Dying, Death, and Life

I’ve been having problems holding my seams together. It’s no surprise really. I’m pretty sure I know how I got here. But I think I can see the path forward.

Rascal had a tough past year and a half. After three seizures last June, an initial diagnosis of hypereosinophilic syndrome, then downgraded to small cell lymphoma, a battle with prednisone induced diabetes, and then rapid weight lose over the past couple of months, it was actually really impressive how friendly he still was.

In the weeks before last week, Rascal hadn’t been doing well.  But The ManBeast and I had a conference in Knoxville to attend.  I couldn’t stay home.  So I made the hard choice of boarding him with the vet.  I couldn’t with any peace of mind ask my friend, who normally watches the cats, to deal with Rascal’s issues.  He was up to twice weekly Leukaran for the lymphoma, an appetite stimulate every three days, and a twice daily irritable bowel medication.  Not easy to deal with.

So the Friday previous I dropped Rascal off at the vet.  I’ve been mourning for him for a long time, but it was still hard.  We were off to Knoxville the next morning to return sometime Thursday night.

We hit the Beltline in Madison at about 5:30 Thursday night and I made the joke that we should go get Rascal and save the $16 on boarding him for an extra night.  But we both decided we were tired and to just put it off to the next morning as originally planned.  

45 minutes after getting home I got a call from the vet that Rascal likely wouldn’t last the night.  

He had had a stroke the day before, and likely another one that morning, and the vet told me he was fading fast.  He was dead by the time we made the (racing) 15 minute drive over there.

I knew this could happen at any time, and that I got more time with him than we had originally thought was possible.  But I’m not sure it’s made it any easier.  Rascal was my friend for the past 7 years.  I got him the year I lived in Capitol Hill.  He moved with me once in DC, and then made the move here to WI when I came for grad school. I often reminded The ManBeast that Rascal had been with me before he came along.

I am thankful that I did get to see his body.  But I can’t help thinking “if only the vet had called me sooner” or “if we’d just stayed on the Beltline a few more exits”…  I would have gotten to see him one more time.  It breaks my heart.  I feel like I’ve been falling apart at the seams.

A wise friend told me a few years ago that one of the things she dealt with with her father dying was people simply not saying anything to her.  How it shocked her that some people just didn’t say anything to her.  It’s something that’s stuck with me for a long time.  So when bad things happen to people I know, I try to at least say something so that they know I’m there for them.  I rarely know what to say, but I’d rather say something awkward than nothing at all.

The hard part I’m having in all this is that I’m not sure how to let people be here for me.  I honestly don’t feel like talking to anyone about any of this.  And frankly, much of the world isn’t well set up for grown adults mourning the death of a pet.  So if you see me, know that I’m doing the best I can right now to keep it together.  And if you hug me, don’t be surprised if I burst into tears.  And if we’re in public, I probably won’t let you get too close.

The ManBeast and I have been talking for quite some time about what we would do when Rascal died.  One thing we never talked about was how Thor would react.  As a cat, I can’t tell you how he’s doing.  Sometimes he seems like his normal aloof self.  Other times, I’d like to think that his behavior is indicative of him missing Rascal.  But only he knows the truth.

The thing The ManBeast and I did talk about what getting another cat.  He was of the opinion that the next one needed to be named Loki.  It would pay homage to Rascal, and would be a good name match for Thor.  Last Saturday, we went to an adoption event held by the group that I got Thor from.  They didn’t have anyone we were interested in, but when we were done, I really didn’t feel like coming home.  So I dropped The ManBeast off and went down to the Humane Society.  And I met Loki.

Long story short, Loki, a four month old kitten, is now home with us.  And Loki is his name; we didn’t have to rename him. He has an upper respiratory infection and is supposed to be kept isolated from Thor until his symptoms clear.  I’m hoping that is soon because I really think the two will have fun together.  I’ll pictures of him soon, but if you find me on FaceBook, I did post a video there the other day of him.  He’s a cutey.  I hope he gets better soon.

I am glad that I can now give a home to a cat who might not otherwise have gotten one. Loki was a surrendered kitten to our local humane society whose previous owners might not have been up to dealing with a feline upper respiratory infection. While keeping him isolated is hard, only having to give him one pill a day is a walk in the park.

It really helps that he’s a cuddler. A cuddle with your face cuddler. Even in the midst of tears, he makes me laugh. And for that, I am grateful.

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2 Responses

  1. I have been in a place where seams come unraveled….grieving is so hard. It’s a personal journey. A walk through hell. Let yourself be whomever and however you need to be. And those of us who love you, will love you through this awkwardness…through the tears, the withdrawal, the aloofness, the hugs. I’m glad you have Loki. It’s okay to laugh, even as you grieve. Give yourself permission to be just as you are…on this wicked roller coaster. And know that some of us really do understand and “get it” amidst a world of others who don’t. Rascal was a blessed soul. I celebrate his memory with you. And grieve alongside…

  2. I am so sorry to hear about Rascal! I always enjoyed reading stories about him on LJ, and I have been consistently impressed with how much love, energy, and money you put into caring for him even when money is tight for yourself.

    Rascal had a great home with you, and you showed him the best time he could get. Wish he could have had more of that with you.

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