Tear-stained thoughts from a broken heart

Maci, my feline companion of 15 years, died on Saturday morning, just two days after my 46th birthday. He’s left an enormous hole in my heart, bigger than you would think such a little guy could leave. It was a sudden decision I had to make without prior preparation. He’d been losing weight and was little more than skin and bones, but I still never thought cancer. Maybe I was too wrapped up in grieving for my mother, and that’s something I can’t make up for.

On Wednesday, he had a brief moment where he couldn’t stand up — his back legs just wouldn’t support him — and I finally made an appointment with the vet. The back end problem went away, but he still wasn’t eating much. And he was just, well, “off”. I had reiki healing done on him on my birthday — to support him until our appointment on Saturday — and he spent pretty much the entire session in my arms or on my shoulder. It seemed odd at the time, but I think he knew by then what was going to happen to him. Me, I was firmly in denial. He was supposed to be around for at least a few more years, damn it.

On Saturday morning, as I was getting ready to go, he actually came out of the bedroom where he was sleeping, climbed up on a box of cat litter, and started nosing at his cat carrier, which was sitting on top of my laundry cart. He got into the carrier with little fuss. That should have been enough to warn me something was going on, but I brushed it off. At the clinic, he was less vocal and upset than he usually is and I had the thought that I should take him out of the carrier and hold him…but I didn’t want to stress him. I will always regret that I didn’t heed that impulse, because, looking back, I would have braved any amount of biting or scratching to have one last cuddle with him.

I’ve been reading Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s book “On Grief and Grieving” lately, trying to come to grips with the ongoing grief from my mother’s death in August. I was reading the book in the examination room while we were waiting for the vet to finish up with an emergency patient. I talked to Maci — he was mostly lying quietly, though he hissed when I moved anywhere near the carrier door. (I’d brought a blanket with me for him, but that really upset him for some reason, so I tucked it into my purse, out of sight.) I told him we were going to make him feel better….and I suppose we did, though it wasn’t at all the way I’d expected us to. In hindsight, I should be thankful for that long wait in the examination room as it was the last time I got to spend with my sweet boy while he was conscious.

The vet finally came and took him into the back for his examination. After several minutes, she came and brought me into the back with her. That’s when I knew things were going badly. Maci has to be — had to be — masked in order to minimize the trauma of vet visits and he was still masked and lying on the table. The vet had me feel the mass in his intestine — it was so long, but hadn’t been there in January at our previous visit. She recommended letting him go. It was like a punch in the stomach. It wasn’t a decision I’d expected to have to make that day and it broke me to make it. I stayed there until it was over — I’ll be getting his ashes in a wooden box with a name plaque on it later — and then left. I cried at the clinic and then managed to hold it back in until I got home and into my apartment. Then I started hyperventilating and I’ve been doing that pretty much ever since. It is unbelievably empty here without him.

A heavy thread of guilt underlies my grief for Maci that doesn’t exist under the continuing grief for my mother. Guilt because I was responsible for his care and quality of life: I should have noticed how serious things were sooner, I should have had my own shit together enough to have been able to afford regular vet care, I should have been a better companion. My mother controlled her own life and environment, but I alone am responsible for what Maci ate and what his environment was like.

He’d been sick for some time, but I had lots of reasons for not taking him to the vet when it all first started: unemployment and lack of money, not believing in the seriousness of the situation, putting it all down to getting older, not wanting to stress him out more with a vet visit, my own personal emotional issues…lots of excuses, but it all comes down to a failure of my responsibilities and, for that, I don’t think there is or can be forgiveness, certainly not from me.

Right now, I’m precariously balanced on a precipice. Do I use this powerful grief as a catalyst for change and growth, to honour the memories of this most beloved creature and my mother who preceded him? Do I just fall fully into the darkness? Or do I just continue to teeter forever in this sorrowful, apathetic limbo?

I know what my answer *should* be, but it’s too soon to say how it will actually play out.

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8 thoughts on “Tear-stained thoughts from a broken heart

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss.
    Maci looks wonderful and it sounds like he has had a good life.
    I know your feeling of guilt as I had a similar experience with one of my cats.
    I know nothing I say will ease your pain, but you loved him and he knew that, that is the important thing.

    Take care!
    Lotta

  2. Hi again,

    Maci was a handsome cat! Please don’t be hard on yourself. You did your best for Maci, and he knew that. Cats are experts at hiding illness, so it’s often difficult to know they’re sick until their condition is advanced. Four years ago I went through a basically identical experience with my cat Nomad. He had an aggressive oral cancer. By the time we knew, he was beyond help, and we let him go less than two weeks later. He was a few months shy of eighteen years. My husband and I had adopted him when we were newlyweds. I’ve been through the “what ifs” and the regrets, and it’s been hard, but it does get easier, I promise. Do you have any other cats or pets? Maybe when you’re ready you can adopt a new kitten, or perhaps rescue an older cat from a shelter, and give him and her your love. Don’t worry. Maci wouldn’t be angry. He knew you loved him and that you always will. And he would want you to be happy again. Take your time and take care of yourself. *HUGS*

    • I know. The first few weeks were the hardest, but I’m feeling somewhat better now. I feel him around me, which helps. Still miss the physical presence, though, you know? No, I don’t have any other pets. I’m allergic to cats and one is about all I can tolerate. (Probably just as well or I’d be the hoarding crazy cat lady, which is so not where I want to be. LOL) I’ve thought about adopting another cat — if I do, it would probably be a senior cat — but I’m not ready yet. I might not ever be ready, but we’ll see as time goes on.

  3. Louise, I experienced an amazing healing this week which helped me so much to get over the “hump” in grieving for Mocha. It was like that big hole in my chest had been filled right up. I’d love to pass this experience / healing on, which is what you do with good things. drop me an email sometime.

  4. i lost my boikittee on april31 2012. i got him shortly after i bought my house and he became the love of my life. three years kater, i got another kitten, perceval. boi took over caring for him. washing, playing, cuddling. 16 years later, boi was put to sleep while on my shoulder, at home. he had cancer and was losing the use of his back legs. i fed him day and night, gave him his pain meds and other medications for about 3 weeks prior to his dying. i could read his mind, his gestures and i knew he wanted to stick around as long as he could for me. now the hole he left is so big, i do not know how i will ever get better. perceval is having a very hard time also. he wails in the middle of the night, looks for his friend. he waits for him on the kitchen floor shere boi spent a lot of time near the end. it is so heartbreaking. i am really lost. help me please. i loved boi so much, it is beyond words. i taught hime about 30 phrases….”in the house” you want me to clean your box?” just a small sample. never once did he extend a claw, or refuse a cuddle. he was a licker, too. kept me and perceval very clean. he was always there, now he is gone. percy, although i love him too, os not a cuddler. he is a visitor. he also has a heart condition and i am living in fear that he could get worse because of broken heart syndrome. any words of solace could help. thanks………b….maci is very pretty. both my boys are himalayans. boy is blue point and percy if flame point. gorgeous animals. inside and out.

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