As I sit and write this post, I can barely see the computer screen. The last 12 hours have been nothing less than a nightmare. In prior posts I talked about Alex, one of my two 16-year-old cats. She’s been struggling with chronic renal failure and in spite of our efforts, home treatments and the care of a great veterinarian, my wife and I had to do the right thing last night and put her down.
I’ve been on this planet for more years than I care to remember, and I’ve lost many loved ones throughout my life. My mother died on April 27 of 2008 and as strange as it sounds, since her death I haven’t shed a tear. I can’t begin to tell you how guilt ridden I’ve felt because no matter how dearly I loved my mother and how grief stricken I’ve been, I haven’t been able to cry. I’ve read that when we lose someone close our grief is often overpowered by a self-preservation instinct. Sometimes the impact of losing someone you love hibernates for weeks or sometimes years before it hits us. And in many cases, the trigger that unleashes these suppressed emotions is an unrelated event.
Well, since last night at 7:15 PST, when the vet injected Alex with a drug that put her to sleep forever, I haven’t been able to stop crying. I have never wept like this in my life. At times it feels totally uncontrollable. I didn’t realize until early morning that Alex’s death was the trigger that finally allowed me to suffer the grief of losing my mother last year. My tears are for Alex, because I loved her dearly, but they’re also the welled-up tears that I’ve been unable to purge since my mother’s death.
When we brought Alex to the vet’s last night for a follow-up appointment to determine if the home treatments had lowered her toxic levels, we were hopeful that she’d made a little progress. We weren’t expecting miracles, but even a marginal decrease in her creatinine levels would have given us hope. When the vet delivered the bad news and told us that her levels had gone from 8.3 to 11, we knew that the time had come to do the right thing.
So, reluctantly and painfully, we knew that Alex had silently suffered long enough and that it was time for her to leave us and go to Kitty Heaven. The doctor left us alone with Alex in the private room where she would be put to sleep. In my heart, I was certain that Alex knew what was coming, that she had reached the point of no return. It was as if she couldn’t get close enough to us. And the way she looked at us, broke my heart and my spirit. She snuggled her head against us and the look on her face was pathetic.
I’ve never had to put down a pet before and didn’t know what to expect. When the doctor came in she explained the procedure in great detail so we would be prepared. As we stroked her silky fur, the vet injected her with a drug that almost instantly put her into a peaceful sleep. Then she injected the lethal drug that would end her life. It took no more than 15 seconds for her heart to stop. She lay there, quiet and peaceful. And I’m certain she didn’t feel any pain. We stayed with her for a while and the doctor tried to comfort us. But the moment my wife and I got into our car, every welled up tear, every emotion, erupted to the surface. We were both a mess.
I cry. I remember. I feel an unbelievable sense of loss. Through this loyal, loving cat who was daddy’s little girl for 16 years, I was able to finally feel grief for my mother. Thank you, Alex. And thank you Mom for understanding why I haven’t been able to cry. I love you both with all my heart.