Friday, March 19, 2010

The challenges of loving deeply

My old sweet kitty Jake died today. He was nearly 20 and had been failing in stages for several months. After a big rally about a month ago, he took a nose dive this week and it was clear to me yesterday that I needed to release him from his body. The mobile vet came about 4 this afternoon and in a simple and brief goodbye, Jake was on his way to whatever waits for us on the other side.

I said my real goodbyes to Jake last night. We lay on the bed together and I petted him and told him how wonderful sharing 20 years together had been. I was under a year sober when I met Jake at a mall in the little town of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. I wasn't in the market for a third cat, but he was on the reduced-for-quick-sale table and I felt so sorry for him that I took him home with me. He was a faithful companion all these years. Jake wasn't clever or particularly cute. He was steadfast and loving and affectionate.

After I talked to the vet this morning and made the arrangements, I felt sick with the responsibility of choosing his end for him. I knew it was the right thing to do--he'd given me plenty of signs, but I still had doubts, questions. What if he wasn't ready, what if he deserved more time? I distracted myself with work for a couple of hours and then I just settled into my feelings. I let myself go deep into how I felt about Jake, what I wanted for him (to feel good again), and how I could best serve him. This was what life was presenting to me in these moments--not only the decision for Jake but also being with my feelings, fully embracing the sadness and the indecision and then just being okay.

After he was gone, I cried for a long time. I let the feelings wash over me. I felt the pull of alcohol, of some kind of drugs, of ice cream. It would have been so easy to numb out. I felt the anger that I couldn't use any of those soothers that the non-addict can use in a crunch and then easily let go. I sat with those feelings too.

Truth is I'm grieving for my sweet old boy. And that's okay, that's natural, and it will ease when it eases.

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