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I'm watching House of Cards and Kevin Spacey's character is working out on the gym his wife (who was Buttercup in Princess Bride) bought him. It makes me think of his character in American Beauty working out because he has a crush on his daughter's cheerleader best friend. Strange connections are strange.

Today a friend I've never met, but wish I had, Deborah, posted about the loss of her beloved German Shepherd, Oka (http://deborahjross.livejournal.com/283069.html) and then shortly thereafter about the loss of Cleopatra (http://deborahjross.livejournal.com/283365.html), and my beloved Ekat lost her Alex this week (http://baronessekat.livejournal.com/740819.html). I had the privilege of spending the weekend with Ekat, and on Sunday morning she said of Miss Alex, who was first and foremost Nikodemus's cat (Niki, the much beloved who left us too soon), "If she had a 'human' it was probably you." On Saturday my friend Linda lost her mother, Iris. Today she took the train to her mother's service, and took the train home, to her waiting husband, where they returned to their new home, much of which is still in boxes, as they've been there less than a week.

In recent months friends have lost homes, parents, pets, jobs.

Each of these losses is equally profound, and entirely different. I know this, because I have lost, at various points, all of them. While the point of origin is different, the point of impact feels the same. It is devastating, each in it's own, particular way. One removes our security, one removes our history, on removes our sense of self-reliance, one removes our faith that we can care for others. And yet, none of them do those things.

Because one lose our job, it doesn't mean we lose the ability to care for ourselves. We must find new ways, and that process is horrible in many instances, we we find a way.
Because we lose our parents doesn't mean we lose our history. We have our memories, good and bad. And we have who our parents helped use to become. Sometimes that person is flawed and broken, sometimes strong and whole. But we are ourselves, and their part in that is eternal, or mutable. Which is up to us.
Because we lose our homes it is not a failure. It is like starting a new book, both as writer and reader. It is full of possibilities.

Because we lose our pet it does not mean we have proven ourselves unworthy to care for others. We have loved them, cared for them. Given them home, and hearth. Their lives were warmer, and safer because they joined us at our fire. And if they were with us for many years, as were Oka, and Alex, and Cleopatra, they were our pack, our pride, our lives. And we were part of theirs. The food we shared (for that is what their treats were, and the food that came from our hands), the shared warmth in the cold winter, the shared sunlight, the strokes of love, the sandy kitten kisses, the exuberant puppy leaps...there is joy and life in all of that. And if, at the end, there is a gentle holding as Grizabella sings, if there are toys and biscuits waiting for the gentle healer to come for one last breath, we have not failed. We have soared. For they have had wonderful lives of love and trust. They have belonged not to us, as objects, to to "us"--that whole that is more than "me" or "mine."

When we lose a parent, it is crushing. Our foundation is pulled out from under us. That element, for many of us, that is our first memory, our anchor in pain (even when sometimes the cause of other pain), our constant--is gone. We must become our own anchor, our own constant. That is hard.

When we lose the one who we have accepted the obligation to care for, it is different. We feel a sense of loss, but we also cannot help but feel that, on some level, we have failed. We may console ourselves that they have had a longer life. A safer life. They were warm, and loved, and well-fed. They were stroked, and played with, and been our companions. We sheltered them from the storm, and delighted in the affection they offered. And yet, when they go, we wonder--did we give them enough? Were their lives as full as they would have been had they not been leashed to our lives? Did we give them all they needed? Did we fail them? And we excoriate ourselves for being too little for those who made us so much.

And I would say that parent or pet, their loss affects us the same, as we affected them the same.

It is true, without a doubt, that we have never, will never, do all we can, all we could, for those who love us, whether parent or pet, lover or child.

There will always regret--for the call not made, the gentle stroke on the fur that was not given because we were too busy. But thinking back, it is not the omissions in my life that I recall.

It is the the gentle word when I was broken. The gentle touch when I was in pain. The perfect bowl of soup. The card game that went on too long, filled with laughter and perfect joy. It is not what we did not do--it is what we did that lives in memory. The biscuit and the toys. The laying in a beloved lap and gentle touch as the music swelled. The last fleeting memory of a loving face saying "Momma." These are what matter.

It is about what we do, and how we love. Those are what remain.