The last leg of our journey together…


Sophie-cat and I are on a particular journey together at this time. She doesn’t know it, but these are her last days, possibly weeks and most definitely (unless something miraculous happens) these are her last months. We found out this Monday that Sophie has a large mass growing in her abdomen (which is probably cancerous), early onset kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. As she’s between 16 and 18 years old (and most cat lives until they are 21) we’ve decided not to go down the route of surgery and chemotherapy – as we don’t feel she should be put through this. With her Hyperthyroidism, her heart has been weakened – and even though daily medication has brought down her heart-rate, I still feel surgery with the anesthetic needed would be too risky. So, in consultation with our Vet, she is now on a course of steroid tablets to reduce the swelling, help her feel more comfortable and have a quality of life until the time when we see that she is struggling again – and then we’ll probably have to let her go.

I am frustrated by the shocking prices which have prevented me from even being able to know exactly what my precious cat is suffering from (an ultra-sound and x-rays would cost over £450!) as we cannot afford this, or follow up tests. Just blood tests, an anti-sickness jab and the consultant fee came to £158. Yet all her symptoms (vomiting food, then not eating at all, eating copious grass, the blood test results and distancing herself from us) are pointing in the direction of her being very ill.

So, now that she’s feeling a little better (it will be a temporary improvement due to the steroid tablets – which won’t improve her life expectancy, but help reduce inflammation) and the initial shock of the diagnosis (as much as they are able to tell us) I have found myself in a place of coming to terms with this short period of time being the end of my cat’s life. Every day there are new discoveries, and thoughts – so being a writer, I thought I’d blog about it. Perhaps these posts might help you or someone you know who is going through something similar? Maybe they are just a way of expressing my thoughts and feelings….

It’s coming up to three years since my Mum passed into the next world – on the 11th December. I’ve thought about death, the next world, life, grief, loss, detachment, acceptance, the interconnection between this world and the next and other related thoughts a lot since then. When Mum was growing weaker (She had breast cancer which spread into her arm, then her bones and her liver) I never once thought ‘My Mum is dying’. Even the final 10 days of her life, which were spent in her bedroom – this thought of ‘dying’ didn’t enter my mind. I was so focused on Mum’s soul moving from this world to the spiritual worlds of God, that I saw it as a birth – rather than a death.

Yes I cried a lot when I wasn’t caring for her, yes it was painful and shocking to think of her not being with us physically anymore, but my mind was living day by day. Dad and I – and near the end, Leila too – spent our time thinking of her needs hour by hour. I also felt excited for her, hopeful for a release from her ill body. I remember feeling full-up (from head to toe) with love for my Mum – almost obsessed with this love I felt. She was my entire responsibility and charge. I felt Dad and I were her spiritual mid-wives, ushering her gently into the next world. Later, I felt wave after wave of loss flow through me, something I have only recently felt has grown calmer.

Now, with my little cat, it’s a very different experience – yet the process of letting go is similar but also very different. I guess I want to figure this out through writing about it. I want to explore what it means to be faced with the death of a loved one – how people process this, accept it or deny it.Yes it’s very different to lose a human family member than a pet family member – and not everyone will understand how I could even equate one with the other. I also don’t (well try not to) anthropomorphize the actions of my cat as I know she doesn’t think, feel or have the consciousness of a human being. But she does have instinctual actions, she does have animal feelings and there are always reasons why she does things. So I’m learning how to see life from her perspective (for example living in the moment, rather than feeling sorry for what she’s experienced in the past) as well as accepting my own human feelings about my attachment to her.

So let’s see how this journey goes. I don’t know how much time we have left with her, but it’s going to be full of love and care. Writing about it will help me, so thank you for reading my scrabblings…




Knocking on Heaven’s Door

How often do we sit down and pray ardently for our friends? Do we sacrifice our time and energy in prayer for others? Or do we just pray for ourselves and what we want out of life? Going through some challenges at home, I realised I needed some Divine assistance. A few friends of mine were also going though difficulties, so I thought I’d make a prayer list. The following blog post are my thoughts on the experience of doing a 9 day prayer plan. I put out a request on Facebook;

“I am going to start a 9 day prayer plan next week from the 16th September to the 24th September. If there is anyone who would like me to include them on my prayer lists – healing/marriage/tests/new challenges/ guidance etc – please message me and I will be honoured to do so. If anyone would like to join me in prayer, that would be great too! I’m happy to pray for friends of all faiths or no faiths – so this message isn’t just for Bahá’ís!”

Then on the 16th I also said this:

“Day One of my 9 day prayer plan starts today. I have about 25 people on my list. Any more takers? Last chance – after today you’ll either need to wait until the next prayer plan, start your own plan or ask someone else to pray for you! :)”

I was overwhelmed with responses – message after message flooded in. Ten people also joined me on the 9 day prayer plan – two dear friends (one in the UK and one in Minnesota, USA) also synching the timing of their prayers with mine.

Just before 8pm, another few people quickly contacted me – one literally as I was turning off my phone – and I added them to the list. On day two another dear friend asked if I could remember her son and of course I agreed.

So the 9 days have now come to an end and I’m reflecting on the experience.

Overall I feel honoured and moved that a large group of people asked me to pray for them. It felt like I was standing outside a sacred temple, with over 100 people who all entrusted me with their hopes, fears, concerns and pleas. I heard their voices, embraced them virtually and then walked into the temple, offering my desire for my friend’s healing and guidance and asking for God’s Will to be done. Walking beside me, adding my voice to theirs were the ten people I mentioned before as well as my father and my husband who joined me most nights.

It would have been too arduous a task to think of all the people every night – so I read the names of the people on the list out-loud before saying the first prayer, placing them in the care of a higher power, a greater memory. It’s interesting that I had over 100 people on my final list and over ten people who prayed with me – maybe I should have given each praying friend the names of ten friends from the list each? That’s an idea for next time.

Most nights I said either The Long Healing Prayer or The Fire Tablet from the Baha’i writings. There were a few nights when I said 9 ‘Remover of Difficulties’ instead, as I was just too tired to say a longer prayer – and there was one day when I just plain forgot and so said prayers the next morning.

I realised a few things:

I believe in the power of prayer for transformation, for shifting obstacles and for placing one’s life in God’s hands. I always feel much stronger after saying prayers, I have a greater focus and can handle challenges from a place of calm rather than panic. When I put out a call for people who needed prayers too I was quite surprised just how many friends responded. I thought about 20 people would respond. Receiving over 100 requests, this makes me wonder if we need to be asking friends if they need prayers more often!

In the West, we tend to hide our faces away when life gets tough, and suffer in silence a lot, thinking we are the only ones having such a hard time. Yes it’s good to not burden others with our worries, but asking a friend to pray for you throughout a particular challenge is a way your friend can help, it might be the only way sometimes.   Even if someone doesn’t believe in God, in a next world, in the soul – it actually doesn’t matter. The fact that I am sitting down over a period of time to think of my friend with love in my heart and asking a Higher Power (whatever that means to me or you) to help that friend – is a beautiful thing for the intention is pure. So let’s do it more often!

I’ve been brought up to pray my way through difficulties. It’s always been a part of family life. They used to call it ‘knocking on heaven’s door’. I remember my parents ardently praying through periods of time when we were involved in sharing the healing message of Baha’u’lláh with new people. I remember repeating healing prayers over and over again when my brother was a small child with terrible weeping excema to help him fall asleep and to calm myself down because his cries were so distressing. I remember saying the Long Healing Prayer day after day by Ramin’s raised bed when he was sleeping, thin and vulnerable because his relapses were rushing him to hospital month after month.  I remember saying the same prayer as above every day of the last few months of my Mother’s life – not for her Cancer to be taken away, but for her to move into the next part of her eternal existence peacefully and for us all to have the strength to let her go. I do not know how anyone copes with life’s huge ups and downs without prayer.

I think we need to talk about this subject more. We need to say less ‘token’ offerings and more heartfelt yearnings. I certainly want to immerse myself in the ocean of prayer and gain strength from it’s force and ceaseless movement, its healing power.

On Baha’ the way we pray together as Bahá’ís around the world is beautifully described,

“Devotional meetings spring up naturally in a community where a conversation about the spiritual dimension of human existence is growing. In diverse settings, Bahá’ís and their friends and families unite with one another in prayer. There are no rituals; no one individual has any special role. Meetings consist largely of reading prayers and passages from the Bahá’í sacred texts in an informal yet respectful atmosphere. A spirit of communal worship is generated by these simple gatherings, and this spirit begins to permeate the community’s collective endeavours.”

Something very special happens when you remember people in prayer. Its like all the external differences just melt away and you feel a pure connection. In these 9 days, I felt so much love! About prayer —‘Abdu’l-Baha says,

“Praise be to God, thy heart is engaged in the commemoration of God, thy soul is gladdened by the glad tidings of God and thou art absorbed in prayer. The state of prayer is the best of conditions…”

So in these 9 days when I said a special prayer for my friends, my soul was ‘gladdened by the glad tidings of God’.  I am thankful that my friends gave me the opportunity to be in ‘the best of conditions’. Praying is truly an example of these insightful words, ‘to sacrifice is to receive a gift’.

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