As some of y’all know, we recently lost our elderly fur-kid, a lovely cat named Murphy. He was blond/orange/red-and-white long-hair king who had lived a long and happy life, at least until the cumulative effects of primary hyperthyroidism began to rack up.
I had the benefit of seeing the end coming, from miles away. In situations like these, there is often a pre-grieving process. When you know the end is coming and you’ll have to say goodbye, but the end isn’t here quite yet; Murphy was, after all, still purring and happily chattering with me up until his last weekend with us.
Of course, the benefits of foresight are bittersweet. They don’t lessen the pain; you just feel the pain sooner. I didn’t feel that I could legitimately begin processing the grief that I knew was coming, and yet I couldn’t help but start processing it.
Mr Kitty and I talked briefly about the various little things we’d noticed about Murphy recently, from the lightening of the stool color to the fact that he always seems to want food, yet licks the gravy/juice and leaves the solids. This coincided with some digging I did on some mornings about liver failure and some of the symptoms, which include loss of appetite but an increase in thirst, which would jive with the gravy craving but only mediocre and intermittent interest in eating the solid food. He came and actually sat on my lap for a few minutes one night, and he’d taken to sitting on my chest every so often, which he’s never historically done, but Maddie had started doing near the end of her time. His wandering around and compulsive pacing were consistent with the possibility of hepatic encephalopathy.
I wrote in my journal, on Saturday, March 10th…
I think I’m starting to feel a sense of pre-grieving nipping around the edges of my world. Shapes are taking form on the horizon, potentially coming into clearer view, but I still can’t quite make them out, nor determine their distance from here with any real certainty. And these are variables you don’t want defined, questions you don’t want the answers to. Because that, then, begins a sort of countdown timeline. And it goes quick. When the time comes, it comes fast. And it scares me.
This is one of those situations, too, where the After, the getting of it behind you, is not necessarily better than the Before, when it’s still in front of you. With something like surgery, the Before is almost always worse; once you’ve been through it and made it to the other side, you can breathe easier and bask in a sense of relief, knowing that the worst is now behind you. With death, it’s a different story. There is no such light at the end of the tunnel; there is only a hole in your being, a void in the universe where a life once was. The After is more painful than the Before. And since you’ll never see them again in this life, there’s no resolution. It never gets easier; you just get more used to it. Your brain builds and adjusts to a New Normal, which is much different than before.
It might be a sunny day outside, but it’s dreary in my mind. The (unpleasant but unrelated) vibes from yesterday are dissipating on their own time, but this fog of sadness is rolling in. Time could be very short now, and if it is, we could have a drastically different world sooner than we’d expected. At this point, I don’t honestly know if he’ll make it to 16. It’s only 4 months away (as of today, in fact), but so much can happen so fast. And I can’t ignore the symptoms anymore; they’re starting to thicken and pile up. And I know that when I wrote and thought these along these lines about, Maddie (my grieving for her written about here, very early on in this blog’s existence), her end came very swiftly thereafter.
Murphy passed away in my arms, on his own and without any euthanasia assistance, on Monday, March 26th, around 6.30p US Central Time. We were there, in the vet’s office; he was preparing the shot when Murphy twitched one last time and his breathing gently stopped.
And now, I’m a little over a week into The Other Side of this. We’re in the After stage now, where we’ll always be until we cross that bridge ourselves and meet with Murphy again. I’m no longer scared, as I had been on March 10th. Now, there is an emptiness instead, a Disturbance In the Force. The composition of our home is forever changed.
I’ve said goodbye to a total of 8 cats and 5 dogs. Each goodbye is unique. One would think that after so many, one would get used to it at some point. I never have. It’s different every time, because my relationship with each was different. My love for them is the same–unwavering and unconditional and unlimited–but the nature of and the characteristics that define the relationship are different, because I recognize the uniqueness in each soul.
I do know how the process works. That, I am quite familiar with. Grieving sucks, creating a crater in my heart that can never be assuaged. The passage of time does not heal me; it only forces me to get used to the New Normal. It gives me time for my tenacious brain to come to terms with–and reach a reluctant acceptance of–the fact that my world will never be the same.
And the grieving does not end, simply because the emotion that is grief is the emotion of love that you still feel for someone you cannot interact with anymore. Since that love never dies, so, too, the does the grief persist. As I said, time only “helps” me get used to it.
And as I mentioned, I’m well-versed in the grieving process. I know all too well my tendency to be fine one moment and then break down the next. The breakdowns come in waves, jumping out from the shadows of my periphery when I least expect them to. A normal, mundane trip into the kitchen for a snack is not met with the sight of Murphy sleeping under the full-length kitchen window or meowing for more food, and that trip is no longer so mundane. Sometimes that’s all it takes to set off the tears.
I oscillate between “strangely at peace”, given the peaceful circumstances under which he died and my last moments with him filled with love, and a cold, raw emptiness that manifests at odd times. For example, walking into the living room, my eyes instinctively scan his favorite sleeping spots, which are now empty. And I already know that I don’t have to turn on the light before wading down the hall, because there won’t be any tummy-ache material to navigate (elderly kitties can’t always digest food well). I don’t have to put my laundry away right away to prevent white/blond/orange/red hairs from gathering on the clean clothes. I don’t have to race home early from work for a(nother) feeding.
If this sounds like relief, it’s not. It’s painful. Sure, it was less-than-convenient to organize my life around another being with increasing needs, but that’s what I’d signed up for from the very beginning, and I’d gotten used to it. The lack of my needing to do these things means that this golden, purely loving being is no longer.
I waited until the acutest of grieving stages was behind me because my skin tends to thin out, leaving me raw and vulnerable and easily provoked or saddened further. My energy, a rare currency as it is these days, tends to drain even faster. My brain can’t bear to write the words out, because it thinks that doing that makes the situation even more real.
Thus, it’s probably a good sign that I feel like I can share this more widely now.
And as with the yin-yang nature of life, where there’s a yin, there’s a yang–Circle Of Life and all that (smile, and probably a wink): we’ve made the decision to adopt 2 kittens, who are not yet fully weaned, so we’re currently going through the joyful preparation stages while we wait. It really is the Circle of Life; at the moment that one is tearfully letting go of a loved one, another is joyfully welcoming a new life and loved one into their world.
So, while the majority of this post centered on the sadness and emptiness that death and the grieving process brought us, there is ultimately a happy ending here: Murphy is free now, no longer experiencing any discomfort, he left the physical world on his own terms, and I firmly believe he exists still, just in an alternate form that I can’t see or cuddle with. And while that is hard, it is also part of the process. I knew this day would come when I brought him home at 9 weeks old, and on that day, I made him the promise that he’d never languish or suffer.
And then there is new life ahead, and I will make that same promise to them.
I understand that all of “our” fur-kids are simply on loan to us, and for all the years of enjoyment and fulfillment they give, there will come a day when the bill will come due and demand payment.
The grieving times may be painful, but the years of love and companionship make it more than worth it.
(PS: Please forgive me/give me time to catch up on comments, blog-reading, and blog awards! 🙂 )
And now, Murphy is with Maddie…I have good reason to believe that she welcomed him across the Rainbow Bridge. ❤