I saw a cat get hit by a car this weekend. In the big scheme of things, it was just an insignificant thing. But it's been on my mind since it happened. The scene played out in slow motion. Four lanes of traffic, and a little black cat caught in the median. I watched as he made a dash towards the side of the road. The car in front of me slowed down to miss him, but kitty got spooked and turned and went back towards median where he'd come from. My eyes were involuntarily squeezing shut as I somehow knew what was going to happen. The car in the next lane was unable to miss him. It struck the cat, and I watched as he flopped and scurried back across the lanes towards the side of the road, and then collapsed in the parking lot of a bank. I quickly turned in and went to check on him. He was still breathing, but suddenly I was unsure of what to do. There are two types of people in an emergency. The ones you want to be with and the ones you don't. I fall into the latter category. Do I touch him? I didn't want to move him and make his injuries worse. Do I call 911 for a cat? Where's the nearest vet? Do I have a blanket in the car? What do I do? As the thoughts went through my mind, I watched as he got a faraway look in his eyes, and then he stopped breathing. Just like that. When I looked closer, I saw he'd been hit pretty bad. Even if I hadn't hesitated, I don't think he would have made it. My friend told me the fact that he made it to the side was probably pure reflex. I hope so. I hope he wasn't hurting, and I hope he didn't suffer.
Like I said, it was a little insignificant event in the big scheme of things. But it's stuck with me. One wrong move, one split second decision changed a destiny- even if it was only that of a cat. If only he'd kept going, he'd have made it safely across the road. If the car that hit him had been going slightly slower, the cat might have made it back across. If I'd been in the second lane, maybe I'd have been more aware and missed him. If. If. If. Life is full of too many of them.
But what really got to me was that moment when life stopped. I've been touched by death, but I've never witnessed the actual moment when life stops. Now you're here. Now you're gone. And the world just keeps on going.
But where does the soul go? I can't seem to wrap my mind around the concept. I know people argue whether animals have souls. I myself firmly believe that some animals have more of a soul than alot of people I know, but that's another post in itself. But even though it was a cat, and regardless of whether you believe it has a soul.... I could see something shift in its eyes in that moment when he stopped breathing. Something changed. That spark, that thing that made it alive, went out... and for a moment the sounds of traffic faded, the surroundings blurred...and there was silence.
I'm sure I'm making a bigger deal than necessary out of the life of one little cat. But it's not so much about the cat, (although as an avid cat lover, I will confess that there was a tear or two that slipped out), it's just that the mysteries of life and death became a little too real again. And like everything else, it started me thinking about my sister, and generated thoughts about her last moments. Thoughts that I really didn't want to be thinking.
Did she know? Was she aware? Where is she now? And please, for the love of all things holy, do NOT tell me that she is in a better place, or that she's looking down from the heavenly skies, or that she didn't suffer, or any other such thing, as I cannot be held liable for what I'd do or say next. I am tired of platitudes and empty answers, no matter how well meaning the good intentions are behind them. Sure, there's theology and theories and beliefs and explanations and books and studies and thesises galore on the subject of the afterlife. But it's not proof. It's not definitive. It's not an answer. Or at least it's not the answer I want. Most days I get by with leaving the unknown in the hands of faith. Usually that's enough to drive away those nagging unanswered questions, but there are moments, phases if you'd like to call it, when my faith seems insurmountably too small, and all I really want is a satisfactory, concrete answer. This is one of those phases where faith isn't enough, where faith in the unknown simply does not cut it. I want it to be enough. I really do. But right now I want answers more. And of course, the only ones who hold the answer to the unknown.... can't tell you.
I wish someone could.