Saying goodbye to a pet…..Staying present to life…..

Let me start with a brief summary of my morning yesterday and how I realized that I needed to stay home as I was a danger to myself and others. My day started off with grocery shopping, which is where I discovered that I had somehow lost my debit card. Panic sets in…..and I immediately rush around managing to knock a bottle of ketchup on the floor at the checkout line. I drove home, intent on searching my house and car to see if I could find the card. Backing up into my driveway, still panicking, I managed to scratch and dent my neighbor’s car. Some day this may be funny, but it was not yesterday.

I took myself into the house, talked myself down, called the bank to order a new card, and wrote a note to place on my neighbor’s windshield to confess my deed. I thought I would make myself a bit of breakfast and calm down, to discover that my toaster died. Ok, that was enough. I knew better than to leave the house or touch anything else for fear of what might happen next. And so I sat quietly and checked in with myself. Of course, I realized, the stress of what I was, and am, dealing with, effects everything. And I need to be hyper vigilant and careful. Because…..(in addition to the trauma that we are all dealing with for some time now —pandemic, politics, all of it…….) I have my own additional personal trauma…..

My kitty, who is over 17 years old, has liver cancer and is in the process of dying. He is still eating some, cuddling, sleeping beside me, and still very much engages with me. How does one say goodbye to a being that has taught me a different, deeper kind of love? I have no children, and no partner currently, so my kitties have been my family and my lifeline during this pandemic. I had two kitties for the past 17 years and this past June I lost one of them just two weeks after I retired. And my other kitty has never really recovered from that loss of his dear companion. And now I am facing yet another loss, and it hurts beyond what my words can describe.

I had a zoom appointment with a nurse from a pet hospice. She talked with me about doing daily assessments of my kitty’s quality of life, and gave me a “Pain Scale for Cats” to be able to help with this assessment. I am trying, but it is so hard to assess in a concrete and rational way what his quality of life is (except, of course, to try and stay aware of pain, as I don’t want him to suffer). I talk with him and ask him to please let me know, so that I can help in the best way possible. But, truly, I hate the thought (and the feeling) of losing him. He is my companion. He lives with me and offers me comfort and touch and softness in this challenging time. He has been with me through so many different struggles and other losses in my life. He has been loyal and loving and there….truly there…for me. How do I let go of this loving being? How do I deal with the ache of not having him here with me?

It brings home to me how all of us are here for a temporary time…until it is our time to go. It makes mortality, which is already more and more present in my awareness as I continue aging, such a reality. It makes me appreciate each moment so much more, both with my dear kitty and with myself and my own life.

It is a challenge to stay present with the pain of this impending loss….to not try and escape or numb it somehow. And it is also a gift to be able to cherish him as much as possible until it is time for him to go. There is such an exquisitely poignant quality to this time, time with my kitty and also including this time of aging myself.

I cherish this kitty of mine. I cherish this life of mine…with all of its challenges and ups and downs. It is such a gift to be alive and to be able to feel these things, even the things that hurt. This is one of the gifts (and costs) of being human and being alive and of loving. And so I will love when I can and for as long as I can. I am still alive and able to love. This being human ride that we are all on is not easy…….worth it, but so not easy….. And I can hold love in my heart for those here and for those gone and for those who are on their way, as are we all. i am honored that you have shared a few moments of your precious time reading my words and connecting with me….it is one of the joys of this life…..real and authentic connection.

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