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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Let's talk about Death

[7th April: minor modifications to post. Typos & stuff. Nuthin' big, just being picky.]

Morbid, yes perhaps. There is a typical chinese wake outside in the carpark. The kind with elaborate decorations, a big red tent gleaming white and neon lights, flowers on display for the deceased, visiting relatives playing majong and chit-chatting late into the night. A stray antique lantern with a piece of white cloth attached can be seen at the bottom of the hill - a sign of Death having passed this way, welcoming visitors.

For the past few hours they have been blasting karaoke-type songs that are decades old, traditional tunes that sound alot like noise when played through crackling muffled loudspeakers. It's funny how such rituals are supposed to honour the Dead (and Death by association, I suppose) but the only thing I felt was a twinge of annoyance, hidden at home, being made to listen to old music played right in the middle of the afternoon. There wasn't a sense of Death, only a barrage of noise, colour and ritual.

And then I realised my kitten was dying.

A couple of weeks ago, two kittens had appeared on our ground-floor balcony, courtesy of one of our looked-after strays (creatively-yet-affectionately called MeowMeow). Grandmama and myself have been looking after the neighbourhood cats (yeah, catz in da Hood) for a long while now. Maybe it's because we're lonely. Or weird. Or both. Or that we're both born in the year of the Tiger.

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Here we go: Awww...

I named the kittens Cain and Abel. The names never really stuck. But there's nothing else to call them by so.

Abel's daddy tom cat (like himself, big and brown and striped) got 'de-throned' by Cain's daddy tom cat (like himself, bigger and grey and striped). This is going to sound like a feline soap opera. Consequently, Abel's daddy got sick and died. But since both tom cat daddies had fucked MeowMeow, both of them had kitties, both looking their their respective daddies.

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This is Abel. He is currently very very sick.

Death is not the painful part. Dying is. As cats are nearing Death, their bodies begin to stink. You guess there's something rotten on the inside but there's nothing to do about it. Maggots appear in their feces. It's too late. The cats can't move as easily as before. They refuse to eat. Their back legs go limp and their heads start drooping. They start to get unnaturally cold and spend most of their time immobile, slumped on the floor, with only the feeble heaving of the chest showing signs of Life.

I pick Abel up too easily with one hand. His ribs are painfully pronounced to the touch. He hasn't eaten for days maybe. The thing that makes the whole process more painful is that he refuses to just quit. Obeying some greater instinct, he still manages to crawl into the sandbox. But he can't crawl back out.

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Is that it? Is that all I get?

I suppose you don't really feel Death until she's close by. I imagine her stooping over Abel, smiling. Being Death. Not rushing, not exactly waiting either because she doesn't have to wait. She just does, in her own time. Of all quotes, I remember Neil Gaiman's:

"It's hard not to love [Death]. She loves you, after all."

The grandeur of a wake for a loved one. A good cry for a small animal waiting to die. All are simply goodbyes.

en at 1:07 pm