My lovely cat, Einstein, is now in heaven as we speak, frolicking with our other loving creatures that we have adopted and cared for over the years. He is full bodied, able, and meowing his head off. He is eating like there is no tomorrow, and will now watch over me……….
Saying goodbye to him was as surreal as it was completely sad. I had thought about where I was taking him last evening for most of the last few days, and almost the whole ride home from Pittsburgh yesterday. What I would be thinking and feeling as I held him. How much I would cry. How badly I would miss him. How relieved that I would be that he would no longer suffer.
I knew he was suffering, you know. He told me, and I sensed it. That is how connected I am to him. To all of our animals, but to him especially.
I adopted him from the local humane society in 1994. I had been without a pet for a couple of years, and when I saw him in the cage, six months old, orange and adorable, I knew that he was the one. He was named for the character dog, Einstein, in Dean Koontz’ first novel, the name of which escapes me at this moment. A golden lab, in the book. How that got to an orange cat I am not sure, but it fit him, and it stuck.
Over the last fifteen years, he has moved with me five times. He was with me for the ending of one relationship, the beginning of this one, the ending and then resumption of this lifelong commitment I now have with my beloved. He was here with me for the arrival of our daughter. He saw me through the most serious illness of my life. He has been through more milestones with me than any living being. I have been with him, and he with me, longer than anyone, except my family.
He would lay over my head at night; he would need me to adjust the pillows, just so, so that he could lay right above my head all night long. Every once in awhile, he would slowly stretch out his front paw, just to touch the top of my head, no claws out. Just to connect.
All the way to the vet’s office yesterday, I talked to him, and he talked to me. He was scared, then he would get quiet for a bit, then talk again. I cried a little bit. When we arrived there, we had to wait for awhile before the doctor could see us. His doctor had been the only vet that had ever treated him; he had brought Einstein back from many an illness, one of them during which he almost died. Doc knew it was time as well, and supported my decision. He explained what would happen to me, and I knew it was right, and it was right that I was the one there with him, to accompany him.
First, they gave him anethesia, so he would just fall into a sleep. As he was starting to fall asleep, they brought him to me, to hold him for awhile. He was a bit awake, but only for a few seconds. As soon as he was laying heavily on me, I knew he was unconscious. The grief overwhelmed me, and I sobbed harder than I have for anyone, or anything, in years. All that he had given my life, all of the moments that were ours alone, came like a flood. I realized how ready I was, and how my life would have a space where he had been, after he left.
After he died, they brought him back to me, wrapped in a cotton pillowcase that I had brought for him. I wanted to take him home, to bury him with our other kitties, and our guinea pig. The tech had drawn a small purple heart with a marker, right where his head was, so I would know where it was in order to hold him. I held him like an infant in my arms. He was still. He was free. No more pain. She walked me to my car, carrying all of my belongings so that I just had to carry him. She just walked with me. It was truly beautiful.
So many lessons, so much that came to me through this deep, meaningful experience. Two of the biggest lessons of this journey were about gifts, and about being selfless.
The gift was that I gave him permission to go, I let him, let go. And, I was with him as he did. So that he knew for all eternity, how much he was adored and loved.
And, I have to say, that this was one of the most selfless acts that I have ever participated in. To be with a living creature, to comfort it as it passes to the other side, is amazing and powerful. For me, the true grief comes afterward, when there is a void in the life where that creature once walked, and breathed, and ate and played and loved. The void is the grief. The empty spaces, hundreds of them, in our home where he was. Where he still is, in so many ways. It was a lesson in preparation, preparation for letting go and knowing always that letting go is so selfless and loving to others.
Rest so peacefully, my beautiful companion. You are truly loved.