Into the light of a better world over the rainbow bridge - photo by Denis Collette
The rainbow bridge poem makes me cry. I always think of my darling Missie who died in an accident. Her death must have left a wound inside me; a wound that is exposed by this tender and simple poem.
This poem is very straightforward and unvarnished, as straightforward as our relationship with our cat companions. This is one of the great strengths of a proper cat/human relationship.
I am sure that there are millions like me who have lost a cat and grieved that loss as if he or she was a daughter or son. I did. I do and I will for the rest of my life.
We are very good at boxing away the pain of loss. But in doing so we contain it, inside us. The rainbow bridge poem opens the box and we feel the sadness again.
I don't believe in life after death. But I believe in the poem. I must believe this poem because I must see her again...
The author of the poem is said to be unknown. Franny Syufy of About.com says that the original author (there are now different versions) could been one of three people:
Paul C. Dahm - a grief counselor who was last known to live in Lincoln City (presume this means in the USA). He apparently wrote in 1981. He published a book called The Rainbow Bridge in 1998.
William N. Britton - He is co-founder with his wife of a rescue center: Companion Golden Retriever Rescue in West Jordan, Utah. He also published a book in 1994: Legend of Rainbow Bridge.
Dr. Wallace Sife - He was also a professional counselor. He manages the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. He also published a book: The Loss of a Pet.
It seems that no one has laid firm claim to the original poem. There are several versions but here is the one that seems to be the original:
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together..
There have been a number of posts on this site in memory of cats loved and lost. Here is a random selection of a few:
Damiel My Amazing Turkish Angora Cat - beautiful story.
In Memory of Stormy ='( - very short, very typical and very sad.
In Memory of Wilson Who Only Wanted a Home - From Maggie.
We are no where near understanding the universe. Is it possible that the spirit of our loved ones are close by, near to us, around us, locked into the fabric of the world for eternity? We cannot see them but sometimes I think I feel the spirit of my Missie nearby. If this is so, the rainbow bridge is a short one. We only see it when we die to join our dearly loved companion animals, never to be parted again.
John O'Donohue a great Irish Catholic priest and poet says that "If there is a spiritual journey, it's about a quarter of an inch long!".
It is a great regret that the life of a cat is a fraction of ours. We have to experience this grief over and over again sometimes.
When I read the rainbow bridge poem my thoughts also turn to Sebastian's Diary as told by Ruth. They have a similar quality of loss, sadness and then joy.
Feel free to leave a comment in memory of your cherished companion.