Sunday, March 18, 2012

Some resolution?

Melissa has a friend who, aside from being a massively talented and caring human being, communicates with animals.  I spent much of the day in a room with her friend, "L" and 100 cats.  Incredible, simply incredible.  (And it confirmed my recent realization that I like cats a whole lot better than most people.)  Anyway, for hours, I sat there, wishing that she would ask me if I would like her to talk to Scruffy.  (Of course, I know why she didn't/couldn't - it just would have been easier for me.)

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.....


Anonymous said...

So relate to the caretaker part. And if you are not ready to say it and mean it, that is ok. I don't think time moves for them the same way it does for us. I wish I could be more eloquent but am crying too hard at the moment. Love you, Allie & Newkitty

dian said...

you are such a wonderful writer. I am glad L was able to help and seems as though some healing has taken place. you are a good caring person with a lot of love to give. I told cal and twinkie that the fluids were a gift from Scruffy and this was the first time Twink sat still for the entire treatment.
hugs and love to you my friend

Anonymous said...

I just wanted you to know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Sending you many hugs.

Anonymous said...

Just read this. It's beautiful... as beautiful as your post on FDMB tonight. Sending you thanks for the insight and wonderful writing and many hugs.

Mike said...

I'm sorry you went through that. My cat is in really bad shape now and my heart is just breaking. I don't handle this stuff well and I wish I had the courage you went through with Scruffy. He was a beautiful cat.

Scruffyetc. said...


Thank you for your comment about Scruffy - he was really one of those beautiful, long-haired guys who never looked "groomed." I'm sorry about your cat. I wish there was something I could say to make you feel better. If it helps, I'm sitting here in tears because I read the post before writing this, and I'm still carrying with me the sorrow of losing Scruffy and the lack of understanding in what universe could the whole thing be fair. If you believe in animal communication, there is real comfort in "talking" to your cat, especially as the end approaches. There are a number of very respected communicators, if you google. I don't think that there's any time limit on grief, or anything that can make losing a cat you loved seem reasonable or normal or anything but awful.

Do you have anyone for support that could go with you? Is your vet conscious of his responsibility to make the process less horrible. The only thing that got me through it was that I knew I was saving Scruffy from an ending with pain and sadness for him, and for me. There's an article about what actually happens to cats who are left to "die on their own" - it's horrifying. (It's somewhere in the last couple of posts here.) I couldn't have allowed him to "go" on his own. I needed to be there to say goodbye and to hold him for the last time.

You need to do whatever makes you feel however much better it can. My vet NEVER has anything on top of his awful stainless table. I brought a nice soft, fresh towel for Scruffy to lay on before they gave him the first shot. So, I guess - never thought about this before - his last memories were of laying on the softness, and my tears dropping on his fur. Not a bad thing, I guess.

If there's anything I do to be helpful to you, Mike, please let me know. Otherwise, know that there are a multitude of us out here, knowing what you're going through, and wishing you peace and ultimately acceptance. (I haven't gotten there, after going on five years. I still cry every time I think of Scruffy's name, or see his picture on my computer. Some of us adjust more slowly than others.........)

You and your kitty are in my heart, and in my prayers.