Tuesday, October 2, 2018

One week without Edward.

Last week, in the middle of our grief, I tried to write out the full story of how we lost one of our beloved family members. I got overwhelmed with the details and the way things unfolded, and while writing it out helped me process, it turned into an overwhelming post that I didn't think anyone would want to read.

So simply said, we lost our Edward last week. And as of this writing, it's been exactly one week since he left us. This morning is rainy and dark the same way that morning was - a setting that lends itself to hurting and crying.

And some might say that it's ridiculous to mourn a cat the way we are, but he was family...a fixture in the group that made us "us".

He was one of us, and now he's not. We lost one of our rank.

The short story is that he got sick. He started showing symptoms in July, and we tried everything to find the root of his problem, only to get results that all said everything was fine. The vet declared it neurological (narrowing it down to a stroke or a brain tumor), and we watched him decline for weeks and months. We said goodbye to him as a family - we cried over his failing body and showered him with love.

A steroid shot (as a last resort) gave us one night with our Edward. The Eddie Busaghetti we knew and loved. For the first time since the summer had started, he asked us for help coming up on our bed (by tapping a paw on the side of our mattress), and he snuggled in for a night like nothing had changed. We were joyful. We had hope. But more than anything we had gratitude to share an evening with the kitten that helped us make this house our home - that grew into the cat who acted like he was just one of the brothers.

The shot wore off over two weeks, and on his final days he started to loose the ability to walk. Soon that deteriorated even further - into stillness. He was breathing, and he'd shift his eyes to look at us, and we could feel him try to purr. But he was otherwise stuck in his body...eerily still wherever we laid him to try and make him comfortable. We knew his time was coming to an end.

On his final night with us, our other cat (and oldest pet), Odin, jumped onto the recliner where Edward was resting to cuddle with him. Soon it evolved into grooming, which to us looked like Odin was helping and saying goodbye in the only way he knew how. I grabbed my camera and snapped as many pictures as I could while tears streamed down my face. I took a video so I could cherish the love and heartbreak of watching loss happen - you can hear my depressed sniffles in the background.

The next morning, things were much the same. Edward wasn't moving, his limbs and tail were strangely still. I called the vet. Despite being full of appointments they asked us to rush him in. I called Matt, who'd already left for work, but Jake was still sleeping at home and I didn't want him to see whatever was going to happen.

While Matt was on his way, I knew the 15 minutes I had to say goodbye had arrived.

I pet his silky fur and told him I loved him. I thanked him for loving us, for being in our family, for tolerating three busy boys, for spending his evenings cuddled up with me, for helping to fill our home with love. I said sorry over and over again. I told him how sorry I was for how he suffered and hurt. I told him how sorry I was that he'd only gotten 8 years. And then I told him that I wouldn't be selfish and try to keep him with us anymore. I could see he was trapped in a body he'd outgrown, and he needed to be freed. I told him it was okay to let go, and that I would always love him.

While I was talking to him, he slowly turned his eyes towards me and gave me this intense gaze that I can't really describe. There was something in his eyes just then, like everything he ever wanted to say to me was waiting there. I can't articulate it, and yet I somehow know all the things he was trying to say. The way his green eyes bore into mine in that moment is seared into my brain, and onto my heart. I think about it all the time. I think about it and I hurt as much as I love.

i took this 10, maybe 15 mins before his seizure.

Matt arrived, and I helped him lower Edward into the cat carrier. I knew it was the last time I'd ever see him...I knew it, and I hated it, and my heart started its long break. I reached in for one last desperate pet, and then Matt walked out of the house with him. I said, "Goodbye Eddie," towards the door before I fell over the spot where he was laying to cry some more. It was still warm. I knew it was the last time I'd feel his energy.

I obsessively checked my phone for news from Matt for the next 45 minutes. He normally sent me updates of all kinds while he was there - decisions to be made, what the vet thought. There was just silence.

He walked in the door a little while later, and when he saw me he just shook his head. We fell into each other and cried. He told me that Ed had a seizure on the way to the vet, and he was already gone by the time they got to him. Which sounds awful - like he could have hung on just a few minutes longer. The vet is very close. But I know that wasn't meant to be. Edward was ready. And he did it in the classiest way possible. He took the hard decision off Matt's shoulders, and he waited until he was away from the kids. Small consolations, but they were blessings I know he intended to give us. We always joked with him, "Why are you all dressed up, Ed? Going to a fancy party?" because of his tuxedo coat. We should have known he'd carry that class with him until the very last moment.

Telling the kids was awful. They were at school when it happened and they came home to one less family member. They knew it was coming, but it didn't make it hurt any less. Henry was a wreck - he and Edward had been particularly close. His reaction was more intense and a little different than I expected. He was in denial for some time, and I held him while he sobbed for nearly an hour. The hardest part of it all was watching his heart break.

I was kind of a disaster for two full days. The weather was with me - dark, dreary, sobbing. There were still groceries to buy and school pickups to do, so I had to reapply my make up 3 or 4 times a day. My head throbbed with the stress of constantly crying. My heart ached. My nose was always sniffling.

On the third day, I had yoga. We started class with a practice about hurting and compassion, and I silently sobbed all over my yoga mat. Tears filled my eyes again during savasana. After class, I helped gather up candles and I walked out with my instructor (that I adore), and we talked about the whole thing. She hurt with me. She reveled in the beauty of the situation - how we had a final night with the real Ed, how we had time to say goodbye, how our other cat loved him in his beautiful way, how he left us with class. She told me how she thought cats were our guardians against negative spirits, and I told her of a myth I once heard of that believes a pet or a beloved object will sacrifice themselves to save the people who love them from something worse. I thought about those things on my drive home, and I cried some more. I thanked Edward for whatever he may have bravely took on for us (and he was such a classy hero that I know he would have).

And by the time I made it home, I finally felt a little different. I walked into the house to see my kids in their pj's, snuggled in their beds, and their Dad was reading them a book. It hurt my heart to not see Edward curled up on the floor of their bedroom (where he normally would have been), but I felt gratitude and warmth for that moment anyway. What if the reason he wasn't there is because he made it so that all of us could be?

His remains came home on Saturday. I don't know that in all of my long history with pets that I've ever chosen to keep their remains, but something about Edward said that we should. Matt had him cremated and purchased a container with his name on it. We haven't decided exactly what we'll do with it, but for now, he sits on a high shelf, just a couple feet from the place where he last laid, overlooking all of us. And I can't explain why, since it's not really him anymore, but it feels better knowing he's home.

This has been the most beautiful heartbreak I've ever experienced. Which is such a strange thing to say, but it's also very Edward. I hate that it's been a week since he left us. I hate that it's only going to get longer and longer. I hate tearing up every time I see the picture of him that Henry printed out and taped next to his bed the night Edward died. I hate seeing something black with a speck of white out of the corner of my eye and thinking it's Ed. I hate how empty saying his name feels now. I hate that he had to leave us to feel free in his body again.

We miss him. With our whole hearts. Every single day.

- - - 

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  1. My heart breaks for your and tour family reading this. A pet is a part of your family and becomes interwoven into it just like any other soul. I hope that with time your grief lessens and you find peace in the beautiful times you had together.

  2. I'm really sorry. I know how hard it is to lose a pet. They are family. I'm in tears reading the story. We went through the same thing 3 years ago. We lost our cat Jojo. She was 18 & also a tuxedo. I got her at my 1st apt, when I was single. She moved with me a few times, then I got married & had my daughter. She was my best friend & I still miss her. It does get easier, but you never get over it. We buried her in our yard.

    1. Ugh I feel your pain! Our oldest cat, Odin, is 14 and has been through everything with us. We've been fearing his decline though he still acts like a kitten! So it was kind of shocking that his much younger fur-sibling is the one that declined so quickly. It hurts so deeply and I do not relish going through it again anytime soon. It's a terrible hurt, loosing a pet...and I have so much compassion for every single person that has to experience it. <3

  3. Oh my goodness. He was so handsome and loving. I'm sorry you only got 8 years with this special guy. I saw your videos of your cats on Facebook and your posts but couldn't comment. We have our 16 year old cat struggling with cancer. She's always been so careful and clean but now she is struggling tot take care of herself at all. Thank you for sharing all your thoughts as well as your choice to cremate. I would definitely consider that but her kitty husband is already passed on and buried and I think they would like to be together when the time comes. Now I need to go because I'm all teary eyed here at work but definitely sad for your loss.

    1. Thank you so much <3 It is so unfair that we only got 8 years with him....my Henry, who was most broken up about his loss keeps saying, "he was too young it doesn't make sense," and it's so true. I'm so sorry for your struggling kitty. It is so terribly awful.

  4. A pet is definitely part of the family. So sorry for your family's loss.