Thursday, July 22, 2010

Death Be Not Proud

It is probably no secret that I do not deal well with death.
That is not to say that I do it any worse or any better than anyone else. I think death, in general, is a tough thing for anybody with a sentient brain to comprehend.
My cat Daisy had been sick since last Thursday, when she howled and collapsed in the office. I was fairly sure I was holding a dead cat in my arms as she stared at the floor, unresponsive.
We gathered her up and rushed her to the pet emergency room in Malvern, where they took her in and started tests on her. She perked up and lived to the next morning. I let myself be a bit less dismal about her chances.
With each day that we visited, she was just a bit better, looking up, blinking, looking around and responding to our voices. But each night she backslid a little, just enough to make the doctor's worry.
We finally got the feeding tube in her, and suddenly she began a spiral downward. She didn't come out of it. We had one evening of her meowing and responding to us and standing up when we petted her, then we suddenly had an afternoon of watching her stair in to space and drool. As she struggled to breathe, we realized that she wasn't going to be coming home with us, and did one of the toughest things we'll probably ever have to do. She was put to sleep as we held and petted her.
I have small, ridiculous rituals that I do whenever a cat passes. Having fostered several, I've done it a few times. Cleaning the face of the animal, as well as any obviously messy parts of the fur, then placing two pennies with the animal - so they can pay the boatman to cross. Sometimes I will cover the face if the eyes aren't closing. Daisy's did, so it wasn't necessary.
We cried, we petted some more, and I felt just gutted. The night before we'd been discussing with the vet techs how to go about feeding her through the tube they'd inserted. It was a shock to go from planning feeding times for her to signing euthanasia paperwork.
I'm sure I need not articulate this for anyone else who has ever lost a pet. They are well familiar with the pain that comes.
Something was different this time, though. I was grateful to get to put her to sleep, grateful that she was aware enough to know we were there and that she was purring up until the doctor gave the injection that knocked her unconscious. She'd been gasping for air as we held her, and my only regret was that we'd told them to wait 10 minutes instead of 5 to come in. She truly struggled the last few minutes. I'm fairly certain I was listening to her die in my arms even before the injection.
When it was done we walked outside and my ears pulled in the sounds of a mocking bird nearby. A butterfly floated across my view headed for a flower somewhere. Storm clouds were pooling overhead, pretending they might become a mighty thunderstorm at any moment. And I realized as I stood there that the rest of the world was going to keep rolling on. She, and my grief, were small cogs in a very large machine, and that we could stop for a bit if we needed to. Everything else was going to keep on and we could catch up when we were finished. It was a lonely place, but also a peaceful place. The world outside was the same after we'd gone in as before we'd gone in. Hard to explain, it simply didn't seem to be a negative as one might think the thought would be.
My current cosmology doesn't really have a heaven, per se. I don't think there's a kitty heaven where pets go to when they die. I don't think they simply end, either, blinking out like a light. They experience a miraculous, glorious shift, and then they are something else so entirely different that we cannot see them or recognize them. That is not to say that Daisy is still around. That which was Daisy is gone, and is not coming back. In a few days they will call and return to us the ashes of what was her body, but even that will not be Daisy. She was fur and blood and big yellow eyes and a willingness to come running whenever she heard me singing or talking on the phone or laughing. Not even the fur is returned to me. I receive flakes of carbon that were her form. She is truly gone from here.
I don't know what to make of my certainty that this is what has happened. It doesn't allow me the comfort that reincarnation or heaven does for people of those faiths. But it feels right. Life is so complex and so beautiful that I can't believe it would stay in this same shape, or form. It must morph, it must move onward to something different that we have not grasped yet.
So... my girl is gone. My throat clenches in pain even as I type this. But for the first time, I am okay a mere 12 hours after putting her to sleep. I'm okay with life, and with there not being life anymore.
I still think I here her meowing as she walks up. I thought last night I felt her jump up on the bed and walk up in between us to be pet like she'd done every night before going to the hospital. I keep expecting to see her nose poking out from under the bed. It's because my gray matter was used to the stimulation, and hasn't yet processed that it's gone. My cat, right now, is like the twitching of a phantom limb. Clinical, perhaps, but I am okay with that description. She made enough of an impact in my life that her absence causes my mind to try and recreate her interactions with me. I think it say a lot for what she meant to me.
When she was younger, she was a very skittish cat. She would hide for days. Bob joked to one of the vet techs that he lived with me and didn't see the cat for 2 months initially.
Daisy would always come out if I sang, though. She came out double fast if I sang
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow". I came to associate that song with her, as she would sit or stand in my lap and purr away while singing and patting her at the same time.
As we sat and talked last night, I was telling Bob how I was alternately telling myself to just get over things and move on, and feeling upset for not wanting to honor her memory. I was torn, and trying to just give myself a break.
As we were finishing dinner, that song came on. I heard it, and though I am not big on believing in messages from the other side, the timing was so heavy with synchronicity that I just stared. I still argue with myself whether it was an accident, or The Universe trying to tell me it was going to be okay. For now, because I need it, I'm choosing to believe that someone's trying to tell me everything's going to be okay.
As I played the song again Chaucer made his way to the desk immediately and laid down as we listened. This seems significant too, while I am looking for mystical signs from the world.
I love you, baby girl. I am so glad you're not suffering anymore. Whatever and wherever you are now, I hope it's fun.


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