Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thoughts on the Death of our Cat

75º ~ our low for the day was 71º, the goal is only 92º today with another chance of t-storms, tho yesterday's clouds produced no rain, no thunder, nothing but gray, for now, we are on full sun

As many of you know, we had to put Libby to sleep last week, all the while struggling to save our other cat Lou-Lou from a completely unrelated life-threatening illness.  I've had a lot of thoughts rumbling through my head about life and death as C. and I struggle along. 

1.  We lost Libby last week.  "Lost" is a weird and terrible word for death.  There is some hint that we've simply misplaced our dear kitty and if we could only find her, all would be well. 

2.  We had to put Libby to sleep last week.  Yes, the first part of the procedure involved giving her a sedative that caused her to sleep, and then the second part of the procedure made that sleep permanent.  I know there is a long history of sleep as a metaphor for death.  It still seems too easy a word, although I was with Libby the whole time and she did not struggle; she slept and then she "slept forever."

3.  We had to put Libby down.  I was raised by the children of farmers.  This is the most comfortable phrase for me, but I've found that it tends to make others uncomfortable.  It seems the closest to the reality. 

4.  Libby's heart was so damaged that it couldn't pump oxygen to her brain and she became hypoxic.  I love this word: hypoxic, being in the state of hypoxia (without oxygen).  I had a name for what was happening to Libby and that helped.  As yet, we have no word for what is trying to kill Lou-Lou, destroying all of her red blood cells, hypoxia threatening despite her heart being healthy. 

5.  In a state of hypoxia, a cat becomes confused, disoriented, and vocal.  This was hard to see on Libby's last day. Although the vet did not think it was "pain," it was certainly suffering.

6.  Seven days from the first visible symptoms (racing heart, fast breathing) to death.  Yesterday, I downloaded some pictures from my phone and found a bunch of pictures of both Libby and Lou-Lou from before these crises.  The dates were so recent, it made my heart ache.

7.  Seven days from symptoms to death; we are grateful for the time we had to adjust and the fact that Libby didn't suffer long.  Still, so quick.  So sudden.  Whiplash.

8.  After we brought Libby home from the diagnosis and began her on meds to remove the fluid from her lungs/heart, we thought we might be able to have a few months with her.  She knew differently.  She stayed in her hiding place, only to be dragged out for meds.  She did not eat on her own after we brought her home.  On the third day, she stopped drinking.  Her body knew before we could accept it that death was near.

9.  One of my grandfathers died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  His heart and lungs filled with fluids the same as Libby's. 

10.  One of my grandfathers died after several long years of Alzheimer's disease.  He was confused, disoriented, and vocal.  My grandmother bore it all.  Once, when hospitalized for pneumonia, he "escaped" from the hospital because he wanted so desperately to go home.

11.  One of my grandfathers had a relatively quick and peaceful death.  One had to waste away, no longer recognizing his wife and children, let alone his grandchildren.

12.  Why, when the writing is on the wall, when death is so near as to be undeniable, are we able to end the suffering of our animals, but not the people we love (if they've consented)?

13.  C. and I know the difference between pets and people, but we suffer in Libby's death.

14.  I've always been quick to offer words of condolence, although I've rarely needed to receive them.  With my grandfathers, they were both in their 80s, and their deaths were known to us for years before they happened.  We had time to accept the inevitable.  I was so surprised at how much it helped to hear from others via Facebook, email, mail, and phone calls after Libby's death.  Words really do carry power.

15.  Whether real or imagined, it seems that Lou-Lou wonders where Libby is as well.  There is an emptiness in our house.  We honor that emptiness, the absence of a once forceful presence.  Libby was an attention-diva, and as much a cliche as it might be, I wish she'd just demand my attention one more time.

One week before symptoms, our princess kitty.


Kathleen said...

So sorry. Our cats do seem to know more and accept more (except when disoriented) about death than we do at times. Such a fascinating connection to your grandfathers, too. Thank you for putting down these thoughts.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Kathleen. I find connections everywhere, but these seemed a bit eerie.

Tawnysha Greene said...

This made me so sad. It's devastating to lose our pets and you write about it so honestly and beautifully. Thinking about you...

Sandy Longhorn said...

Aw, thanks, Tawnysha. Sometimes, we just have to be sad for a bit.

Karen J. Weyant said...

Last summer, Anthony and I had to put our beloved 17 year old cat, Toni, "to sleep." She was dying of kidney failure and wasting away right in front of us. Like you, I thought of my mother and her long goodbye of a death. I suppose those out there who don't have pets and/or don't like animals can't see the connection, but indeed, pets are members of the family and the loss is very real.

It's a cliche' but time does heal wounds. Pets become part of you and live on long after they pass.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for understanding, Karen. I'm sorry Toni is no longer with you and Anthony. Long live your memories.

Erin said...

Sandy, I am grateful for your honest and open account of your thoughts and the real pain of losing a true friend. You have been much in my heart this past week and I hope that you and your partner find comfort.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Erin, your words mean so much to us. Thanks for thinking of us and sending comfort.

Molly said...

So sorry to hear this sad news.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Molly.