Simon’s Crossing: The Death Ritual of My Beloved Animal Companion  

Printed in the Summer 2019 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Pateros, Christina ,"Simon’s Crossing: The Death Ritual of My Beloved Animal Companion" Quest 107:3, pg 15-17

By Christina Pateros

Theosophical Society - Christina Pateros is a painter and healer. Her shamanic healing practice includes space and land clearing and blessing, and serves adults and children in life and in conscious living and dying.As I awakened, I realized that Simon, my beloved cat companion, was not licking my face, nor had he lain on my pillow cocooned around my head as he had done each night for the past thirteen years. It was his ritual, which had become mine. More than I knew.

I had a sick feeling in my belly, finding him tucked deep in the back of my bedroom closet. He had often hidden underneath the comforter on the bed for hours preceding the arrival of unfamiliar visitors to our home. But this was different. This time he stayed hidden and tucked away for days. I missed his nightly cuddling and early-morning greeting, although many of those early mornings had felt way too early for waking at the time. That morning I gently pulled him out of the closet and I held him, feeling very little life force. He purred intensely, but his eyes were distant as he laid lethargically in my arms.

Three vet visits, multiple exams, poking, prodding, invasive interventions, and tests led to a final phone conversation with the veterinarian, Dr. Levesque, that began with her saying, “The news is not good” followed by “He is not a surgical candidate. I would hate to have him suffer anymore. I’m recommending euthanasia.” Sobbing, I assured the doctor that I heard it all and understood, and that I would be there to pick Simon up soon.

I always promised Simon that I would be back—whether leaving for weeks at a time for travel or on a simple run to the grocery store. This time, I had assured him I’d be back after leaving him with the vet that morning for several hours for further tests—the tests that revealed the devastatingly sad results.

Huki and Simon

Huki came first, a sweet ginger and white kitten sleeping on the top tier of a kitty condo, away from the rambunctiousness of the rest of the kitten-filled room at the Animal Care League in Oak Park, Illinois. Our first family feline, who was quickly claimed by our school-aged daughter Lanie, is a sweet ball of love. Two years later, Simon, complementing Huki with grey and white downy fur, arrived and captured our hearts in that same kitten room.

In contrast to Huki, Simon was the life of the room, bouncing off the walls, jumping and leaping. While Huki was a lion—slow, big-hearted. and deliberate—Simon was a jaguar—cunning, quick. and agile. His flights through the air to catch gliding feathers on strings, his climbs to the highest shelves and cabinets, and his legendary tightrope walks along the exposed second-floor bannister (all while peering down at me in the room below) showed us his prowess, his fearlessness, and his desire for adventure. Simon sustained his essence right up until that final day.

Beloved family cat, brother, protector, and furry lover. “You always had something going on the side with Simon,” John, my beloved, quipped as we began to share sweet memories.

How happy I was to have him home, to hold him, love him, and allow him to hide away in solitude. The quiet darkness of the closet made sense to me now, away from sensory stimuli. And away from me. A hospice nurse with whom I once worked enlightened me about the importance of giving our dying loved ones the space to detach so that it might be a little easier to go. This, coupled with granting permission to the dying one, is powerful and sacred medicine. I honored Simon in the end by respecting his need to be in the closet away from me.

Here it was that I embraced his dying. Here it was so clear, the gift of planning his death. At home. In my arms.

My trust in Dr. Levesque and the veterinarians at the Boulder Valley Humane Society brought me to surprisingly immediate acceptance. More importantly, so did the messages I was receiving clearly from Simon. I knew that the best thing I could do for him was to accept and make space for being present with Simon and all those who loved him. 

Midwifing Death

The altar manifested with relative ease: a photo of his sweet face tucked in a crystal cluster and a white selenite rock candleholder aglow, illuminating his face with candlelight. Red roses in a vase formed the backdrop on the table in the center of our living space.

One call to Pet Loss at Home connected me to a local veterinarian, Dr. Robin Teague, and my request for an evening appointment time was confirmed. Calm infused our home as grace and gratitude for the life of our beloved Simon took over.

I discovered Pet Loss at Home, private pet euthanasia in the comfort of home, at a time I was researching alternatives for my clients and their pet companions. I connected directly to founder Karen Twyning, D.V.M. and discovered this wonderful resource so that animals can stay at home in their final days instead of living out their last breaths in the sterile veterinary-clinic environment. What a gift! “Say Good-bye in the Comfort of Home, 8 a.m.–8 p.m., Seven Days a Week,” reads the banner on their website, along with the toll-free phone number. Pet animal home hospice and euthanasia is available to anyone in most states.

Consciously, I had not digested what connecting with Karen and Pet Loss at Home would mean for my cat boys Simon and Huki. This was priceless alignment. It made all the difference in the world in my experience, and Simon’s to be sure, on the day of his crossing at home. I called the phone number from the website, which prompted me to enter my zip code, and within moments, Dr. Teague, a local veterinarian in Boulder, answered and scheduled with me for that evening.

My compact light-filled painting studio jumped forward clearly and bravely to be the place of ceremony. Three glass-encased candles, a seashell to hold the ashes of the frankincense-resin incense stick, and a vase to hold the brightly multicolored summer blooms and fresh sweet red roses we bought on the way home became a floor arrangement as the place was transformed into a space of honoring, of mourning, of unconditional love, of grace, and of death.

Simon’s energy body was already out of his physical body. That was clear when I connected into his energetic field, and was a huge relief. I performed the shamanic death rites over his body intermittently throughout the day. Following what I’d been practicing for nearly a decade, in alignment with my Andean shamanic teachers with whom I’ve apprenticed, I swirled one hand counterclockwise, beginning at his heart— the energetic home. Midwifing death was not new to me. Midwifing the death of a beloved one was.

The death-rites practice supports the natural process whereby the energetic luminous body gently detaches so that when the physical (electromagnetic) heart stops beating, the crossing to the light—home—is easeful. This death ritual of swirling spirals of energy detachment seemed as much for me as it was for Simon.

The last eleven years of midwifing death, as opportunities arose and clients called on me, have graced me with incredible privilege. I fall into an inexplicable calm in that place, ever since my first experience holding a starved woman in a Kolkata mission as she took her final breaths.

In 2011, I embarked on my inaugural journey to Peru, subsequently spending two weeks in the high Andean Mountains apprenticing with Q’ero medicine people. The mountain expedition was followed by a planned five-day Amazon jungle adventure. I visioned traveling to be with the plants and animals of the rain forest. I had not intended on ayahuasca psychedelic plant medicine and rebirth the first night and an intensely grueling death experience the second night. Nor had I planned to die in the Amazon, but the experience felt as real as it gets. One gift from it, which caused me to leave the group and the trip two days early, was to have awareness of living and dying consciously, aware and with grace and dignity.

This gift, which was one I would wish upon no one to have to experience, ultimately has allowed me to sit with the dying: calmly, compassionately, and peacefully supporting the dying one as well as loved ones.

Experiencing my own death in the Peruvian Amazon was the most sacred, most holy experience of life. With Simon, it was no different. Except that with Simon, I was also the bereaved.

Making preparations in the room whilst caressing Simon and moving spirals of energy took up the rest of the day. His favorite white plush blanket was placed atop the lambskin rug on which he had so often sprawled himself out, on many a winter’s day, sunning himself indoors. The candles and incense now burning, blinds drawn, the space was set. I sat and cried next to the blanket, tears rolling down my cheeks, further accepting that we were close to the arrival of Dr. Teague.

Permission to Die: Saying Good-bye 

Holding Simon and saying good-bye, I wept and thanked him for being such a loving, devoted companion. John also held him and said his good-bye.

Next was Lanie, beamed in from Brooklyn via live video conferencing. We wept together. Simon was sedate, accepting our ritual of good-byes, resolute, it seemed, to the end of his bodily existence. The miracle I had asked for earlier that day was arriving in the form of peace and death at home. Sometimes physical death is the healing. I wished in those moments of saying good-bye that I had known weeks before that his last licks would never be felt again. We never know when might be the last touch, hug, lick or kiss.

Huki lay atop my drawing table, sleeping deeply, curled in a ball. He had spent many of the previous ten days in the closet with Simon. Perhaps this was his way of detaching now. As Huki slept, a small procession of invited neighbors, young and old, flowed through to say good-bye.

Lexi, my older daughter (who was thirteen—Simon’s age at his passing—when he joined our family), arrived with her husband. She joined me in tears, grounding as she sat on the floor facing Simon, candles flickering and frankincense and flowers scenting the darkened air. Tears flowed throughout the room. Tears flowed too, from Paul, Lexi, and Lanie’s dad, as he said his good-byes from Chicago via video viewing.

The Ceremony

Dr. Teague arrived and seamlessly found a place in the room, gently explaining that, first, an injected sedative would slowly render Simon’s body still and relaxed before a second injection would stop his heart.

We chose silence, honoring these final moments. I told Simon I loved him and I thanked him for finding us and for being our sweet loving kitty. I asked him to show me a sign when he visited in spirit form. I closed his eyes and laid him on his side on the blanket after Dr. Teague confirmed that his body breathed no more life.

Without planning, I offered the flowers to everyone present, and asked that after blowing their love and gratitude into the petals, they place them around Simon’s body. Lanie again joined us from Brooklyn via live feed as we simultaneously smiled and wept with the beauty of the moment. In that light-hearted space, we remembered his favorite food: raw shrimp. “Put it in,” Dr. Teague said. Amidst the colorful petals, we placed one shrimp.

The blanket was folded around his body, flowers inside and atop. As pallbearers, Lexi and I carried his body to the waiting van. The incense had burned down. We blew out the candles and breathed with relief as we moved from that ceremonial space. We toasted Simon, shared stories, and remembered.

His ashes were delivered within days, and it felt just right to place the tin in the rectangular glittered box on the studio floor that he had loved to curl up in while I worked.

Huki stayed asleep throughout the ceremony. “I’ll be back,” I assure him when I leave. And when I look for signs from Simon, I realize that I see and feel him in every living thing in nature.

Christina Pateros is a painter and healer. Her shamanic healing practice includes space and land clearing and blessing, and serves adults and children in life and in conscious living and dying. She cofacilitates powerful ketamine-assisted psychotherapy sessions with an integrative psychiatrist as a part of her healing practice. She combines her art with healing, integrating creativity as a dynamic part of living as she guides groups in ceremony and teachings for empowered living. Christina lives in Boulder, Colorado and welcomes art collectors and healing clients worldwide:;

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