We have the most beautiful sunrise possible today. There is a blanket of gauzy clouds in the blue sky, and the sun burns orange and then gold on them. The mountain is black against it.
I am listening to The Flower Duet and thinking about beauty being still possible, although I don’t know if I am happy about that or not.
I need to tell you about Natashka’s death.
I have a fragment of it. The rest of it–the beating, the rapes, the excision of her eyes—I remember them, but in a way that makes them seem they are not mine.
I held her when she died. I don’t know how it is that she wasn’t dead by then, but she was still breathing when whoever it was who held my arm let go of me. She was still alive when they were done brutalizing her and left her alone on the pavement to die.
She was not conscious, but her chest still rose and fell.
I screamed and then I wasn’t screaming. There is a sense of these two things happening at the same time, that I was both screaming and not screaming together. I think this is because time is jumbled in my mind and I did both of these things, but I cannot organize when these things happened and so they seem to be happening together.
But I think I screamed after she stopped breathing. I think when she was alive, I held her. I was quiet and I watched her breathe. And I was just with her, the way she had always been with me when I hurt.
Until there was that last, shuddering breath. The one that shook her whole body. And after that I knew she was dead.
That is when I screamed. That is when I held her tightly and pressed my face against hers and begged for her not to leave me.
My cat died two years ago. Actually, I had two cats and they both died before I came here: one, the summer before last and the other the summer before. But I am thinking of the first one. They were different cats and they died in different ways.
The first one, the younger one who lived a shorter life, had cancer and it was a fairly rapid decline. She died within months of a diagnosis. In the last weeks of her life, I wasn’t working. I was free and had no major responsibilities. I was able to sit with her while she died. I spent hours with her, just stroking her while she purred. She was in pain, and I gave her medication for the pain, but I know she was still in pain. We were just together. I couldn’t do anything else for her, and she was an old cat. Prolonging her life would have been for my benefit, not hers. When she stopped eating because the tumour that had spread to her throat had become too big to allow the food to pass through, I called the vet and I made her appointment with death. Until then, I sat with her and helped her die.
I did not have so long with Natashka. It was minutes and not days, but she had an appointment too. But I sat with her in the same way. I held her and I tried to help her die.
Death is a scary thing. We don’t know what is going to happen or what it is that happens after death. But if someone is with you while you are facing it, you feel a little less scared of it and a little less alone—even if you know you cannot take them with you where you are going.
And I did that. I was with her.
She was not conscious. She did not know I was there.
But she did know too. There is a scent, perhaps, or a familiar touch. The response to it does not require consciousness. It is automatic. And you do feel a little better when someone you love is with you when you need to die. You feel as if you can go to that place that you need to go to, that you don’t know anything about, that you haven’t seen, and maybe you have been told about, but you don’t know if what you have been told is true.
I could not save her, but I helped her die.
Often, we think about how to save each other. I wanted to save her and I suppose she wanted to save me. Not just then, but always. Every second. We could not save each other.
But I learned from her how to be there.
She raped me. She had to. And she tried to make it hurt less. It hurt anyway. She tried to comfort me afterwards, but it was hard to be comforted when I knew it was not over. It was just going to happen again.
But she helped me by being there. She helped by seeing how it felt to me. She helped me by making sure I knew she saw and that she cared.
I did that for her.
I held her. And I was there.
It is 7:30 now. The clouds have disappeared and the sky is a clear, pale blue that tells you it is cold outside, although it is warmer than usual today. The frost is not white over the ground like snow. It has already melted.