Sunday, September 28, 2008

Death, Impending:
Coversongs for an old friend



I was planning to use this weekend's entry to celebrate the impending one year anniversary of Cover Lay Down. But last night the cat turned up yowling pitifully under the shrubbery along the front porch, and he wouldn't come out. We couldn't find a flashlight; in the end, my wife lit a tiny candle in the rain, I heaved aside the overgrowth, and she reached into the darkness to reel him in, his body limp.

That he didn't tear us to shreds as we extricated him from the shrubbery was tellingly out of character. When we finally pulled him into the house, he was too unsteady to walk. When he tried to take a drink, he slumped against the edge of the bowl, tipping it into himself.

We tried to make him comfortable in a crate, and headed upstairs to bed, but at four, my sleepless spouse couldn't take it any more. She bundled him up into the car, and drove almost an hour to the all-night vet clinic, where a battery of tests pointed to congestive heart failure, or worse.

Since then, we've spent an exhaustive day at the vets, a family waiting, gathering hope and losing it again, finally coming to accept the sad truth that after sixteen years of perfect health, Jacob is just too sick to go on for much longer. But I think we knew it in our hearts already, the moment we lost him to his nausea and pain. And though he is still technically with us now, the best we can do is make him comfortable, and hold him into the night.

I'm not a cat person, but Jacob's place in our lives has always been much bigger than furballs on the laundry, the occasional half-eaten mouse at the door. Once, the cat was our only child, adopted off the streets, loved against our better judgement. Back when we were working food service, living in sin out of a series of truly awful apartments, Jacob was the first thing that made us bigger than just ourselves, and we doted on him as he grew, carrying him over our shoulder even as we moved and stretched, until we finally began knocking him down the hierarchy to make room for a dog, and, later, our two beautiful girls.

In the last few years I've taken him for granted, focusing my energies on our own kids. I've pushed him away, claiming allergies and limited attention, even as his origin story became a favorite bedtime story for each of my children in turn. I regret that loss keenly tonight.

Now the kitty sleeps the drugged, logy sleep of the dying, his core temperature dropping, his kidneys burned out beyond repair. He hasn't eaten, and he won't walk. The girls went to bed all cried out, their faces puffy from a long day of disappointment; my wife's heart is broken, and we struggle to put words and brave faces to our grief as we ask the children to understand what it means to plan for painless death as a final gift of love.

But in the meantime, my small independent partner, brave mousehunter and constant companion, the only other man of the house, suffers in his newly-made bed. And since I cannot do anything else for him, I am left to grieve in the only way I know: by writing, and sharing, and praying out loud.

Grant me this forum, folks. It's all I have. We'll celebrate another day. For now, here's a short, slow playlist of loss, for a beloved family member's bedside vigil.

42 comments:

Santo said...

So sorry to hear about your cat, brother.

a Tart said...

I cannot think of a more fitting tribute, and yes, we friends are with you to the end. xoxox

Tim said...

My condolences, friend. That's rough. Best to you guys.

A Free Man said...

I've got to say, when I saw this was a cat post I was going to click away, but am glad that I didn't. I'm not a cat person either, but I can certainly understand how pets can get into your heart, in spite of yourself.

My condolences.

Scott P. Johnson said...

So sorry to hear about your friend/family member/pet.

Might I suggest "Will I See You in Heaven" by the Jayhawks from Rainy Day Music.

Leslie said...

Your post has me in tears. I, too, am the "parent" of an aged cat . . .and I know his day will come soon, as well. Our cat arrived into our lives the week my husband and I got married, and his story is a favorite with our kids as well. I understand your pain completely, and wish you and Jacob peace.

Urban Gypsy said...

So sad... brought back memories of my kitties when I was a wee girl. My condolences to you, may God comfort you and your family in your sadness :(

K said...

What a lovely tribute to your longtime family member. God bless you all.

last year's girl said...

This is a lovely, fitting tribute. All the best to you and your family at a difficult time, and I hope Jacob isn't in too much pain.

Sowana said...

What everybody else said, and thank you for sharing this with us. Sic transit gloria Jacob....

Paige said...

Aww :\ I know how hard the loss of a pet can be, and I'm sure Jacob is glad he's had you all these years to look out for him. Thank you for sharing.

Leopold Stotch said...

Sorry man, losing a pet is the worst.
Condolences.

JoseViruete said...

Your post almost, almost, make me weep. Earlier this year I lost my dear cat Billy... I still feel the pain and think about it every day. It's amazing how pets can became almost a son, or your best friend. My sincere condolences.

Ashley said...

I am a newcomer to this blog, but I just want to heartily thank you for this post and to offer my condolences to you and your family. Losing a beloved pet is never easy. My mom informed me yesterday that my sweet cat Zachary, who I have known and loved for much of my childhood, is going to be put down. My heart is breaking, but I will always remember how much I loved Zach and the fond memories I have of him.

Sorry for the length of this comment. I just wanted to say thank you.

art-sweet said...

My heart is with you and your family. He's not just a cat - he's a witness to your lives and to the ways you've grown and changed. Two of our cats died last year, and I still cry when I think about it.

Anonymous said...

What a blessing he has been to your family. And what a blessing he always will be.

Thank you for sharing this. I'm going to go give my Cleo a pet as he too has been relegated to the background with the birth of my two daughters.

muruch said...

I am unquestionably a cat person, though I didn't consider myself such until I experienced the kind of prolonged loss that you are enduring now. My first cat died after a long illness a few years ago, and I wish now that I'd had the strength to give her a merciful painless death rather than trying to hang on to her for so long. I'm very sorry you and your family are suffering the same kind of grief.

I recommend that you get another cat very soon after Jacob is gone. I know it may seem a dishonor to his memory, as that's how I felt when my cat died. But I wasn't able to really let go of that grief until I got another kitten. It might help your kids, if not you and your wife, to heal. Anyway, either way I hope that the bad feelings pass quickly and that you and your family are able to think of the happier memories you have of your cat.

Scott said...

That was so beautifully eloquent. I feel for your loss here.

Matt said...

Bless you, and kitty.

April said...

sorry to hear that.
take care.

Berni said...

Kind of late reading the post, but I did shed a tear. So sad to lose a furry friend. Perhaps if you get another you could rescue from a shelter....
Best wishes

Anonymous said...

I'm very late reading as well. You've written a nice tribute - and you're a cat person whether you think you or not. ;)

s

gherrie said...

I've had numerous cats since childhood.I've lost 4 this year alone.I've buried almost a hundred in my lifetime.Yet, it never gets easier.I still cry and mourn like a kid even though I'm 45.I don't have a wife and kids, friends for that matter.They are my friends, losing them will always hurt me everytime.I'm so sorry for your loss. To some they're just cats, but to us they are much, much more.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pa3FwO1Tx-M

This one got me through when I lost my kitty. So sorry for your loss.

beek said...

been there, done that. will continue to. nice tribute.

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