Death & Sorrow
The past weekend was rough.
Even though I knew it was drawing close, I still was taken off guard by the death of our elder cat. She died on Friday. Her name was Amygdala (I named her for my parents after a small grey region of the brain involved with emotions), but most people simply called her "Amy" for short. She was only 2 weeks shy of her 22nd birthday.
My mother and father first acquired Amy quite by accident. Their home was on a two acre spot of land out in the rural countryside. My father's pride and joy at the time was a new, dark blue, 1988 Buick LeSabre Limited he had just purchased as the vehicle for he and my mother to use (in addition to my mother's very small Chevrolet Cavalier) at the start of his retirement. My father, mother, and aunt were in the front yard of my parent's home planting some new bushes and flowers, when scampering out from under my father's Buick, ambles this incredibly tiny, small grey kitten. She is meowing all the way as she crosses the front yard, and when she gets there, she proceeds to hop into the hole my father was digging for the root ball of a bush he was planting and proceeds to dig around with her paws and then have a bathroom break. Her little poop was still very dark indicating she had been nursing still on her mother's milk. After she finished, she buried her poop and then climbed out of the hole and proceeded to purr and roll around on the ground at my father's feet. He always had an especially soft spot in his heart for cats and immediately fell in love with the little ball of fur. She was such a newly weaned kitten that my parents (on the advice of their veterinarian) had to use a few special teaching techniques to show Amy how to eat solid food. The most successful was in soaking some of the dry kitten chow in warm milk until it was soft, and then creating a paste that could be injected into the baby kitten's mouth using a 10cc syringe (without the needle of course) that I brought home from my lab. Within a matter of a few days, she was willingly eating the dry cat food.
When my father died a few years later, my aunt moved in with my mother and brought her own cat that was born within the same time frame, Toby. You may recall from ealier essays here that later in life, Toby developed diabetes and required insulin injections daily during the last five years of his life. When my mother and aunt moved in with us, Amy & Toby of course came as well. Sadly, my Aunt sadly passed away in 2002 and Toby passed away in 2005. I had kept him healthy all those years with the insulin injections. My beautiful Mother passed away in 2007, and now Amy, the last pet my Father had has now passed away.
Amy had been growing more frail, especially the last month or so, but ate well. Yet, on Thursday evening, I could tell she was not doing well when I saw her at 11:30pm before heading up to bed. I sat with her on the floor of the bathroom and held her and petted her until about 3:30 am on Friday. She was very weak. I knew in my heart that there was a strong probability she would pass away before morning, but that in the morning, I would take her to our Veterinarian if she was still alive. I was certain all he would say is that she needed to be euthanized, but that did not need to happen. When I awoke at 6:00am, she had quietly passed away.
* * * * *
I had been working up to this for the last several weeks, but this weekend, I asked my siblings to come from hinter and yon to dismantle my mother's two rooms at my home. I know that for many of you it seems like too long a time to have this occur, but it took me that long to emotionally prepare for the event. To me, it felt literally like a vivisection, or more akin to a disembowelment. I had not touched anything in her two rooms since her passing other than to water the plants, get tax information to complete her taxes and to occasionally record something on her VCR. The evening before they came, I told my wife that I wanted to lay on my mother's bed for the night, and so I took a blanket with me and layed on her bed. I do not know what I was expecting, but I was hoping to have her talk to me in my dreams or to feel her presence around me. I stayed awake from Saturday night until probably around 3:00am on Sunday morning before I fell asleep there. When my wife came in and awoke me at 7:30, I reported I did not feel anything more of her presence. It made me feel glum.
To dissect and rip apart all of the items of hers that were in her last home seemed so harsh and so sad... and even though it needed to be done, I was a wreck at the end of the very long day that was yesterday. I wept deeply several times throughout the day. Finding cards I, or my wife and I, or my kids had given her over the years made my grief brim up anew. Finding the Easter cards she had planned to give us for Easter on the year she passed (she died before filling them out) brought another flood of tears. Even though I presume my siblings were also sad, their nonchalant manner of speaking and talking about Mom's things made me feel disjointed from them. They did not cry visibly.
At the end of the day, after my siblings left, my wife fixed me a wonderful dinner of a stuffed baked bread (with spinach and feta filling), an enormous salad (enough to more than fill a gallon mixing bowl) and for dessert we ate a blend of vanilla and strawberry ice cream and I also ate a huge bowl of popcorn. The eating helped me to shed *some* of the harshest feelings.
I went to sleep and awoke today tired, groggy and with a hazy recollection of horrible and sad dreams. I am now in the midst of administering a final examination.