Rafe Johnson, 1984 – 2004
Rafe died in our arms today.
At six in the morning I went down as usual to check on him, and
found him on the floor at the foot of the stairs. He felt cold,
so I scooped him up gently and took him to bed with me. He slept
on my stomach, and I slept, too.
I kept him on my lap the rest of the day.
I stroked his paws and he would hold my fingers like a baby.
A couple of times, when he seemed interested, I carried him out
into the backyard to hear the birds, to feel the sun and smell
spring in the air.
The last time we came out, I finished by sitting on the back stairs,
Rafe in my lap. A red cardinal landed close by and sang to us.
Jenny sat next to me.
Rafe took quick, deep breaths, pausing longer and longer between
them. He stretched his legs, like he always did, comfortable,
We breathed each breath with him, and each time he stopped… we held
our breaths, holding back tears, hoping for more. But one breath,
finally, was his last. His heartbeat stopped, and we wept.
I weep. I grieve. I gasp for air from a gaping hole inside me.
I weep, but it’s not just me that’s crying. It’s the very life
inside me – whatever it is that makes me alive – that cries. A
yawning abyss – the void from which all things come – together we
grieve for Rafe, and for every life that ends.
Death is wrong – I know it.
I am a conscientious objector to death.
Today’s sunset is glorious – brought on early by clouds moving
in. We sit in darkness while sunlight streams across the heavens,
distant and magnificent.
I sit with his cold, still body. He truly is gone. He’s
left us. Alone.
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”
Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2