Life is the Most Ephemeral of All Things
This is the hardest thing I've ever written.
This is Butter.
He died on Sunday.
This is an old photo, from about ten years ago. He was twelve here. So he was around twenty-two when he passed. He had a long, rich, loved life.
And yet, it feels like it wasn't enough.
I don't know if it could have ever been enough.
Butter was diagnosed with feline kidney disease at the beginning of October. If there's one thing that I wish I'd done better, it was to get him to the vet sooner. & I wish I'd known the symptoms. I thought he was just an old cat having age-related problems, but he was actually having kidney problems.
The first few weeks were very touch & go. I hand fed him every hour or two. I learned how to give him subcutaneous fluids. Because he had a heart murmur, instead of doing the usual 100ml of fluids a day, we started with 50ml every other day. After about two weeks I realized that the small amount of fluids was only helping him die more slowly. He was still fading, but at a painfully slow speed.
So we moved it up to 50ml a day. That clearly helped, though he continued to struggle to gain weight. After a few weeks of his weight only barely going up, we added in an appetite stimulant. That's when he seemed to really turn around. He started gaining weight consistently. He was more alert & he hid less. He was more physically active. He seemed to be making a solid improvement & I started to relax a bit. I knew he wasn't going to live forever, but it looked like the rest of his life would be measured out in months, maybe years. Not weeks or even days.
A week ago, Friday evening, he started acting oddly. He'd had issues with one weak hind leg for weeks now, but now both hind legs seemed very week. He was really struggling to walk. Two legs (one hind, one front) looked to be swollen. But he was still eating & using the litter box, so we weren't sure how serious it was. We called the vet on Saturday & scheduled an appointment for Sunday morning.
Saturday night, I started to realize this was it. He could hardly walk at all. He stopped eating & drinking; all I could get him to take was a heated broth made of one of his favorite cat foods. When it came time to sleep, he didn't seem to want to settle, so I laid down on the floor with him. He's never been a cuddler, but for the first time ever, he wouldn't lay down & rest unless I was touching him with both hands. So I propped myself up on my stomach a bit, wrapped my right arm around his body, & rested my left hand by his face. We laid like that for a long time.
There's more, but the details don't really matter. In the morning, I could see that this was it. There simply wasn't any medicine or procedure that a vet could have to fix this, I thought. So we took him & when the vet called & told us that his abdomen was full of fluid as well as a mass & started saying that maybe we could try this or that, I gently cut her off. I said something this "This is really just it right? He's dying? It's best to let him go?". She said yes & then we went into the vet's to say our good byes.
Even though I've been saying good-bye to him every day for weeks, it still hurt so much. It felt so unreal. Forty-eight hours earlier, we'd thought he was doing well. We'd just started to relax & feel comfortable in the rhythm we had going, of medications, subqs, checking for swelling... I thought he was going to be OK, at least a little while longer. But he wasn't, & though I am grateful that his suffering was minimal, it hurts so incredibly much.
I've known Butter for eighteen years. I met him in 2002, when he was my then-boyfriend's (now best friend) friend's cat. When his owners traveled, he stayed with me. He's lived with me in every place I've ever lived in in NYC. Of the people in my adult life, there are only two (my best friend & one college friend) who I have known & had a relationship with longer than him. I've known him nearly three times as long as I've known my husband. & I spent the last couple of months checking on him every hour or two during the day, & every few hours (2-3 times) a night.
I don't know how to go from having him near-always at the top of my thoughts to being gone. There is an empty place inside me that aches as though a part of my soul has been cut away.
I don't know how to create right now. My mind is usually overflowing with a froth of ideas & concepts to try. Now it sits as empty as an abandoned house.
It is going to be hard for a long time. I think. I still jerk & startle, realizing that I've been sitting, blank-minded & inert for periods of time. I have worked on some of my projects a little bit. I'm afraid to feel the joy I usually get out of creating. I don't know how to feel joy in a world where my dearest little love isn't nearby, dozing & looking forward to some time together later. I feel like I'm in a stop-motion reality. I will jerk into action suddenly, get something done that needs doing. Then abruptly stop. Stare off into space. Ache mindlessly until I'm jolted into awareness again.
I don't know how to end this, not any better than I know how to come to terms with the end of him being here with me. This is a picture from the morning he passed. He was much greyer, thinner, with his poor swollen legs. But he was still my beautiful boy, my dearest little heart. He always will be.
I'll see you again some day, my sweet love.