On having to start saying goodbye

Dear Readers,

Yesterday we took our cat, Ringo to the vet as I had suspected something was very wrong. She had started hiding in the closet, lost weight, had a strange smell in her mouth. As soon as I realized, I made an appointment to see the vet.
We learned she is very sick and will die soon.

We’re going to keep her comfortable (pain med and antibiotics from vet have been given) while we have to decide the inevitable — when.
It’s hard to accept. And already I have the dropsies and the bumping into things from the grief which has started. That time- is- sped- up- and- slowed- down simultaneously feeling where you notice everything, but then you want to please, lay down and sleep in cotton, and the sun is too bright, although warm and good with fall leaves turning and falling. Such a beautiful time of year this is.

Ringo is getting delicious brisket and long spells sitting in the window catching sun.
Heavy hearts but M already talking about our next kitty and that he’s quite sure Ringo will be going to the rainbow bridge and the rainbow is the entry point to cat heaven.

detail from a painting by Elana Halberstadt, 2014
detail from a painting by Elana Halberstadt, 2014

M said, “Maybe she will meet up with her brothers and sisters.” I said, “Maybe she’ll meet Pounce who left us in 2003. Or Banana in 1977.”  I know Andy would also think of Schnapsie, his childhood family dog. All of the animals who we love(d) who love(d) us every day and then leave us, always too soon. We’re with Ringo more than 15 years.

Such goodness and all the love as we’re being extra kind to Ringo as much as we can and to ourselves because this will be Ms first death experience. We always joked that she’s his  big sister.
And we have to help him say goodbye. Or maybe he will help us.

Transitions are hard for M. But, I don’t know anyone for whom death is an easy thing. If death is the ultimate transition, I think what an incredible opportunity to show him how we love our furry family member at the very end of her life. How we can say goodbye in a way that is only for love. Ms ability to see past this to a new, future kitten is hopeful.

It’s hard. I’m numb sometimes.  It’s the news you never want to get. Most likely cancer. Denial pops up. It could just be an infection in her mouth and then the antibiotics will clear it up, and she’ll be fine. No, that’s not what the vet said. But we say that because it feels better to hold on to that shred of hope for another day. I’ll be calling the vet tomorrow and we’ll go over everything again. I’ll ask him which types of cancer he thinks it is. I’ll ask him to tell me again what he suggests will be best for her to not suffer.  Tell me the options again.

I started documenting the end and writing in my head and I realize that’s just my coping mechanism. How to turn these feelings into pictures or find a place outside my head to put the feelings to contain them and make sense of things. Tears just roll and roll.

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Then I see something funny  and start looking for more funny  and I find it, and then there’s folding and  sorting piles of laundry. Then sorting and more piles of old papers and magazines and junk mail. Recycle, shred, keep. Contain. Put away. Do something that has immediate results, something I can control. Laundry, piles, or to go outside and smell the freshly cut grass by Andy. Watch M run in the circles of the grass. Try to save the orange mums  that were decimated by a critter overnight. Whoever did the damage left the purple ones alone, but now I want to bring them off the stoop, too. Those flowers make me happy.

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If I can make something that will last after Ringo is gone, even if I never look at it again,
maybe that’s just my way through.

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Of course we’ll be ok. With so many disasters and true hardships in the world, this is a personal story, nothing more or less. Just about our cat, Ringo, and things related to that, which feels like everything. She’s one I turn to for a hug and snuggle when the world feels too much to bear.  When the news is too grim and gory, Ringo is the balm of comfort.  Always perfect love. Makes everything better, makes it all tolerable somehow. Life’s moments of difficulty, eased by her presence. All the celebrations made sweeter with her here. Every day for over 15 years and counting.

This is what we’re going through now, and so I think about that; how one goes through this — losing a beloved animal friend. It doesn’t matter how many times you may have experienced this, it is never easy. Each time you go through it, it is new. Each animal has a unique soul.

So, you just go through it, however way you do. Knowing there’s no way to stop how much it hurts. No way to measure the love. No means by which to show gratitude sufficiently to the creature that is our Ringo, such a good cat. She has lived a life better than many humans. Most certainly better than so many animals. She has only known love. She has only given love. Every day since May 2, 1999 when we found her at 5 weeks old, so tiny she fit into the palms of our hands and measured 5″tall.

Pizza saves the day. Sweet treats, ice cream cones with chocolate sprinkles (or Jimmies as we said in Boston, MA when I was little). Andy made us a fabulous dessert and is cooking again, and I’m peeling tiny clementines by the handful in between cake and coffee with cream. Because sometimes I have no appetite at all, and other times, I can’t stop eating every morsel of comfort food put in front of me and with plenty of water to drink.

Sitting on a chair next to the window holding Ringo and listening to birds and kids playing outside. Then I watch her enjoy sitting in the window, sniffing at the air.

watching birds 9/27/14
watching birds 9/27/14
nice air in the window 9/27/14
nice air in the window 9/27/14

I took pictures of her on the sunny spot on the floor in the dining room and her whiskers are lit up shiny in the sun, on the floor with crumbs and bits of fur and all the imperfections. You can see she is thin and that the floor is worn and needs to be swept.

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shiny whiskers

The kind doctor who hugged me and gave a wad of tissues while I absorbed hearing the news and the options and accepting but not being able to say yet, yes, we will do this or that, because we just found out, she most likely has cancer, an aggressive kind, and it is untreatable. To find out for certain would require surgery and a biopsy, and then  she would not be able to be helped anyway. Doing this procedure  would confirm the  vet’s most likely opinion which he formed from a thorough visual exam, tests, the symptoms. The procedure would accurately name and type it.   We will not put her through that. She’s over 15 and she’s been living a wonderful life. It’s been a good run. Her time is coming, even though we’ve told her repeatedly that she must live forever.

With the vet’s help, we’ll keep her comfortable, giving her days with treats, open windows, and love. Not unlike any of her regular, pre-sick  days.

The vet said, “We’ll take it day by day.” He has promised me that we can hold her or her paws when it’s time for the rainbow bridge which will be soon.
Too soon.

All love,

Elana

 

8 thoughts on “On having to start saying goodbye

  1. So sorry. We have been there twice (with 2 wonderful cats we moved here with, pre-dog)
    and I remember so well all those feelings you express so beautifully. The sadness and heartache along with the gratitude for all the time you’ve had with this beloved creature.
    You are providing a hard but important lesson for Max, who is learning from both of you how to love and to let go….
    much love to you all. (and glad some flowers surviving to brighten these days 🙂

  2. Oh no. I am so sorry to hear this Elana. You have given Ringo such a wonderful life, and she is so lucky to be part of a family that loves her so fully.

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