Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Cat Died and I Hate Feeling These Feelings


This amazing picture was taken by the
very talented, kind and cat-loving Kristin Merten
A couple of weeks ago my cat died and I'm so mad about it I could spit. Nothing actually happened to him. That's not why I'm mad. He was really old. His kidneys failed. He slowly faded away and on his last day, he sort of looked at me like: "Woman, it's time. Let's go." So I took him to the vet who confirmed that it was time and he died quietly in my arms a couple of hours later.

My arms still feel empty. They want to hold him one more time. My house seems weird without him in it. I hate that he's gone and I want him back and I hate that I had to tell the vet to kill him and I hate being a grown up sometimes and it all sucks. That's why I'm mad.


When I was driving to the vet that night, I tried to remember what happened when my old Woody dog died a couple of years ago. I knew it was something that I took care of. Just like I was the one cleaning him up in the weeks before it happened, and cleaning up the messes he felt so bad about making. I remember having to awkwardly pick him up and heft him into the van because he was too weak to jump in anymore. I drove him to the vet that one last time, stroking his head at every stoplight. I also remember that while we knew it was coming with him, it somehow seemed very sudden. But I could remember nothing of the actual moment of his death, even though I knew I was there. Even though I was the one holding him.

My memories of having to tell the kids about Woody remain vivid. Their tears, my son's almost inconsolable grief that his dog was really gone forever. Hugging them while they shuddered and cried and trying my best not to lose it in front of them. Being surprised that I could hold it together. Feeling slightly numb by the whole thing and thinking that was good, because it allowed me to do continue doing all the things my life required me to do. The phrase "just a dog" running through my head, hating that phrase.

It wasn't until I was in the exam room with Bandit, holding him as they injected the stuff that would kill him into the tiny catheter in his paw, that I remembered everything. I remembered being in the exact same spot with my sweet, old dog. The exact same process. Hunched over the same side of the table, in the same room.

Then the involuntary memories started. The flashes of my step-mother's hospice room 6 years ago. Watching her labored breathing slowly stop. The seconds between each breath getting longer. Knowing what it meant. Watching my little sister's face as her mother left her. Feeling like I was losing my shit. Thinking it can't possibly get any worse than this.

Are we supposed to feel peace in these moments? Because I don't. I just feel pain.

I hate feeling pain. I HATE IT. And this time, after losing the ill-tempered, bitey, rotten little cat who had been my friend for almost 17 years, in addition to feeling pain, I felt anger.

Being a grown up is the worst sometimes. I don't want to be the one who has to do this. To make these choices. To hold hands and paws during the moment someone I love leaves the earth. For the love of God, there has to be a real adult around here somewhere. There has to be someone more qualified to handle this stuff than me.

I have no idea when I became the grown up in the room. What was the exact moment that I became the person who had to deal with the hard stuff? I don't even remember. Was it the day I got married? Or the day several years later when I decided to stay married? Maybe when my first baby was born? Some people become grown ups really early. I know a couple of people like that. Crappy circumstances or crappy parents forced them to be the grown up in their own lives before they were ready. It didn't matter what crappy circumstances came my way, though... I was not growing up easy. No sir. Not until I really had to. Because I did not want that job.

And now, I totally have it and there are days I think I'd like to give it back.

I recently heard that someone I know is giving it back. Maybe he had similar thoughts to mine. Maybe he was like: "You know what? This is not what I thought it would be and I don't want to do this anymore. Being a grown up is over-rated and in fact, it kind of sucks."

So he's done being a husband and a father. He's now pursuing other options. And while I certainly understand that there are days when we'd all rather just throw up our hands and quit, I do not respect his choice. In my country, there is a word for someone who turns in their grown up card and abandons their children. That word is soul-less, selfish, shitbagging asshole. Ok, so it's more than one word.

And of course, I don't really want to give up my job as an adult because that's real life, right? Or at least how it should be? You grow up and make your choices or life throws things at you and you deal with them. You deal with all of them. I'm a wife and partner to someone who I strive to be worthy of (and try not to snap at too often). I'm a mother to three small people so precious to me that I can't always handle how much I love them. I don't want to give any of that up. In fact, if it was taken from me I would fight like a rabid badger to get it back.

And in a weird way, I want to be the person who cleans up the messes and does the hard stuff. I want to be the person who wipes up the blood, and the puke, and who carries those I love when they're too weak to jump anymore. To be the one holding their hand or their paw when they leave the earth. Because that's real love, right? That's loving someone to level NO MATTER WHAT. And that's my level, you guys.

You don't get to have the good stuff in life without risking its eventual loss. I understand the impulse to avoid feeling the pain of that loss, or just pain in general. I avoid feeling pain and doing hard things in a way that makes me deeply uncomfortable. So I need to do the opposite of that. I need to feel hard things and do hard things.

That's what she said. Sorry. That was extremely immature. It takes a lot of effort to be a grown up and I'm still not that good at it.

But you can't experience love NO MATTER WHAT without being willing to do the hard and dirty work. I LOVE YOU. Sit down right here and let me pick the nits out of your hair. I'll clean up the bathroom, you go lie down. Tilt your head back and pinch your nose. I've got you, just a few more steps. Let me know when it's time and I'll be there. I'll hold your hand until it's all over.

That's what grown-ups do.

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Footnote: When I say "in my country" I'm referring to my place of natal origin. That would be Trenton, NJ.

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48 comments:

  1. I'm sorry to hear about your cat.
    I have my own sixteen year old, angry, bulimic, frequently incontinent, long-haired ball of cat, who can't groom himself anymore and has no interest in anyone else taking over the job. But even when he's at his most psychotic or has peed on something new that I really like, I know that when the time comes and he dies part of me is going to feel like my life is over. But I still love him because knowing the bad stuff will come and what pain is, makes the good stuff so much better.
    Even still it'd be nice if every grown up could have a day off, say once a year, to go to a magical place that was all unicorns and fairy floss and someone else would worry about everything. Including who was going to foot the bill.

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  2. I have two extremely geriatric pets (18 yr old cat and 16 yr old dog) and see myself in your situation with both of them in a future that is way too near. I have already made a mental note to space out my pets lifespans better in the future. The double sad is killing me.

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  3. Beautifully written. Life is tough, no doubt about that. But I, like you, can't imagine a day when I don't find hidden poop under the dining room table, or dried drool on the couch. But one day it will happen. And it sucks.

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  4. Darnit, Lydia! You made me ugly cry at work.
    I'm so sorry about your kitty & all the feelings that losing him stirred up. I'm sick today & I SO don't want to be a grownup.

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  5. Beautiful post! Sending love your way

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  6. So sorry for your loss. I know that feeling to. I had to put down my dog just after we got married 6 years ago. I had her since I was in 2nd grade. It took me a lot of thought to make that decision, she was like a best friend to me for 17yrs. That is the moment that I knew I was really an adult, and being an adult sucks most of the time. But hey, that is life, we all have to grow up eventually, and if we all acted like kids and did whatever we want this world would go to shit.

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  7. I am sorry to hear about your cat. Several years ago, I had to do that with our Lab, but the vet had to come to the house because he was so big I could not get him in the car. Then I had to take my cat to the vet. Broke my heart both times. Being and adult really does suck sometimes. Oh, and I had one of those soul-less, selfish, shitbagging asshole (ex)husbands, too.

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  8. I can completely relate to this post. Our 12 year old basset hound got sick very suddenly about 2 months ago and we had to make the decision to end his pain. He was a Sweetest Day gift from my husband right after we got married. We miss that sweet face, long ears and big feet. I appreciate your post, it is not an easy job being an adult.

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  9. I'm so sorry for your loss. Yes, sometimes it sucks to be the adult in the room. I have felt that way with every single fur-baby that I have been lucky enough to live with.

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  10. This really hit home for me. I lost my 10 year old niece less than two weeks ago and I am struggling and angry and grieving, and yeah...this being a grownup thing is tough stuff. Anyway, hugs and love and I feel ya. <3

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  11. Clearly it is raining inside my house, as I have no other explanation for the wet stuff on my face (and sleeves, and all the snot...). Thank you for reminding me why I get up every day, and continue down this long long road. Hugs and purrs from all the ladies in our house!

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  12. I lost my 22 yr old cat 4 1/2 years ago. I hated it then, I hate it now. We're gearing up to help our almost 7 yr old daughter deal with losing our dogs, (one or both) , in the coming months. They are 14 and fading.

    I'm so sorry for your loss.

    There are days when I feel like my life would be so much better if I just - put on my shoes, and walked away from it all. The moments are fleeting (and usually when my daughter is screaming full tilt about how mean I am for making her wear outdoor clothes, in Winter, in New England; but they are there. I don't understand those people who act on those moments and walk away from their families.

    (Also - she totally would have said that, if her mouth wasn't full ........ it's impossible to be grown up 100% of the time. And that's okay, because how boring!)

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  13. I am very sorry to hear about your cat.
    Seven years ago I had to make that same heartbreaking decision with my old kitty. I petted and held her to the very end and even after.
    Last week I went to pick my dog up from the vet after having a tooth pulled. They tried to escort me to the very same room to wait for her. I couldn't even make it though the door I told the vet tech that I didn't like that room. She took one look at me and said she understood and lead me to another room where we both hugged and had a good cry over lost family members.

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  14. I have lost many pets over the years, and it hurts terribly every time. It does get better, and at least at our house, the next pet seems to somehow channel the pet before them... and that makes it easier, somehow. You still love them all fiercely, even knowing that their time is limited with you. Go ahead and feel sad and angry, because that will help you heal.

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  15. *sniffle* totally. I've had to be a grown-up more times this winter than I would prefer.

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  16. an ugly cry on a snow day. and yet, thank you.

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  17. My best furry friend of almost sixteen years and I said goodbye a week ago today. There's a lot of love in bathing a cat who won't groom herself and fights it. I have several pets of different ages and after being The Grown Up and making this decision twice, and also seeing how angry she looked once sedated at the vet's, a piece of me keeps saying "I can't do that ever again." But I will and it well hurt but I'll be grateful it was me and a vet and not a painful ending.

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  18. Though it was my daughter, and she lived, I do remember similar feelings when she was in the hospital. I was so angry the whole time, because, yeah, I did not want that job.

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  19. thanks for the tears with my coffee. We had to put our 12 year old lab down just before we moved 400 miles away from home. It was painful and shitty and I still cry when I think of her sometimes. It was hard to be strong for the kids. And sometimes I feel like she should come running to the door when I get home or lay on my feet when I'm on the floor (or snore and fart at the end of my bed). I totally feel you on this one. While it was awful, I am glad that I got to hold her and talk to her all the way to her last breath.

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  20. I'm so sorry about your kitty. Loosing a pet is a special kind of horrid.

    Being a grown up does suck sometimes but no I wouldn't give it up either. It would be nice if you could take a vacation from time to time though.

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  21. I am so sorry about the loss of your kitty.

    Being the adult in the room sucks. It's having the responsibility to cope with everyone else's emotions/reactions while the crap hits the fan and you just want to hide yourself. You do it for your kids and you do it for your parents and you somehow keep going.

    One of my worst fears is that someone is going to look at me one day and realize how hard I'm faking it. There are days when I feel like I'm still 12 and I can't believe they let me leave the hospital with a baby, twice!

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  22. I had to put my beloved kitty to sleep on Friday. She was my constant companion all through my twenties and now I have three kids and a husband and it wasn't until he was out of town that she decided to get desperately ill all of a sudden and have total kidney failure. I was the one who was holding her when she died and I was really glad but I am so so sad and appreciate this post so much.

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  23. I love you so much. I totally get it, and my Mom has always said I never wanted to grow up - put it off as long as I could. Thank you for reminding us that we have to take the good and take the bad, you take them both and there you have...the facts of life. :) Big hugs to you, I don't even care if you snot on my shirt.

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  24. I am so, so sorry for your loss! I had to have my dog put down last year. It was awful. Not because he was old, but because he had bitten my daughter...twice. The first time, I was able to brush it off as just a nip, the second time, it was on the back of her head. Thank all that is mighty that he didn't break skin, but I couldn't let it go anymore. I couldn't deny it happened. I didn't want to be that mom on the 6 o'clock news going "I'm stunned, he's never done that before!" It wasn't provoked, she was just laying on the couch doing her thing and he bit her. It was awful! I tried everything, I consulted trainer after trainer and none of them wanted anything to do with a dog that bit a child, no rescue wanted to take him and I wouldn't feel right placing him in a shelter where he might get adopted out by someone with children. I knew I was doing the right thing, but it broke my heart to do that, I miss him every single day :(. Being an adult sucks and I'm right there with you.

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  25. Every loss I suffer layers on top of previous losses. What's it going to be like when I'm old, and the layers of loss are like rings on a tree? I don't want to cry for my dad when my dog dies. It makes me weary, but it makes me thankful for all of the rings, because they were worth it. This left a gigantic lump in my throat. I'm sorry for your cat, and your dog, and your step-mother, and being a grown up. But cheers to all of that, too.

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  26. I feel the same way about being a grown up - I wish there was another grown up around sometimes to do what the husband and I don't want to do, but then when there is - I really don't like how they do it anyway :). Sorry for your loss - those darn diva cats do know how to steal our hearts whether we want them to or not.

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  27. I am so very sorry. Just had to put down one of my dogs last week for biting my boy.... The second time. Both times needed stitches. I couldn't adopt him out again with all the liability. Good dog, just not with toddlers. And no, the toddler did NOTHING to the dog to provoke a bite. I hated making that decision, but I'd hate it even more if my baby got bit again, or another child got bit. My family feels a lit the emptier now... And I hate that.

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  28. That just all sucks. But I know what you feel. My husbands grandmother passed away at the end of January, then 2 weeks later I was by my grandfathers side as he took his last breath (I am still very traumatized by that.), and then 2 weeks later my 15 year old daughter's best friend committed suicide (no warning, no note, just gone). This has been the worst time in my entire life and I feel like turning in my adult card daily. I just can't be the strong one anymore. I can't keep it together for the sake of the kids. We lost 3 people that were very dear to us, 2 were expected and one snuck up on us and tore our hearts out. I have no words of comfort because I know sometimes there is none. I just hope that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

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  29. Your kitty looks so much like my cat when his hair is that length! I can't find a good one of his hair like that, but you can get the idea. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhiannongiles/434060117/in/set-72157603698491670

    He's 16, and I fear that this will be me before too much longer.

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  30. Thank you. So very, very much. We just had to put our very beloved (but old, sick, annoying and ridiculous - yet still very loved) dog down two weeks ago. It was impossibly hard. And the whole time I was sobbing I was trying to remind myself that we have a toddler, and a mortgage, and jobs, and all other things real life, and that this is "just a dog". But it's not just a dog. It's about love. And it's about accepting that life can really suck sometimes. But life without love would be so much worse. So THANK YOU for putting my feelings about love and sadness and guilt into words. I needed this post! And now I wish it was appropriate to have a glass of wine at work. :)

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  31. My heart aches for you. We will soon need to do the same thing with our 18 year old family cat that looks very much like yours. Thanks for the strength and power you shared with me. It will make it a little less difficult but will still hurt and I'm sure many tears will be shed. When God created the world and all that is in it, His original plan was for us to live with Him in Eden forever. When sin entered, along with it came death. Our furry family is part of God's creation and I am comforted by the hope that we'll all be reunited together in Heaven some day. Amen. Audrey Sherrill

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  32. I needed to hear this today. To remember that the pain (or potential for pain) is what makes the good (the love, the joy, the memories) so precious. Thank you.

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  33. When I had to put my cat down, I had very similar experience. I'd had her for over 14 years, and her death came less than 6 months after my grandmother. While holding her after the injection, I said to my husband, "This is the second time in 6 months I've held someone I loved while they died." In some ways, saying good-bye to my furry companion who had accompanied me from college to adulthood, marriage and parenthood was harder. I'm sorry for your loss. Sometimes being a grown up sucks, but you only realize that because you are not soul-less.

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  34. I'm so sorry for the loss of your cat. I've had to put two dogs down in the last two years and I'm still gutted. You just have to take solace in the good things you have left (your kiddos and family) and keep going for them. Or at least that is my survival strategy.

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  36. I love this, thanks for sharing it

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  37. I know you know this, but it's been awhile since you heard from me and I'm sorry, I've been a sucky bloggyfriend, but I love you. And we had to do this with our own Geriatric buddy Boomer last year, and it's so unbelievably awful, I'm just so sorry. And also had to say goodbye to my aunt and my dad last year, and while I didn't get to/have to hold their hands, I did get to/have to be the grownup and deal with a bunch of stuff about both of those situations and the surrounding relationships that really REALLY SUCKED. So I hear you. And I love you. And last but not least, as I know you know, We Can Do Hard Things.

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  38. I'm sorry you had to say goodbye to your kitty. I have felt exactly the same way. I say to myself all the time that I suck at being a grown up. I hate all the hard crap grown ups have to deal with. I work at a vet clinic and I see people lose their pets all the time. It sucks the big one. And I have 4 old dogs, one recovering from surgery right now and having a hard time, and I know the end is coming, its inevitable. But I hate it. I can't imagine my life without them. They are a part of my identity as a grown up. I got my own first dog at age 20 and she's almost 13 now. I keep telling them they have to live forever.

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  39. I'm so sorry about your cat. I still haven't dealt with the pain of losing my dogs over 3 years ago. Smart move getting two the same age so they can die within months of each other. I still can't think about it without shutting down. I wouldn't give up all the wonderful years with them, but it still hurts a lot. If losing a pet is this hard I think losing my husband or children would kill me. Still, I wouldn't give them up either.

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  40. I have wanted to throw in my grown up card so many times. Most of all when my dad died when I was 26. I was his only close family left and although I had support, I was the only one who really lost him.

    I'm 31 with my own little family now, but I still have moment when I feel like I need a 'real' grown up.

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  41. I'm so sorry for your loss. It seems unfair that pets are with us for such a relatively short amount of time. Being a grown-up sucks ass sometimes.

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  42. Sometimes being the grown up means that even though you desperately want to be there, holding the hand and stroking the little tufts of hair that have grown back since the chemo stopped, and waiting to hear that one last breath, you can't. You have to be with the little people who need you more, so you wait for the phone call and you cry and wake the little ones in the morning and tell them that Mimi isn't sick anymore. And you know that she knew that you were where you belonged.

    Thank you for writing this, even though you made me ugly cry. I am still wondering when I will finally feel like I can handle all of this, but I know even if I'm not the most qualified grown up available I'm the one who needs to be here.

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  43. Beautiful - gave me chills, I experience these same thoughts and feelings. Glad to know I'm not the only one. And nice work, being all grown up and what not - You go girl.

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  44. I've been the holder twice, first time was before I turned 18, for someone elses dog! Mom was asked to take dear old Tabby to the vet, because her owners were too hysterical. Tabby had cancer, I used to walk her, and hang out with her. When the pain got her, when there were not going to be anymore nice days, mom was called to take her to the vet. I went along, having better knees and wanting to say good bye, to help. We took her to a drive thru, gave her chicken nuggets, and spent near an hour just loving her, getting her nice and calm. And at the vets, I sat on the floor, because tabby always loved being a lap dog, and pulled her on my lap. the vet tried to warn me she might make a mess, but I didn't move. She needed a lap. The floor was cold, and she was too damn skinny.
    So I held her, and scratched her ears till she was gone. She didn't make a mess, but even if she had, I wouldn't have moved. Dogs don't fear death, unless humans scare them at the end.
    And, really... A dog saved me from depression. a long time back. And because my mother got evicted, he was put up for adoption.
    He saved my life. And I don't even know where he lives.
    Dogs ask so little. If anyone else called me, needing a calm person to take their dog for euthanasia, I'd do it. Because I can't pay him back.

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  45. I enjoyed your story about the cat simply because I also love cats :)

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  46. I have sympathy with you, I cried when my cat died leaving several children pitiful
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