Approximately 12 hours after the invincible cat’s body failed, he was moved to a place of nature, surrounded by trees, and wildlife. After another two hours of digging in the night, on public lands, mostly with a seven inch knife, and bare hands, his body as interred. A candle in a glass dimly lit the small hole. Just before midnight, about 15 hours past the last heart beat, the white burial shroud disappeared beneath a handful of dirt, lovingly sprinkled on top. Once back to level with the ground, some of the excavated limestone chunks were artfully arranged.
The next day, the urban homesteader returned to deliver flowers, two bigger rocks for erosion prevention, and longer term place marking, as well as some smaller “special stones.” The special stones were more like pebbles, and taken from favorite places.
Daylight revealed how barren this site had become by the end of the dry season. It also revealed a new small tree growing, probably not even three feet tall. I chose for it to need my help, and tasked myself with carrying it water. This tiny tree gave me reason to return to the site, roughly once a week until the rainy season.
His open grave was discovered 32 days after his last heart beat. A shocking, and curious scene. The stonework, and flowers were not disturbed, they were angular dug under. Close inspection showed very fresh dirt leveled to the top inch of the white burial shroud. Pressing, and patting atop the dirt around the shroud sensed a body was still in there. Forensic analysis suggests it was opened 2-4 days prior to discovery.
After considering exhumation, and verification, or exhumation, and transport elsewhere, I chose to only close what was open, and tidy up the smaller stonework.
Speculative execution consumed me. What if, who, why?
Next came guilt. Even in death, I have failed my friend. Even in death, I cannot protect him from chaos.
The landed gentry have it so easy with their animal burial. The rest of us are reduced to criminals of state, or conscience.
I had to go back to see it had been left alone for at least a day. I figured if no one was coming back to remove it in a timely fashion, then it was case closed, and I could have my mind back.
As I walked to get there, I considered, what if the body is gone? What if his sister’s body buried six feet away, five years prior is gone? I saw that the only reason any of it mattered was because I chose for it to matter. I chose to want it to matter. I saw I was clinging to material.
Death is more of a gradual process, than an instant light switch. Cells die before the heart stops beating, and live for hours, days, and sometimes even weeks afterwards. Certainly by 30 days, all the cells have died. But there are still many molecules, and atoms that are key to life. Do you want your molecules to stay part of a tomb, or become part of nature? What about those you love?
You need not be your calcium, and carbon for your calcium, and carbon to matter.
But I got myself to a mental place where I was prepared to see an open, empty hole, a wrecked grave site, and a message in a bottle telling me how wrong I am.
As the sunset, I made visual confirmation that the site was undisturbed.
Walking out of the forest, in the twilight, about a hundred feet down the path, I saw a gray, and white cat. In disbelief, I said, “hey buddy,” to which the cat turned, and scampered away, down the path, toward the exit. Continuing in that direction, I encountered the cat again, this time perched above me in a tree. I stopped to speak to the cat, and after a few minutes, he came down to greet me. In the probably hundred times I have been in that forest, this was the first I had ever seen a cat.
While he had very similar markings to Duster, his hair was a little longer, and his face, a little different. He wore a blue collar with a tag I was never quite able to read, and was probably not more than four years old.
We spent the next hour exploring up, and down the path together. Sitting down a few times to pet him, I was even able to pick him up, and almost read his tag, with a flashlight without completely crossing his boundaries. There were a few spans he disappeared off the path, into the darkness, and I thought I had seen the last of him, only for him to reappear right as I turned to leave. Eventually he lead me back towards where I had originally seen him. He circled my legs a few times as I said “I love you,” and then clawed his way up a hill toward a house with a backyard against the forest.
For many years, part of me wanted to bring Duster to that forest, and do just that, but I was afraid of losing him. I vividly imagined it. My hour with the gray, and white cat with the blue collar felt like it had happened before, but would not happen again.