Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nine souls: Lessons of a dying cat

Just as the muezzin had finished calling for the dawn prayer her eyes finally glazed over after a night of agony. I started to unfold the large blue kitchen tablecloth and holding her up slowly from her feet and arms, I gently placed her on the cloth then proceeded to wrap her in it (she will be buried later that day).

A this point I allowed myself to cry out all the feelings I've holed up for the last weeks, because no matter how much you prepare yourself for imminent loss.
Being in the presence of a soul that is dying is not only solemn you actually feel the cold creeping in and become close to a near death experience. You are brought face to face with all the questions that you usually repress at the back of your mind.

Why we are on this earth and what happens after we die? Is dying painful or is it a release as we would like to think?

The incredible sadness of the loss is tearing your heart out. In her case it was tearing my heart several times until dawn. Each time I would think she has exhaled the last sigh and last breath. She wakes up again looks at me with forlorn expression, screams in pain, kicks her legs, opens her jaws to the point of breaking, yawns and makes a unearthly sound from the deepest part of her throat and stops breathing. The last heave was the strongest.. I did not know it was possible for a soul to take so long to die… nine hours –. No amount of calling the veterinary or Adib was this time going to change anything.

Whoever said that cats had nine lives is right! I spent nine hours helplessly watching her die, nine times over.

It's been a while now since she has left us hopefully to a better place, yet I still hear her bell on the stairs at night, and I still think she is sitting near the heater. I still call her in the morning then remember that I don't need to fill the bowl of food anymore, and the bed is very very cold without her cuddling on my feet.

Pet loss and all the emotions entailed are acknowledged in the literature and with a variety of coping mechanisms.

I find myself agreeing with this statement: "For someone who has truly loved a pet, however, the loss of that animal can feel just as devastating as a human loss, if not more. The very things that make animals different than humans often make them more endearing. An animal who doesn’t talk can’t pass judgment or give you the silent treatment or withhold companionship and love. For many, pets provide a source of unwavering love, affection and companionship. The qualities of a beloved pet are hard to match in human form. The loss of that companion can be heartbreaking."

This again led me to think that if I felt that much pain for my longtime pet, how much are parents feeling for the loss of their child. I think what made her death even more intolerable and led me into a downward spiral is that it came at the time when the recent 22 day war on Gaza was taking place so I could only focus on daily death toll from that attack and every photo of the injured or dead especially children became unbearable.

Some families lost more than one child. I shudder and can only imagine by proxy the pain of feeling helpless for your own child. You have given birth and raised him/her only to have that erased in a jiffy.

I also discovered that both camps cared about their pets as well in the middle of the carnage.

For example these Israelis devastated at the possible loss of their dog and the Palestinians who despite sustaining a heavy death (if I believe the news it is 13:1300) were able to attempt to save some pets. ( see photos right and left)

Pets are therefore family members.

The most obvious lesson that I learned from my dying cat is that DEATH is inevitable and we are ALONE when we die; it is also extremely painful for the dying and for those left behind - regardless of the process being swift or protracted.

It was also one more death in the family that needed to be promptly dealt with 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 it looks like everyone is dying all of a sudden and there is no time to stop and grieve because the emotional toll would paralyze you.

I also remembered impending death, a painful realization consciously accepted a while back, there was no way to avoid the mental anguish. Will it be lonely, peaceful or messy? Denial was never an option.

Where are those nine lives when you need them ?


7mada said...

R.I.P Highlander’s Cat.

All the best.

Maya M said...

I am sorry for your cat.

Anglo-Libyan said...

loosing anyone, human or a dear pet is always sad to people concerened, I am sorry for your loss.

Jewaira said...

Sorry to read about your cat. In such cases, wouldn't it be more merciful to have the vet put the animal down so as not to suffer?

.e!manie. said...

i disconnect from this part of the world for what seems like 'ever' at a time. but when i come back... im reminded to check in here. i hope you've been well?.... its been quite some time....

Highlander said...

Thank you 7mada, Maya, Jewaira and E!mani.

Jewaira, when there is no hope, and the illness and painis dreadful I could risk taking the life that God has given. But between evening and dawn no vets are available to put her down. By then it was too late.

E!manie I've been Ok hamdillah my friend how have you been ?