Visiting with Death


Death came to visit last week and decided to stay awhile.

Our Isaac is dying.  We know that.  Last night I jokingly told Megan I thought he pulled this trick every few months so he could get the special treats he loves so well…Kentucky Fried Chicken, grilled salmon, sardines and the like.  But, unlike previous times, he’s not perking back up.  He’s twenty-one-and-a half-years old and has pulled through these spells before with wonderful vet care, frequent feedings and most importantly, tons of LOVE, but this time is different.

We’ve been caring for and watching him closely since last week.  Of course we don’t want him to die.  He’s a part of our family.  He is especially Bob’s baby.  He’s seen us through the most painful of times as well as the most joyful.  He is a part of us…he is our hearts.  And, of course, we don’t want him to suffer.  We are at that oh so difficult stage of our relationship with this most awesome cat…The Decision.

Making The Decision.

Death has become a familiar guest in our home these past few years.  We lost Bob’s mom Pauline and not too long after her passing, his father Robert died peacefully in our home after extended hospice care.  During this time our dogs Ozzie and Max both passed away after long happy lives, as did our cats Hallie and Jackson.  Rose, Cypher, Mouse, two un-named feral kittens and their mother were all taken from us by Feline Leukemia.  I’ve also tended to a couple of injured baby squirrels as they made their transitions.  It’s never easy.  But, it is always sacred.

As pet owners, it is part of our sacred contract with these gifts from God, to care for them the best we know how and are capable of, and sometimes that includes making “The Decision.”  Out of all of the pets named above, we’ve only had to do that once.  All of the others either peacefully slipped away in our loving arms, or unexpectedly while we were sleeping.

“The Decision” sucks.  It really does.  And, the thing about it…is that until you know, you don’t.  You really don’t know that you can actually make that decision until a moment arrives and you understand it is the right and only thing to do.  And, even then, it still sucks.  But, until that moment arrives, death has come to visit and you have become a death doula for your beloved pet.

Being a Death Doula.

From the New York Times:  “The word doula, Greek for “woman who serves,” is usually associated with those who assist in childbirth. But increasingly, doulas are helping people with leaving the world as well.” 

You do what you can to make your pet’s last days and minutes as comfortable…even enjoyable…as you can.  For us, that includes offering Isaac frequent, tempting foods, water and cream (he is one of few cats that not only tolerates cream, but thrives on it), holding the bowl up to his mouth for easy access and not forcing him if he’s not interested.  It entails frequent monitoring to make sure he is not in pain or suffering in any way.  He sleeps in our bed and we wake ourselves to check on him.  We make sure our other pets are not pestering him.  Most importantly, we hold him and love him and celebrate his life…out loud.

“Isaac!  The proud and noble!”

“Isaac!  The devoted and wise!”

“Isaac!  You have loved so well!”

“Isaac! We love you so much!”

Always using his name.  Always in LOVE…

Until he leaves us, his way eased by the most powerful force in existence…or another possibility that LOVE presents…he recovers, which as I mentioned, has happened before, or we come to that moment when we know what we didn’t before…that the decision is no longer a decision, but a reality.

LOVE will let us know.  It always does.

Until then, we will entertain Death as we do all guests…with LOVE.






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