really. She had such an outsize personality, she was such a loving animal that we fell for her immediately. I requested that we call her Freyja, after the Norse goddess whose chariot is pulled by two cats.
This is her at one of the many visits we had to the vet. She always seemed so alert, so curious about everything that was happening around her. In spite of the significant pain that she was assuredly in, she was still engaged.
That fighting spirit and the amount of love that I saw in her made me hopeful that she would pull through.
Then, things started going wrong. She was having a lot of problems going to the bathroom and eventually we took her back to the vet when it became apparent that she also had worms.
It breaks my heart recounting these things again. Anyways, she went back to the vet and ended up spending a couple nights there. They gave her some medicine, a couple of enemas and still nothing was happening.
Finally, it got to a point that the vet told us if she doesn’t go soon, she might not make it. They said the last option would be to try anesthesia and then trying to remove the blockage that way. Unfortunately it didn’t get to that point and she passed away before they could. I prayed so hard during that time period and was so hopeful that she would pull through.
My partner was really torn up about it. I was too, but she had formed an even tighter bond with the kitten as we tried to nurse her to health. She brought her home and I prepared some collections of herbs for Freyja to be buried with. My partner made a burial shroud for her and we rested her little body on a pile of bay leaves and rose buds. On top she sewed a couple of charms and ‘Freyja’ on the corner.
We buried her at the heart of two palm trees and held a small funeral, asking for an easy transition to the little one who had made such an impact on our lives. I asked that the Summerlands welcome her.
It was a moving service that felt like it honored her brief life in a fitting way.
About a week and a half later, we got the news that one of our close friends had a love one pass away very abruptly. The community rallied around her, offering help, love, food and support in every way people could think of. I don’t want to get too much into the specifics of this incident out of respect for her privacy but it has been a powerful experience and I think strong bonds were formed out of tragic circumstances.
So in the face of grief, in the face of bad things happening in your close environment, of feeling spiritually wounded, where do you find strength and solace?
For me, it would have been enormously more difficult without my partner. She and I give a lot of strength to one another. There was also the community we’re in. Sometimes I feel a bit outside of that group but the way people banded together was a good lesson in what strong communities are made of and that they also require effort.
There was also faith. My new found connection with Brighid, as well as my longstanding connection to gods of the Norse pantheon, not to mention the spiritual connection I have with the nature around me really acted as an anchor.
The main image at the top of this post is Coreopsis, the state wildflower of Florida, where I live. For me, it’s become a symbol of strength against adversity, especially among the messiness of life. They are brambly, untamed sorts of wildflowers, shooting runners everywhere, popping up cheerful flowers almost unexpectedly. I recently began my studies with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. At the end of my first lesson, I was inspired to draw Coreopsis and then tint the drawing with some watercolors. In the past I would say I can neither paint nor draw. But this time I just went for it. That feels significant, like my soul stretching, growing from the experiences of this month. It feels like it’s reaching out in new directions, like a bright Coreopsis poking through the cloud of sadness that has loomed over so much.