Saying Goodbye, Again

It’s looking like we are going to put our oldest cat down on Monday morning. She has been sick for a while, but has really taken a turn in the last couple of weeks.

I’ve had Lily since the week before my sixteenth birthday, which means that this past May she turned 17 years old. She has been part of my family since I still had two parents and a room and a curfew. She’s known every boy I’ve ever dated, and she’s lived in Atlanta, Vermont, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. She’s traversed the country three times over. She’s been in my life almost as long as my mother was. She’s seen me get married, become a mother, and a writer.

I don’t know how to say goodbye.

I know that this is for the best. She’s uncomfortable and getting worse all the time. But I don’t know how to say goodbye. I hate the idea of feeding her a last meal, of petting her for the last time, of glimpsing her final nap in the sunshine.

I’m crying as I write this. And I’m feeling struck by how easily grief can well up, like a lake flooding through us. As though it’s always there, just waiting to overflow given the chance.

One of the last things my father ever said to me, as he lay dying in his bedroom, was this:

Death and birth are such sweet sorrows. If there were no death you would never know how sweet life really is.

He’s right. He’s right.

He’s right.

24 comments

24 Comments

  • Brenda
    Posted September 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m crying as I read this. It’s amazing just how quickly pets become a part of our family. I now have grandpuppies … I don’t remember life before them!

  • Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Oh, Brenda! Sorry to make you cry. Grandpuppies…so sweet!

  • Carroll
    Posted September 17, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Claire. My heart hurts for you. Your sweet kitty is so lucky to have had you for her person all these years. I will be sending my most loving thoughts your way, and hers. Hugs too.

  • Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much, Carroll!

  • Posted September 17, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I’m so sorry Claire.

  • Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Aw, thanks Julie!

  • Posted September 17, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    You gave her a wonderful life and she knows it. Parting hurts terribly and I’m so sorry you have to go through this. xoxo

  • Kirsten
    Posted September 18, 2011 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful thing to love an animal and be loved in return, especially for so long. May these next days and hours with Lily be full of love and comfort for you both.

    I grew up with a sweet, patient golden tabby named Chubby Checkers. (We named her that because we thought she was a boy until she got pregnant and had 5 babies.) She lived to be 21. About a year before she died, my mother took off on some errands, not realizing Chubby was still on top of her car, her usual napping spot. After thinking she was passing a lot of very friendly fellow motorists that day, my mother finally realized they were trying to let her know she had a cat on her car. By the time she was able to get off the road, Chubby had ridden nearly 2 miles at 25 mph on the roof of the car. My mother worried that Chubby’s old heart wouldn’t survive that adventure, but she shook it off to live another year of mellow companionship before going to sleep one last time on the doormat.

    Chubby was part of our family and comes up often in our conversations when we are all back together in the house we shared with her. She was even featured in a special photo album for my parents’ 50th anniversary. It brings us all great joy to remember her.

    You’ll be telling Veronica Lily stories for years to come, too, I’m sure. Blessings to all of you.

  • Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Kirsten, that was the most amazing story about Chubby!!! Love it. You’re right — what a nice thing to think about — that I’ll be telling Lily stories for a long time. Although none of them so incredible as Chubby’s!

  • Lynne
    Posted September 18, 2011 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    I’m so sorry, Claire. Knowing it’s the right thing to do does not make it one bit easier to do when goodbyes like this are involved.

  • Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Lynne. You’re right — it’s a touch choice no matter how you spin it.

  • Kathy E.
    Posted September 18, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Hi Claire,

    I appreciate this post as we are also dealing with the aging, and impending hard decisions, about the lives of our pets (2 dogs are 12, one with renal failure, and 1 cat is almost 16 with thyroid disease). We are asking ourselves the same exact questions you pose here. It is never easy to lose a loved one — of any species. I wish you strength during this difficult phase.

  • Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Oh, thank you Kathy. These are such tough decisions to make! Wishing you strength with yours too.

  • Posted September 18, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I am so, so sorry, Claire. These little creatures at our sides are so much more than pets. I can’t bear the thought of losing my cat– I can only imagine what it would feel like to lose a pet who had been with me through so much.

  • Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Suzanne. Don’t think about losing your cat!

  • Lyssa
    Posted September 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    So so so true! You’re in my thoughts!

  • Posted September 19, 2011 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    I’m so sorry. You and your kitty will be in my prayers. It sounds like she has brought many blessings to you and I hope you enjoy remembering them all as you celebrate her life. You’ve given her a wonderful home; I’m sure she’s very satisfied and happy.

  • Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Thank you Megan. She was definitely a blessing.

  • Chris
    Posted September 19, 2011 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    Oh I’m so sorry….

  • Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Chris.

  • Karen K
    Posted September 19, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    My heart hurts for you. I’m very sorry for this loss. It is amazing what a big part of our lives our animals play. Your in my prayers.

  • Jennie
    Posted September 19, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Thinking of you Claire. My dog, Harley made it from my Freshman year of high school, through college, marriage, and part of my first pregnancy with me…and she was such a huge part of who I was through those times.

  • Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Wow Jennie, Harley sounds a lot like Lily! I bet you miss her. So amazing that she was there through all of that though.

  • bonnie
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    So sorry for you.

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