Is Charles with Lars Axl Fokker?
Charles died a week ago today, and if you haven't seen Deb's tribute, it's a must-see and we're very grateful and humbled by her post as well as all of the e-mails and cards and calls we've received.
In all of the lovely messages we've been getting, I've noticed two trends:
1) Death is a communal experience as well as an individual one. One being dies, but the memories of death and the stories of life are brought to the fore for those who learn of the passing. Charles' untimely death brings to mind everyone's past pain and joy. We share each other's grief, triggered by the most recent death. We aren't alone in missing our beloved companions deeply.
2) Charles is somewhere, or part of him is somewhere, or his essence or his soul is in some place, or some other creature, or maybe even everywhere. Death brings up all of the stories we tell ourselves that help us understand and move through the grief. Charles is looking down on me, Charles' soul is running, Charles is with Lars Axl Fokker (Emily's son, to whom she passed her Feline Infectious Peritonitis, which he suffered from before we euthanized him nearly a decade ago). Charles and Lars had a similar, playful energy, and I must say I like the idea that they're playing together somewhere.
Some people seem to think that animals' souls are different from those of humans, while others think they're the same. Some speak of a collective consciousness, and others speak of reincarnation. There's talk of a spirit, which I'm not sure is different from a soul. Charles is definitely with me in spirit, but I don't know if there is a spirit . . . somewhere.
As an agnostic atheist, I certainly cannot claim to have any idea of what really happened to Charles, other than that he is no longer lying at my feet on the bamboo carpet, and never will again. I would love to think that his soul is lying at my feet, or on my shoulder, or just about anywhere, frankly. I'd love to think that I'll encounter a greyhound in a couple of years who will have a familiar look in his eye and I'll adopt him and care for him until the day he dies, as I did with Charles.
And I would love to think that Charles is now a guardian angel of mine.
I'd love to think that he will come to me in a dream and forgive me for whatever part I might have played in his death.
The idea that he will have a more favorable rebirth is a nice one, though I also like to think that being an animal in my house is about as favorable as you can get.
What do you believe about what occurs after death for our sentient nonhuman companions?
–Photo: After an evening of playing with paper and toys on my birthday last year, Charles and I fell asleep.