Towards the end of the day - during which I had literally been amazed over and over again about what an unusual person L was - we were alone in the room, except for the bazillion cats. And somehow, I heard myself ask her if she would talk to my Scruffy. She came right over to where I was sitting, pulled up a chair, and laid her hand on my knee. And closed her eyes and sat in silence for some time. And then she said, "He's here." I was already crying. And I didn't know if I could talk or ask questions, or if I was just supposed to wait and absorb what she/Scruffy said. So, I just waited. She said that he was pain-free. No pain. Several times. I don't know. I have to say here that during virtually all of the two months of Scruffy's leaving, I really didn't perceive that he was in significant pain. I know, they hide it and all that, but he just didn't act any differently than he always had. The oncologist, when he was first diagnosed, had given me a dozen syringes with buprenex in them, but he said that he didn't expect that there would be much overt pain. No, I didn't ask how he knew that. And I have liver disease - I know that it can cause excruciating pain, and I can't imagine that a big fat tumor sitting in your liver and a whole mess of them in your spleen couldn't hurt. So, maybe I was deluded. I don't know.
She said that he emphasized that his last week he had absolutely NO pain, and asked me if it was a particularly traumatic time. And I was surprised - because, it had been a week that - except for the tumult of trying to make myself make the appointment for the final vet trip and the upset about not being able to get a Saturday appointment - was actually very peaceful and calm. Once I knew that it was time, I let him eat his beloved Fancy Feast without the stupid phosphorus binder, and without worrying about how low the phosphorus content was. I didn't go to my mother's in the evenings. And we spent so many hours just sitting in my chair, while I rubbed his ears and scratched his chin. It was a sad but calm time. I never thought that it was traumatic. Oh, I hope he didn't.
And he agreed that he was ready to "go". It was time. It wouldn't have been good to have waited. Which was probably true. Although I am convinced that - having reread that vet article about animals dying at home - that he wasn't in shock or whatever horrible stuff they suffer during those last days. His blood pressure was normal. His gums weren't sticky and his skin was elastic - I gave him fluids two and sometimes three times a day, plus he drank a lot from the bathroom sink, although he still only peed twice a day. He ate and ate, exactly like he always had, going from dish to dish and gobbling. I couldn't find him to give him his fluids one night and he turned out to be on the top level of the cat tree - 8 feet up in the air, and he got there and down again on his own. I don't know. I don't know. That said, I don't think I could have waited much longer. I certainly didn't want him to have any more chemotherapy treatments - and I had never given him the cytoxan pills I was supposed to. (I can't even find the damned things now - I wanted to donate them to the Specialty Hospital for someone else to use.) I couldn't have watched if he'd been throwing up or too weak to move or not showed enjoyment of things that had always been important to him. So, yes, it was time, painful as that is to think about. And she said that Scruffy was grateful for all the stuff that I had done for him over the years, that he knew he had been lucky that I wanted to take care of him and get past all the awful diseases he'd had, one after another. And I shouldn't feel guilty about not knowing that he was so sick. Which, God knows, remains one of the things I just can't get over - how could he had had all those tumors and still have been exactly what he'd always been? I can't understand it; no amount of feline staunchly hiding pain and discomfort makes sense to me here. The fact that we only even found out that there was something wrong by accident, by coincidence. I can't deal with it.
Anyway, she said Scruffy was still "here", because he had to stay because I was in such pain and couldn't allow him to go. She said that there is a Collective - a place where all the souls of cats who die go, and that when their souls join together, they have a huge power that is used to help other cats who are still here. And that Scruffy wanted to go and be a part of the Collective, but first I had to let go of the "string" that I was holding him to me with. He can't leave me while I am so sad about losing him. He was always such a sweet, caring cat; that's not a surprise, I guess. She said that there's no time limit for allowing him to move on, but that he's ready when I am.
A tiny, sad, sick little cat had picked me to hold her almost all afternoon. While L was saying all this about the Collective and how Scruffy was waiting for me to allow him to move on, I suddenly became aware of stroking this sweet little black cat and of the sensation of feeling one tear rolling very slowly down my cheek and dropping on my shoulder. I had a quick flashing image of an open book and a page being turned. And a kind of semi-peaceful feeling - not that it was all resolved, or that I would never cry again or anything; just that it seemed like a portion of the sadness was fading.
And then L took her hand and held it out in the air between us. I reached out to hold it, just kind of instinctively, and she said, "He's here. That's Scruffy. And he'll always be here." And I thought, oh, let it be him. I needed to think that he was there. And that I could touch him just one more time.
It was an almost three hour drive to get home, and I cried virtually the entire trip. Not violently sobbing or anything, just sadness. Thinking about a thousand things, and about letting the Puffer go on to his next adventure. Now I really think that, because of all of the thousands of hours and days that I spent actually doing stuff to take care of him - not just feeding and petting, but "treatment" things - somehow maybe part of my seeming inability to heal and accept his loss is a kind of "caretaker syndrome". This last time, there was no happy ending. Giving away all of his medications and the syringes and the eyedrops and the fluids and the cancer treatment stuff - was like giving away my identity as his "caretaker". But, it's done and he's gone. I need to be able to say "Fly free, Scruffy" and mean it.....