It’s such an odd feeling, waiting for death to come. I’m not sure if it’s better to know or not know these things. I’m not really in charge of the timing, although it probably appears that somehow I am.
This is where my deep sense of attentiveness is most meaningful. Perhaps this past year of watching the world with such a careful eye will be put to some meaningful purpose.
It’s hard to read the eyes of a cat that never complains. I’m usually flooded with affection from those baby blues, but I am seeing something I don’t recognize today. We are close now. The time is drawing near.
He’s really a good cat. He uses his box, he rarely fusses and he places his soft purring body against my chest when I need a correction to my own heart rhythm. We find it together. It is hard to fathom my anchor becoming sail …
This cancer is aggressive and ugly. The tumor is wedged below his cheek pouch, has displaced his tongue and is growing at an alarming rate. He tries to eat. He tries harder to drink. There are moments I wonder if he’ll make it to Friday and moments I wonder if it’s too soon. My heart is wrenched wanting to do right by this beautiful creature.
The thing I know for sure is that the trajectory will not be altered. He won’t rebound. He’s not going to get better. Someone shared with me a question that was posed to them when they found themselves in a similar circumstance. She was struggling with the same decision about the right time. Her friend asked What are you waiting for … them to get worse ?
Is that what we lean towards ? Some confirmation that the miracle is not imminent ? Must we really exhaust all invasive and extraordinary measures ? There is a compasionate choice in all of this. It isn’t about doing anything. It’s about letting go.
He’s had it right all along. Sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty. Sometimes, if I’ve left the door ajar for meditation, he will curl up beside me and be still for the entire 30 minutes. He finds fun in the things that present themselves on his path: Q-tip. Bottlecap. Pen. Ribbon.
He likes to share my water, hog the whole pillow, dart out the back door if he sees his opening. He hated his covered cat box so he taught himself to use the toilet. All three of them. He climbs onto Kelly’s lap and settles in before there is time to respond with anything other than resignation. He runs up my chest like a ramp and tucks his head under my chin, all but daring me to move him.
When we said goodbye to Sassy he was at the elbow of the vet. He was watching over her until that last breath. He is an old soul, this one. Our “comforter in chief”. I wonder how I will live without his quiet way. I can’t imagine not having him to hold in those moments I feel like I’m falling apart. The value of touch cannot be overstated. There is power in holding ourselves against another.
We who choose to surround ourselves
with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle;
easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps,
we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only
certain immortality, never fully
understanding the necessary plan.
– Irving Townsend
Sharing your life with an animal is entering into a sacred pact. It’s a promise to be there for them in that fragile circle, over and over, until that last breath. No matter what.
I’m the last one out of bed this morning and it’s just 4:10 AM. I lie there for a moment, remembering. When I make it downstairs he is curled up in his little donut bed. Kelly says he has been asleep there since she got up. He rises when he sees me and follows me to the kitchen and then to the couch. I grab my coffee and he climbs on my chest as soon as I sit down. Mostly, I’m never alone. We sit there for awhile together until Yoda squeezes in too. He knows something is happening.
I head up to the bath at 6. After the tub is filled and I step in, he is suddenly there. I have to steady him as he tries to jump up, but he wants to be on this ledge of porcelain and there is no stopping him once he has an idea in his head. He lies down there. We sit. Our quiet morning meditation in civil twilight.
Today is the day of second guessing and bargaining. If you’ve ever sat with this impossible decision, you know exactly what I’m talking about now. There is a kind of panic that sets in.
He has mostly stopped eating, or trying to. He tries to drink by scooping water into his mouth with his lower jaw. His tongue is dislodged by the tumor and is of little practical use to him now. But he tries. He always tries. The vet’s words ring in my mind: Don’t wait too long. He will not go quietly in his sleep. This will not happen like that, he will need your help.
I can feel my heart caving into itself under the weight of this decision. I am so deeply sorry this is happening to him.
Today we’ll spend time outside. He’ll try to gnaw on some grass, I’ll follow him around the backyard, he’ll sprawl on the little rug of his gazebo and take in the breeze and the birds and that fresh air. He loves it out there. We even bought a picnic table this past year so we could be out with him. Small contentments matter. They matter for all of us.
Every few hours I use a warm cloth on his face. I check his gaze for any sign of discomfort. His breathing is labored. I feel each deep breath he takes as an ache in my own chest. There is connection and then there is this … nesting doll lives. A story inside a story inside a story ♡
I’m watching him sleep and he is dreaming up a storm. His paws twitch and his little ears too, just at the tips. His eyes are rolling under the lids until he wakes with a start, and settles back down, pushing his right cheek into the blanket.
I’ve cried a bucket of tears and I know there will be more. I wrote someone recently about how grief is like a wave; crest and trough. But what do you do when that grief is a tsunami ?
We are made for connections and beginnings. I don’t know if we are as hard-wired for goodbyes. The irony is not lost on me that the one who could comfort me in these moments is the one I am about to lose.
It’s almost time now.
Goodbyes are not my best thing.
On Tuesday I wrote I was not really in charge of the timing. Friday bore that reality out as the vet called with an emergency making it impossible for her to keep her committment to us. The hard thing: another day. The blessing: another day.
The more I live, the more I recognize that the story of our lives largely writes itself. I am reminded over and over that there is no crystal ball. Life can turn on a dime. So I will cease the chatter in my mind over this extraordinary twist of fate. A kalaidescope, this life …
I read something again last week about the “unspoken inventory of loss”. I pondered that for a long time, wondering why it resonated. Wondering what it meant to me. This morning, I know. It is the ledger carved neatly on the heart.
Of night and day, I don’t know which is harder. The uncertainty of the darkness or the stark clarity of what we now see in the morning light. Here’s what I know: Yoda is lying as close as Gus will allow. Kelly and I look upon them both with gratitude and wonder.
I’m trying to memorize the rise and fall of your little body now. Catalog every twitch and every long stretch. I’m breathing in deeply the smell of you. The feel of you. The essence of you.
I love you my sweet creature.
Thank you for rescuing me.
Kelly, Yoda and I as keepers at the gate, with Gus lying in my arms, we said our final goodbye. One final breath. One last beat of his beautiful, sweet heart. May he rest forever in love *
Godspeed, Kitty Boi Gus ♡
You are so loved by so many.