I've had a ridiculously easy, tragedy-free life, all things considered. Believe it or not, I have made it to thirty without having to really deal with death at all. My paternal grandparents were dead before I was born. My maternal grandmother passed away when I was just a bit too young for it to have the full effect -- I was old enough to know what death meant, but not old enough that I can now recall much about how it felt... I remember a few snapshots, particularly my mother coming in the door having return from the hospital and croaking out, "She died," and that as soon as she said it I felt my ears burning.. but very little else is concrete. And my maternal grandfather faded so slowly, the grief of his actual death was mild.
I've had a handful of acquaintances who I later found out had died, but nobody I knew really at the time of their death. The exception is Mariah's aunt Vicki, who died last year of terminal cancer... but the first time I met her was the day she was diagnosed, so in a way I was prepared for her death from the start.
So I guess that's why I'm being such a big baby about Stash dying. She's just a cat, sure, but it is the first time I have had to fully deal with the unexpected death of someone/something I loved.
There is also another component, though, that makes this difficult, and that is what I referred to in the title to this post. I am someone who prides myself on "knowing a little bit about a whole lot of stuff." Heh, I guess that's why I was big into working on Wikipedia for a while... and I still just randomly surf around, absorbing a breadth of information.
Moreover, I have a few morbid fascinations with things like air disasters, engineering disasters in general, the mechanisms of disease, etc. To generalize, it's an interest in science-meets-death I guess. I don't know exactly why... maybe I'll explore that in another post.
In any case, the point I am making is that I have all this abstract knowledge of horror, but no concrete knowledge of horror, having had as I mentioned previously a remarkably tragedy-free life so far.
Holding Stash as she died... feeling for the first time what it felt like to hold a warm and still barely living body that nonetheless was like dead weight, like a warm furry sack of organs more than a being... experiencing directly for the first time the slowed pulse rate and cold body temperature of a mammal in shock... seeing her lose control of her bowels and of her swallow reflex, shitting and drooling, suddenly focusing my abstract knowledge of the indignities of death into something real and concrete...
Well, it was just a cat, but I feel as though every terrible thing that I understood in the abstract is now firmly in the realm of the possible. No, strike that, I think even before I was able to perceive the terrible as a possibility, but now, irrationally, all the abstract horror seems not just possible but inevitable -- which, in a sense, it surely is.
To put this another way... what is so jolting about the suddenness of Stash's death is not that it seemed surreal. On the contrary, it felt at the time to be almost hyper-real. It was life in high-def. It was everything you knew was there all along, but now you could actually see it.
I think I am quickly coming to terms with the particular emotions of the loss of Stash. But even as the pain of losing a pet fades, I'm experiencing a profound lack of hope for the future. In any given proposition, the worst possible outcome now seems all too real, almost likely.
I'm sure I'll get over that soon too, but right now it's a little fucked up.