Reasons to stay alive

Lynda Hawryluk

For Monty (2004-2021)

Tonight, there’s a bright light to the west, 
and a quarter moon high overhead
Holding space in the sky and singing your name
as I walk down shiver street to a place we called home

These long years together prepared us well
for when isolation became the rule 
Inhabiting quiet rooms with our daily routine
The cold winter alone less lonely with you by my side 

The household slowly evolved to become our bunker
a place for retreat and resolve
You’d lick sad salt residue from my face
And each day provide me with more reasons to stay alive 

Our bubble is small but shines bright in the daytime
And envelops us at night in a warm embrace
We survived the long lie here together
In this cosy little home for the socially bewildered 

But how to encapsulate a big life in such small words?
To honour a king among his subjects
Surveying the lane below his perch 
And communing with the crows who came to guide him home

The last little hiccup you gave
Was one closing chirrup before leaving
We weathered this final storm, we two together alone
In the longest lie down of them all

While sleeping in your favourite places
Under morning sky, or the late day warmth of your bed
I whispered words of gratitude for a life well spent 
And your final slumber in the sun showed me the true meaning of home. 

Over seventeen years, across two states and in five homes, a ginger cat named Monty provided me with companionship, affection on his own terms, and unconditional love. A true character, his antics have become a series of anecdotes that close human friends have tolerated being told several times over. Monty displayed the full spectrum of emotions with little filter or favour: he could be aggressive, cheeky, crafty and was always bold. When I haven’t felt all that great about myself, Monty’s comfortable confidence was something to admire and emulate. Much like myself, his confidence sometimes waned in social situations, as he struggled to develop relationships with others, and negotiate unfamiliar spaces. Having moved together to new locations in regional Australia, Monty became a source of solace for me. He made each new house a home just with his presence. He gave me a place to return to, someone to talk with on lonely weekends as I struggled to make friends, and encouragement to get out of bed and start the day early. 

Living alone, I get quite conscious of ill-health with inadequate support: in physiotherapy a ‘’significant aspect of falls is a ‘long lie’’’ (Physio-pedia, online) https://www.physio-pedia.com/Long_Lie . A long lie is described as ‘’a marker of weakness, illness and social isolation’’ (Lord, Sherrington, Menz, 2001 p.10) and affects those who may not have anyone who will notice they are ill. In this poem, I make a comparison between a long lie for rest, illness or for end of life. 

Monty was a constant for me in times of uncertainty, even as age made its mark on his health. Over the course of his life, there have been significant personal losses and changes to mine and others’ relationships, work, and lifestyles, most recently because of the pandemic. He had the ability to cheer me up and remind me to put his needs before my own on my darkest days: this responsibility and his obvious love for me has gotten me through periods of change, isolation, and loneliness. I have no doubt his absence will create a hole in my world, but the memories of our long, significant friendship will help fill it. This gives me with great comfort as I mourn his passing from this life.  

References:

Lord SR, Sherrington C, Menz HB 2001 Falls in Older People: Risk Factors and Strategies for Prevention. Cambridge University Press https://www.stayonyourfeet.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Falls-in-Older-People-Risk-Factors-and-Strategies.pdf 

Physio-pedia, online https://www.physio-pedia.com/Long_Lie



Dr Lynda Hawryluk is a Senior Lecturer in Writing at Southern Cross University where she is the Course Coordinator of the Associate Degree of Creative Writing. Lynda has presented creative writing workshops in Australia and Canada. A past President / Chair of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs, and Deputy Chair of the Byron Writers Festival, Lynda has been published in a variety of academic and creative publications on Gothic coastlines, Islomania and landscape poetry.

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