Thoughts on Death, Dying, and What we REALLY know.

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I love cats. Since I was in my early teens, I have always owned at least one. Right now, in our house on the hill, we have four cats. Two that I brought when we moved in, one that my love has raised since a baby, and one who lived outside until this winter when he joined our family.

What I love about cats is their independent nature, as well as their need to be loved and attended to. When they don’t want to be bothered anymore, they go their own way. I love petting and stroking them, holding them in my lap, and my one kitty lays on her back for me to rub her belly.

It goes way beyond just love and admiration, however. For me, I know that I am deeply connected to my animals. I have felt that way about animals for most of my adult life, in part because of my Native American roots that I stay close to. I know deeply that I can sense what is going on with the nature world around me, and I respond accordingly. Cats are no different to me in that realm.

My one cat, Felix, is close to 18 years old. She is named such because she reminded me of Felix the Cat, the cartoon character, when we rescued her after the people next door moved out in the night and left her behind. She was just a baby, scared and cold, and we scooped her up and brought her into our lives. She has moved six times with me; she has been sick to the point of being near death twice; and she is often scared of her own shadow. I absolutely adore her.

For the last two weeks, we have seen a steady decline in her health. She is barely eating, she sometimes cannot make it to the litter box, and her back legs are failing her. She meows less often, and she doesn’t move much. So, two weeks ago, I started thinking about what I might do, to consider whether or not I wanted to have her put to sleep. It felt like a real struggle at first.

I have taken pets to be euthanized before. It is as humane as it can be, considering you are deciding to put a living creature to death in an intentional way. However, it is an awful experience. I tell myself that it is the way to put my pet out of her misery and pain, but it is deeper than that. On a very truthful level, by making the choice to take her there, I am choosing to end my own pain of watching her die.

The truth is, I don’t know for sure if Felix is in pain, or what her experience is. I may not know intellectually what she wants, but I do know my cat. And, I know she wants to be home, with us, until her last breath. When I come in the kitchen, which is where she is all the time now, I hear her start to purr from across the room. She wants to be with us, whether she can walk, or meow, or even eat. She wants her family, and to be loved until she transitions to her next room.

Death is many things to many people, and who knows what really happens when any of us breath our last breath. What I do know, is that I am not as afraid of it as I have been before. I believe that it will come when it does, to all of us, and in the meantime, I don’t need to be afraid to embrace all aspects of life that come before that. I can love, and grieve, and keep breathing, and know that I can always choose peace.

We all can.

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