I grew up picturing death as the Grim Reaper, the skeletal figure carrying a large scythe. Even though I studied in catholic schools, I’ve never believed their philosophy that death is an angel of God and there is a better place after the death. Death is the end. I like the idea of reincarnation but I don’t believe in it, but if I did believe in it my friends very well know that I would like to return as a cat.
Ingmar Bergman took me to a new fantastic dimension of death with his masterpiece The Seventh Seal. Since then, the grim reaper, played by Bengt Ekerot in the film, is a nice and strange man that plays chess, that still carries a scythe. In that cause I would be… damned (I can’t use any “f word” here), because I’m a terrible chess player. In this new representation of death, the death itself was much more human than the catholic teachings would have it. He/she had intelligence, sense of humor – even if a bit strange – and it was almost understanding of our shortcomings, but still implacable. Remember: the grim reaper cheats and always win.
Neil Gaiman showed me another version of death, as a cool pretty girl with a Gothic style, who everybody loves.His death “looks like rock star Nico in 1968, with the perfect cheekbones and perfect face she has on the cover of her Chelsea Girl album.” His death always try to be nice, but keep doing her work. Interesting vision, but I keep the Bergman’s portray of death as my favourite.
But that was until now. From now on, the grim reaper is a cat to me. This article changed it all for me: Oscar the Cat Predicts Patients’ Deaths (via The Pet Blog):
When Oscar the Cat visits residents of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, the staff jumps into action — Oscar can sense within hours when someone is about to die.
In his two years living in Steere’s end-stage dementia unit, Oscar has been at the bedside of more than 25 residents shortly before they died, according to Dr. David Dosa of Brown University in Providence.
After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He’d sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.
The fury grim reaper is the cutest representation I ever seen. That’s the perfect image of death for me. However, I don’t want he visiting me for now. The story about Oscar the cat was originally published at The New England Journal of Medicine by David M. Dosa, and it’s in everywhere now, including Scientific American and BBC (video). My favourite part is:
Making his way back up the hallway, Oscar arrives at Room 313. The door is open, and he proceeds inside. Mrs. K. is resting peacefully in her bed, her breathing steady but shallow. [...]
One hour passes. Oscar waits. A nurse walks into the room to check on her patient. She pauses to note Oscar’s presence. Concerned, she hurriedly leaves the room and returns to her desk.[..]
The priest is called to deliver last rites. And still, Oscar has not budged, instead purring and gently nuzzling Mrs. K. A young grandson asks his mother, “What is the cat doing here?” The mother, fighting back tears, tells him, “He is here to help Grandma get to heaven.” Thirty minutes later, Mrs. K. takes her last earthly breath.
He’s Charon. If you thought this interesting, read also Can pets sense illness? article.
More posts with death: Cinemorgue, The Fantastic in Art and Fiction, My Death Space, Collection of Life and Death Masks, Death according to Giornale Nuovo,Medieval Macabre and Coconino Classics.