I think my cat may be trying to run off and die.
They say that this is what cats naturally do when they are nearing the end of their lives. I guess they find a quiet, hidden place, just let go, and wait. I’m not trying to be morbid. It actually seems quite natural. The fascinating part to me is how foreign this behavior is to us; and how hard it is for us to allow.
Over the course of my life, I have had many pets; dogs, cats, fish (do they count?), hamsters, a roomate’s bearded dragon, rats, and one mean rabbit. Yet, never have I needed to develop my own compassionate patience for a pet’s slow steady decline.
For most of my pets, I simply was not there for the dying period. My parents took care of these situations for us without much fanfare. I have, on a few occasions, uncovered the compassion and strength necessary to euthanize pets in pain. I have cradled my most beloved, soul-mate, furry friend as he gazed into my eyes for one last meow before exhaling his last, unexpected, breath.
But this time, with Joey, I am bearing witness to a life deflating.
For the last 10 years, Joey has been our dude-cat. A big, big boy who, we joke, likes to watch football on tv when no one is home. Since he was a rescue cat we really have no idea of his true age so he could be 11 or 20. He is a deeply loved member of our family, who is now blessing us with a role model for self-respect in physical demise and death.
I want to have the courage to watch him with my eyes open, to gently rub his bony body and hear him when he says it’s time to go. I want to find the moments to say goodbye, to thank him for blessing us with humor, devotion, kindness, and a cat’s arrogance. I want to show my children the naturalness in life’s course. I want to be brave in the face of his grace. It’s the least, I think, I can do.
God, full of love, dwelling in the spirit of all life, may the spirit of (our friend) be accepted into your love. By the merit of his/her love, may his/her spirit live on in the love of all life. And let us say, Amen. -thanks to Rabbi David Kominsky