The importance of dignity

When my well of ideas threatens to run empty, and there’s no creativity within reach, I remind myself that life is a continuous story, broken into chunks that are good, and sometimes even fun to consider.

Such is the story of a dead cat.

I came home from the harvest field around 10p.m. Holly was still up, a little unusual. With somewhat widened eyes she informed me that she had discovered a dead cat against the foundation, dead long enough that the windows on that side couldn’t be opened. The smell was that bad.

I grew up on a farm. When an animal succumbs, you grieve to the extent that feels right, but the carcass is simply disposed of. I assured Holly that I would take that carcass with me when I headed back out to the field the next day.

It wasn’t that simple. Our granddaughter, Maeve, who lives with us and works in a nearby town, had also discovered said cat. Maeve had already put the word out on the village Facebook page that this deceased cat had been discovered. She had pictures, should someone think the cat found was theirs. There were several messages exchanged.

The next day, the cat remained behind as I headed for the field. I began to note the body language of Maeve as she talked about her responsibility to this beast. This mattered. This caused her pain. Some of my big gloves were called into service as she removed a collar. It held a phone number, which she called. Then she placed a box over the by now flattening feline corpse, an offering of dignity. A man showed up to claim the cat, and he told me a few stories of who this animal had been in his family. His granddaughter had attached the collar.

As I trucked harvest grain up and down country roads in the days that followed, I decided that an important lesson was being offered, particularly by Maeve, through this little drama. It was a lesson about the importance, the dignity, of simply being.

Maeve has what her mother suggests is a preternatural connection to animals. She feels animals in her soul. In this case, I was shown that, though this cat had died before we were aware of it, it mattered. It mattered to the folks from whose home it originated, but beyond that, it simply mattered because it existed. That meant that a measure of respect be extended, even when life had ended, even when windows needed to remain sealed.

When Maeve is attending to her own felines, of which there are currently two, (#2 is a matter of contention for Grandma) you certainly sense that strong connection at a soul level. Her long-time companion, Louise, knows when Maeve will be home from work, and there’s a ritual of welcome that needs to happen when she arrives. When Maeve comes home after connecting with horses at a number of farms where she is welcome, we learn how those horses are doing, how they reacted to her, what those reactions were about.

I am blessed having this girl in my house, my family.

The saga of the dead cat reminds me that all created beings have worth. I tend to slip into Christian ways of considering that but Maeve is not so inclined. There is simply a strong and natural connection that defies description, defies definition, defies language. I can only sink to my knees and learn.

A being that is birthed has value. It may have been somebody’s pet, somebody who placed a collar with a phone number on it’s neck. Or it may be a feral animal, with no human connection whatsoever. It has value, It’s time to die is worthy of note, dignity, a pause in the workaday world of harvest.

I’m not sure what this has to do with the mosquitos that I swat from my arm. But as I rumble down the harvest road in the ancient Mack truck, it’s worth considering. It’s worth being thankful that my life includes someone who challenges quick assumptions from many decades ago. It’s worth reminding myself that lessons of life came from all directions and all ages and all realities. Even that of a smelly dead cat.