Monday, June 2, 2014

Saying Goodbye

When I wrote about Death in my last post, I had no idea that I was actually being prepped for an ordeal ahead.

We'd only had the honor of Emmet LeChat's company for a little over a year, but he was very firmly ensconced in our family and our hearts. He had been deserted by his previous family - left behind when they moved - and was so skinny and malnourished, we thought he was still a very young cat.

Now after multiple vet visits, x-rays, blood tests... we learned that he had the beginnings of kidney disease, an enlarged heart and heart disease, and various other strange problems at either end of his body. We suddenly discovered that he was actually quite an old cat - overnight. Taking him to cat specialists seemed unfair, expensive and... mean.

On Friday, as I ran down the stairs to head off to a meeting, Emmett tried to follow me as he usually did. (He was like a puppy, following me around and sleeping on my feet or on the computer in my studio.) But as he reached the last few steps, his back legs failed him and he slid the rest of the way down. I noticed he wasn't able to even jump off a chair, never mind the counter - and that his fur looked different and his usually smiling face looked so sad...


That night, I tried to take the advice I had been given the previous Sunday, and I talked to my daughter about death and what would happen to Emmett. I told her we needed to remember that he was still with us for the weekend and we would love him and hug him and make sure he had lots and lots of love to take with him to heaven. That it was OK for him to go and we would miss him, but he didn't have to worry about us.

Lilah was very sad, but she thought about what I had said and how Emmett had had the most wonderful life with us and we were lucky to have loved him. He was the most friendly, snuffy cat we had every known (and we have had many cats!) He loved everyone who entered the house. He put up with Lilah's cat-maintenance learning curve.

And then Lilah smiled and said, "so now we can rescue the Munchkin cat, Chessie who nobody else wanted!!" Oh, her empathy just warms my heart! :-)

Unfortunately, the more normal, terror had set in by Sunday morning. Sundays are always difficult because they are transition days between my house and her dad's. But this one was awful. She was super clingy and kept crying over anything. She left the note on the napkin (below right) next to Emmett's food dish, and drew the picture on the left (that's a needle in his ear) during Sunday School... and then just stood outside the church crying and crying and crying. :-(


Ah - mommy-panic!? Think, think... what does Emmett need? Attention. What does Lilah need? Attention. And an outlet for sadness... We sat on the deck outside my studio - in the beautiful sunshine, and drew designs for a new cat garden we are going to make. From our position, we could see most of the backyard and the current burial site (14 cats!?) was really pitiful. We both agreed that Emmett and his friends deserved a much better, happier memorial.

I like the idea of creating a mound for my Bastet statue to sit on with cement stepping stones for each cat surrounding her. There's a huge forsythia bush already there that would be really cool to crawl underneath... and of course we need lots of stones around it all.


Lilah agreed on the stones. She drew her plan of the whole backyard, from an aerial view. I can see that she is still thinking about the amazing garden I had outside my apartment in Maine - she has dirt paths and stone paths and very nice flower choices. Where I just put lots of phlox, she added pink and purple peonies and blue roses. The "Don't Draw" part is supposed to represent our house. I see that she put a cat statue too, with green tombstones next to it. She said that her cat statue is MUCH bigger than my Bastet statue. Hmmm... I need to learn to sculpt in concrete!


To help distract Emmett from his worries, Lilah wrote a story for him about Emmett following her brother (she wrote "bother" - which I thought hysterical!) out into the garage. But the garage door is like the wardrobe into Narnia. And the Garage-Narnia is a garden with plants and animals made from tires and metal and hardware. I love the drawings... the little dog on the lower right is made from "screws" that's why he is stripey and swirly. Emmett read the whole story through a few times...


And then he sat on the landscape sketches - an interesting form of "stamp of approval"?
 

He looks so sad in that picture... :-(

I was actually glad my kids weren't here today. Taking Emmett to the vet and trying to keep my own brave face was too much for me. Even after making the "decision" I kept agonizing over it. And when they gave him the first shot, to make him sleep, he curled up on my lap and nuzzled his nose under my arm in total trust. I'll spare you the thought process and the logical arguments, but saying goodbye to a fur-child is hell no matter how you reason it out. And I didn't realize what an awful impact it was having on me until this afternoon. I was hit with a wave of nausea (etc) and a real fever. I've had bad autonomic reactions before, but they are usually brought on by physical pain - like surgery. I hadn't realized that severe stress could do it too. I felt like I had been given that sleepy shot as well. My limbs felt like they weighed too much to lift. I lay down and couldn't wake from sleep for more than a few minutes. Chills. Sweats.

I finally crawled into bed, but desperately wanted some kind of distraction. I thought that maybe if I blogged about the experience that might be cathartic too. In the middle of writing this, I got a Facetime call from Lisa Heron in Saskatchewan. She told me all about an exciting event she is planning and we talked until our batteries died. ;-) It did the trick though and pulled me out of this scary funk. Now I feel kind of hyper and full of positive energy and ideas. I'm hoping tomorrow I will feel well again so I can start on all these cool ideas and on Emmett's garden.

39 comments:

  1. Oh, Sandy - That is the hardest position I've ever been in, having to let my Norm go like that. My heart is aching for you. Like your soon-to-be memorial garden, my Norm has a tree - a maple that sprouted from a seed that fell from the main tree in the front yard - his ashes are buried in amongst the roots where I planted it in the backyard. I hope your garden gives you similar solace.

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  2. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. It's amazing how much of an impact our pets have on our lives. I came close to losing my 4 month old puppy last week to poisoning by partially eating a rat (yuck!), but after over $3,500 and lots of care by the veterinary specialists, she is back home chasing my kitties and trying to find anything even remotely edible in the garbage cans! I'm sending lots of positive thoughts for you and your kids to implement Emmett's garden.

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  3. Oh, I am so sorry. It's hard enough to lose an older pet, to know they are aging and will be gone too quickly, but to have a pet suddenly go from being a young squirt to an old man -- that must have been very hard. You are in my thoughts.

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  4. It's SO heartbreaking to lose a pet. I'm so glad you had some time to love on him and say goodbye. Thinking of you and Lilah.

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  5. So, SO sorry Sandy! It's the worst, isn't it?? He was so lucky to have all of you <3

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  6. I'm so sorry for your loss. It brought back memories of losing my cats and how painful it was I"m glad that you have your positive mojo back and I look forward to seeing all of your creative work. *HUGS*

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  7. I am so very sorry :-( I've had to make that decision more times than I care to think about and it is never easy. Lilah has the right idea, he would wish for you to give the thing he valued most, his family, to another animal who needs it now. Hugs to you and your family.

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  8. I have always believed that animals find the people they need! Emmet found a loving caring family and he probably came at the perfect time. His passing might also be a gift. Your family gave him a wonderful year and now he will always be with you. As I read this post I started to cry and my own lovely gentle dog came over to see if things were ok. They are such an impact on our lives. Sending along a little strength and courage to get you through this tough time. I now think I need to spruce up my own burial grounds!

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  9. I am so very sorry. I know how you feel. I had to make that decision in February this year. Shelby was her name and I had her 11 years, she was not even 2week old when my husband rescued her, her eyes were not even open. I had to bottle feed her every 2 hours day and night. I still get tears in my eyes when I think of her. So my heart goes out to you and your family. Thinking of you. God Bless.

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  10. I'm so sorry to hear about Emmett. It's hard enough saying goodbye - holding them while they die is the worst. I have a hard time getting ready for new pets now, because I know that time will come for even the youngest ones. But you found a lovely way to help Lilah.

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  11. Sandy - I am thinking of you all. The only pet I've had up till now, was a dog when I was a child - we had to give her away, and Mum and Dad said she'd gone to live on a farm. For 50 years, I figured Foopy had done just that, then a couple of years someone said to me, "you know what that means don't you?" I had to call my Mum in Australia and find out if I'd been living with a vision of buttercups and fields, or if I'd been cruelly misled. Mum assured me that Foopy, had indeed, gone to a farm and that we had visited her in her new, happy, home. I am now the willing, most-of-the-time, custodian of Kristen's little doglet, Eeva, the most wonderful miniature wirehaired dachshund Kris brought back, against all motherly advice, from her year at Law School in Finland. I never thought it was possible to love an animal so much, and get so much love in return. As I am also custodian of Kris during her cancer and now another nasty disease, I see Eeva's devotion and her ability to know Kris is hurting and put her head right on the painful spot - I am awed by this little fur ball and her complete love for us - she's even won over my husband, so much so, he's mentioned letting Kris and I go back to Finland to get us another dog from the same kennel (right by the Russian border - I think I'll wait a while - or travel on my British passport not my American one!!!)
    Sandy, you did just the right thing for Leila, and Emmet. I know that decision will inevitably come - I hope I can let go when the time is right.
    Thank you for your recent posts - they have been from the heart and I hear them there.

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  12. Your post brought tears to my eyes as I have been there myself many times before. Take comfort in knowing that Emmett was a very lucky cat to have found you and your family. I look forward to seeing photos of your completed cat garden! What a lovely memorial.

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  13. Dear Sandy,
    My sincerest condolences. I've had to make the same decision a couple of times. It's not an easy one to make but we have to put our fur babies first. You did the kindest thing. My heart goes out to you and your family.
    Love and Hugs,
    Raine

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  14. Oh I am so sorry to hear about sweet Emmet. It is so hard to say goodbye to our furry friends. It brought tears to my eyes too. Emmet was so lucky to have you in his life. Love your memorial garden! Hope you are feeling better. Lots of creative love and energy from me :)

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  15. Hi Sandy, I am sorry to hear about this, always a hard choice to make. I am always thankful we can make that choice. Wonderful post as a memorial to Emmet.

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  16. Perhaps our culture clings to live a bit too much in its fear of death. (Read "Can't we talk about something more pleasant?" by Roz Chast to spearhead some thought. ... I allowed a pet a natural death, cried over its passing, but found the experience to be OK. .... People need to consider not letting the healthcare establishment (including vets) interfere with what is life's ongoing process.

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  17. It is a good thing to share your experience. Most of us have been there, some many times, and it is so difficult to lose a member of your family. Fortunately, we add them to our love memories and reach out to love some more.

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  18. Emmet was a lucky cat. He knew he was loved. So sorry for your family's loss.

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  19. Dear Sandy - how brave you and Lillah are at such a difficult time. As I read the other comments I realize that we are all coming from the same place - one of love for a dear, sweet animal.

    This is one of my favorite passages:
    In the reading of “Autumn, Ocean and Bids:, Henry Beston wrote, “We need another wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals... We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete that ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings, they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of live and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.”

    May you both continue to lavish love to those who so many ignore...
    Melanie in PA

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  20. I am so sorry for your family's loss. As I child I never had to focus on putting a pet to sleep. Then as an adult I watched several pets die peacefully and naturally. All of a sudden 5 years ago, I had to come to terms with putting my sweet baby of 19 years to sleep. I don't think I have ever faced such a hard decision. There were no children in my house - thank goodness - I could not have been as strong as you were. My brother and I stayed with our dog Highway until he went to sleep. Even now writing about it, I begin to cry. Nineteen years was a very long time and we had a great friendship. I am glad Emmett found your family's love and even though it was incredibly hard physically and emotionallly, I am glad you found the strength to cuddle with him until the end.

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  21. I'm crying with you. It's the worst thing. Great job of protecting your daughter, and this is a wonderful post on a terrible subject.

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  22. Pets give us so much and never ask for much in return. As adults when we lose a pet its hard. When we lose a pet and see it through our child's eyes we feel their pain as well as ours. I hope you and Lilah find peace as you work on your garden.

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  23. Peace to both of you. Joy as you plan your garden. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. Wonderful telling and sharing of a very difficult time. . .prayers. . .

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  24. Hugs to you and your children. Hope you get to feeling better from the sick feeling. Build that garden! It is such a lovely idea. Much love to you!

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  25. We have been through this and will again. It's a lovely, poignant story. My sympathy on the loss of his company. Maybe he'll visit your dreams. My old kitties do.

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  26. I am afraid your post has brought back many memories to your readers of the good byes we have all had to make to beloved pets…sometimes like yours and sometimes to tragic accidents. It REALLY is traumatic and don't let anyone tell you differently. My dearest Muffin was hit by a car (little brown terrier dog) while I was away on a week's trip. The family did not call me because they knew it would spoil my vacation and so when I got back…oh my. It's been over 30 years since that happened and I still tear up thinking of it. I loved that dog. So we are all with you and your family at this time. Hugs.

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  27. Oh! I feel for you - a year ago, we had to say good bye our wonderful Cheddar (who was a ginger too!) Building a garden for your fur babies is a wonderful idea! Best wishes to you and your sweet daughter!

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  28. I am so sorry for your family's loss. I love the idea of your new cat garden! Lilah's drawings and story are wonderful. Big hugs to you all.

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  29. Oh Sandy, I'm sorry to read about your sweet Emmett. I know how hard this was for you because I had to make the same choice for 3 of my dogs. It was devastating. I'm so proud of you, though, because you did such a wonderful job handling this with your daughter. I'm glad Lisa contacted you with exciting news to distract your mind a bit. My heart goes to you and your daughter. I will keep you in my prayers. Keep us posted how your're both doing.......Linda E.

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  30. I'm so sorry for your loss. Keeping you all in my thoughts.

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  31. Thanks everyone. It is reassuring to know you all understand and to hear your sweet stories too. :-) I have a funny image in my head of all our fur-kids, with angel wings, leaping from cloud to cloud and dining on Fancy Feast and hot dogs!

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  32. Saying good bye to a cat is traumatic. You story is so poignant and beautiful. Don't lose it. Then adding to cat sadness, you had your daughter sad too. No wonder you had to go to bed! Your daughter is such a delight!

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  33. Sending love to you all. I know Emmett had a great, loved life with you and the next stage of his journey will be awesome! I have walked that road with my furchildren and will again... Balanced against the life love they give us, it is a worthy grief.

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  34. Sandy, I am sorry about Emmett. Thank you for sharing this with us. I lost a cat two years ago just before Thanksgiving - she just went missing - this give me an slight understanding of your loss. Your grief makes me sad.

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  35. Sandy, I am so, so sorry. It is never easy, whether they go over the Rainbow Bridge on their own or we have to help them. I vowed I would never, ever again let a cat go on its own after I held Little Joe all day in my arms until he crossed over with a final cry and a nuzzle for me. I am thinking of you and Lilah and as I write this, I am in tears. Please know you did the right thing and that precious little guy had a loving family from who he went Home. He will always remember that and he will be watching over you. Please, as your work progresses on the garden, post some pics. Now that I have read this, I need to find some way to do something similar. It may help me transition from my last one that went home, my Taz, who was with me 10 years and not only nurtured the other cats (and dog) in the house but me as well. God Bless you and your sweet daughter..

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  36. I have to add a final thought. I see what Emmett's previous family did as a crime and believe there needs to be laws against such acts. How they would be implemented and enforced, I'm not sure but I think there should be a lot stronger penalties and for more of these uncaring atrocious acts. If I had my way, no cat would EVER be abandoned like this and I would take in all that i could to help.

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  37. Animals are an extra gift from God, rightly named our :furry children:
    We love them as we love our human children and say goodbye to them with equal love and regret for their leaving. Animals, whether dogs, cats or other, are sent to us to help us to learn to love completely and to 'let go' with ease in our hearts.
    I wish you wonderful memories of Emmett to live forever in yours and Lila's hearts.

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  38. Quinn McDonald wrote a wonderful blog post about saying goodbye to her cat, Aretha: quinncreative.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/fulfilling-the-promise

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  39. It's hard to let a beloved animal go, particularly when we aren't ready ourselves. But it is a mercy and a kindness to do it for them.

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