Faye Rapoport DesPres

Finding meaning through story

This will be a brief post. I recently experienced a terrible incident and even writing feels difficult right now. A beloved cat whom we had rescued from a life on the streets was killed last Wednesday by a coyote. I have always advocated for keeping cats indoors, but I made an exception in this case because the cat, Franklin, had been wild and continued a close friendship with a wild, untamable cat who remained in our yard. That cat, a little white female, loved Franklin and waited to see him every day. I allowed Franklin to go out into our yard to spend time with her when I was home, thinking I could keep him safe even though I knew he could potentially escape. The incident happened in a matter of two minutes on a rainy morning, and writing much more about it here would be too difficult.

What I have noticed that is applicable to this blog, however, is how creating different stories about the incident has become a way of coping with it. And I imagine that this is true about virtually any kind of story. I have tried to re-trace what happened, re-frame it in ways that make sense, lessen my feeling of self-blame by attempting to find an explanation. Franklin, it appears, attacked the coyote, perhaps in an effort to defend his smaller female friend and/or his territory. The decision to see Franklin as choosing to end his life in defense of his friend and his home is, in one sense, the development of a story that enables me to cope. I see my cat as a hero who made a choice. Alternatively I could create versions of the story that would blame my actions — the fact that I allowed him to go out that morning, thinking that he would feel one or two raindrops and return immediately to the house, as he had done so many times before.

I have gone over every terrible moment, re-tracing it, re-forming it, in fact perhaps re-writing it. All in an effort to find meaning, or to create meaning that I can live with. And that, again, is perhaps what we all do as writers, even when we try to make sense of our world through fiction.

But as hard as I try to find meaning in this incident, I can’t escape the basic fact that any meaning I find in it is something I create. The only absolute truth is that my cat died and is gone, and that I held him in my arms as he drew his last breaths.

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One thought on “Finding meaning through story

  1. Cindy

    Hi Faye,

    I don’t think it’s only writers who create stories to help cope with loss. Writers write the stories, but I hear people tell such stories all the time. This happened because… or I was here, and this is what happened. Everyone creates a narrative to find the story in their lives. I think it’s human to try to make meaning out of loss, even out of good events, to explain to ourselves the meaning of our lives in the world. Franklin died in your arms because a coyote killed him. That’s the situation. You are the one who will help us understand the story. You will write it down. You are a writer.

    See you soon.