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Friday, September 01, 2006

Goodbye, My Friend

Typically I reserve the main topics of my posts for the wee ones in the family. Tonight, however, the eldest and feeblest of the household gets the place of honor. Tonight I had to follow through with something that I have dreaded for a very very long time. I prayed many times that Geriatric Cat would just go to sleep one night or day and not wake up. I hoped, against the odds, that when his time was up, he would just go peacefully and that I would never have to find myself in the position of deciding when is the right time for him to die. After all, I believe God is the author of life, and it seems that if He is the one who breathed life in my lifetime furry best friend, then He is the only one with the authority to end it. *sigh* I also know that God gives humans charge over the animals.

So, in the midst of this struggle, I gave into what seemed was the only humane way out for Geriatric Cat. I think he would have held on for a very long time, because he’s just got that kind of determination. But the reality is that he was blind, or nearly so, with one eye completely obscured by a glaring red internal cyst and the other one cloudy—probably due to cataracts. We suspected he was deaf or nearly so, as he often seemed unresponsive to audible sounds and our voices. He was suspected by our dear veterinarian to have lymphoma. He had what we all guessed was some nerve damage due to the probable cancer. This led him to paw at his mouth viscously after eating. He was skin and bones, having dropped from 13+ pounds in his prime of life to 7lbs and 15 oz. He no longer groomed himself much, and did very little but sleep on his favorite couch. Often he would have jitters and shakes in his sleep that would get so violent at times that he would fall off the back of the couch with a thud, and sometimes not even wake up. More than once I watched this happen and thought the old man had died. Each time I tiptoed to have a closer look, I could see his sides rising and falling with breath and I felt both relief and sorrow. While I didn’t want him to die, I also wanted him to go on his own. But he didn’t. I held on only as long as I could before I began to question what was more humane: to be allowed to live or to die.

He continued to have his good moments all the way to the end. He still got his occasional “all is well with the world” look about him at times while he perched on his couch. He still became animated and pranced across the vinyl kitchen floor when he heard the telltale sounds of the refrigerator opening and a can of his food being opened. And he still frequently joined the hubbub that happens constantly on the floor with a just-turned-three-year-old and a crawler. He loved to sit right in the middle of the activity, and he always put up with chubby little fingers poking and patting him. Just a couple days ago he was right in the middle of our floor activity and Dear Son got his chubby little fists wrapped around his neck in a death grip. Geriatric Cat just sat stone still--eyes a bit wild with anxiety—but patiently waited to be released. He never nipped at the kids or acted cross at them in spite of their raucous loving.

I can’t remember life without Frederick, and that is because I’ve lived more years of my life with him than I have without him. I spent more than twice as many years sharing my bed with him than I have with my husband. He came into my life before I even had a driver’s license. He traveled cross-country with me at least twice. He saw me through every fleeting teenage and adolescent romance and the heartbreak that came along with them. He came with me on and every move. He was my best friend at my lowest points in life, seeing me through times that I didn’t believe I had a single human friend in the world.

In the peak of his life, he was full of personality. He greeted people at the door and loved to “talk.” Sometimes he started the conversations, and sometimes he just went along with the ones others started, but he always had something to say. While he never cared much for being held, he loved to be right next to his humans. Sometimes he loved to sit in a human lap, as long as he was the one who initiated it. I can’t count the number of people who told me they had never met a cat like Frederick. People who professed to be “cat haters” ended up falling in love with Frederick. He was just charming and charismatic like that.

But tonight he gets to rest. He doesn’t have to be blind or deaf anymore. He doesn’t have to fall off the back of the couch anymore. He doesn’t have to paw at his mouth anymore or have any more pain. I don’t know if animals go to Heaven, but I’m soothed by believing that at least some of them do. And I imagine Frederick in Heaven, young and plump again with two big green shining eyes, chasing butterflies on green grassy hills. Maybe somewhere over the Rainbow Bridge Frederick is experiencing Heaven, and when I get there one day, we will find each other and he will chat me up something fierce and sleep on my pillow again just like old days.

I miss you, Old Man!

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