Death of an Old Friend
Friday, May 3, 2013
Mr. Squirrely has visited me daily for the full 12 years that I have lived at my home. He is easy to identify at first because he is very large and has a scar on his right hip. Over the years, he has come to my window scolding me for not filling the bird feeder fast enough or asking me for ears of corn.
I comforted him when his “wife” was hit by car. We placed her dead body in the flowering bushes in the park together. I praised him for his fatherhood, when he brought his many litters to my feeder. The first child I ever saw him bring has lived in the palm tree in my back yard for the last six years. Mr. Squirrely has not only chattered to me to fill the bird bath so he can drink, but also to my pet-sitter. Many times, as the temperature exceeded 100 degrees, he has asked me to mist him with the hose as he sprawled out on the lower limb of the oak tree in my front yard.
Often I would find him and my cats staring at each other, telling stories of domesticated life verse wildlife. If we came across Mr. Squirrely at the park, my dogs would never chase him – other squirrels, yes, but Mr. Squirrely, never. I always said to him, “Mr. Squirrely, if you ever need help or feel you are going to die, please do it at my home so I know what happened.” This is a request I was never really sure would play out. It is a hope, like asking our domesticated animals to die on the bed while sleeping next to us.
Two weeks ago, I found Mr. Squirrely outside my bedroom window, curled up, dead. He had fallen from the telephone wires during an extremely windy day. My heart gasped when I saw him at first. Then I did something so strange. I left him there. When the crows where finished with him, I buried him under the palm tree in my back yard and sprinkled seed on the grave for the mourning doves.
The yard seems silent since he has been gone. A few days after his burial, another son of his appeared. One I have not seen before. He stared, with back legs on the tree and front legs on the feeder just like Mr. Squirrely use to do. “My dad told me you are okay and I can trust you. He says you can talk to us, and I can tell you anything I want.” He sat looking me over, as if he had watched me a million times before and could finally inspect me from up close.
“I buried your dad under the palm tree.” I said.
“I know. I watched you.”
I wondered to myself why Mr. Squirrely had not shown me this son before.
The squirrel turned and wiggled his male parts at me. This is something Mr. Squirrely did to me once, in the very beginning, while I was trying to figure out if it was Mr. Squirrely or Mrs. Squirrely at the feeder.
“Like father, like son.”
“He wanted to die here,” his son said. “He used to say, ‘I want to die under the oak and have that lady that can hear us take care of body and my soul.’”
That brought tears. There are days where “talking to the animals” seems so normal and routine. Then there are moments where I feel like I have been blessed with such a unique gift that I should treasure it like a jewel. This was one of those moments.
I ask my animals now, “What do you think of Mr. Squirrely being gone?”
Stormy, my Aussie Dog, says, “Losing Mr. Squirrely is like loosing Maia (our late wolf dog). I can’t hear anymore, but I could always sense Mr. Squirrely when he was on the property. It has an empty feeling now. I think the tree even mourns his passing.”
Makia, my white cat, says, “I look at the bird bath sometimes and I think I see him there drinking. When he fell from the wires I felt his spirit run through the house. Mr. Squirrely is happy where he is.”
Serafina, my gray cat, says, “When he fell from the wires I was mad at the wind, and I thought, ‘It is hard being a squirrel who gets older.’ It is not as easy to be flexible in your body when the wires shift beneath you. I wish Mr. Squirrely were able to come and look me in the eye again. I miss his sweet eyes. They always looked at me with wonder.”
Luca, my poodle, says, “I know it is not him on the tree anymore, because he used to stand his ground and just look at me and say ‘I knew you when you were a wolf’ when I came close. The other squirrels run. I think, ‘Where is his chatter?’ I can hear it faintly in my head. I don’t know if it is a memory or if he is speaking to me from heaven.”
Bean, my bunny, says, “He used to always ask me to come outside. When I did, he would tell me about tree-climbing and I would tell him about digging. We lived different worlds but we both loved the smell of the air and the brightness of the sky. When I was in the bamboo, he would sit on the fence and talk to me. I miss him on the fence. I keep expecting him to show up.”
Joey, my cat, from heaven, says, “When Mr. Squirrely got here I ran to him and I told him that I was happy to see him, and then he rubbed his spirit body up against me and we played like squirrels up and down the oak tree in the front yard. I became a squirrel, like I always wanted to do, and he became young again. We often visit the yard together and live as if we are both still alive.”
Maia, my wolf dog in heaven, says, “When I saw Mr. Squirrely here, I had to talk to him from a distance so I wouldn’t scare him. I lay down and let him come close to me, and then he climbed on my body and lay on my back. He buried his head in my fur and fell asleep, and we both slept in the memory of sleeping near each other – me sleeping on the bed in the house, and him sleeping on the oak tree outside our window. We will always be family.”
And now, Mr. Squirrely:
Mr. Squirrely says from heaven, “My spirit left my body in one of the warm winds that came. It left before my body hit the ground. I saw my many wives that have died before me, and I saw your higher self, and we talked and I walked on your body like I always dreamed of doing when I was alive. I want to thank you for all the food and water and for the love and friendship. I always knew that I was safe on your property. I want you to know that there is a greater power that watches over your home and nothing ill will ever come of you or your animals there. Your home is sacred.
“I want you to know that the squirrels in the neighborhood know which ones are allowed on your property and which ones are not. I chose them. You had given me a consciousness that I would not have known if I didn’t learn to stretch my thoughts and think about what humans think. I am glad to have known you and the others in the neighborhood that care about wildlife and our well-being. To all that are listening: When you talk to the squirrels, do not look them directly in their eyes. Talk to their hearts and ask them to come back again. They will remember, and in time they will become your great friends.
“I am so glad to have known you and your animals. It has changed the way I look at all beings. I have known friendship with beings I never thought were possible friends. Maybe one day I will come back as a cat.
“I am glad the crows got parts of my body. That is the way of the valley. The valley has given me life, and with death it is my duty to give back. I am glad for my resting spot. We will always remember each other.”