The semester is wrapping up at warp speed. I passed my comps exams with flying colors (answering a question about the trajectory of American commemorative culture, and one about the history of art history, from Kantian aesthetics to the idea of visual culture studies.) I graded all my students’ papers and returned them, and I presented in my Monstrous and Grotesque class on Wednesday. I still have an infinite amount of work to do, but there is just a little bit more breathing room now. That breathing room must have been palpable, for my very best friend in the entire world waited till I had the time, and then told me she was ready to go.
Noire was born in August of 1993, and has been my cat since I first laid eyes on her. She was in my senior pictures, moved across the country with me, got me through a marriage, divorce, a hellacious job, and into a happy home and relationship. She sat with me late at night doing homework and reading, and playing at three in the morning with toys when she decided that sleep was not that important.
In August, she was not doing well. A trip to the emergency vet revealed some concerns that necessitated a return to the oncologist, and that trip confirmed that her liver was filled with tumors. The only way I would have ever known was by the MRI and ultrasound tests, because her liver continued to perform at full function, and her yearly senior panels were almost textbook perfect. At 19 years old, she was the picture of health. Only inside, things were slowly starting to go bad, and in a way that was not reversible.
I knew I would never want her to suffer, and that when the time came, I would make the hard decision. I hoped that we would have a few more months to a year, even though the vet said in August that 6-8 weeks was more likely. Well, Noire even doubled that expectation, and was snuggling, playing, fighting with the dogs, and petting me on the head at 3 in the morning – all the way up until last week. My comps exams were Thursday and Friday of last week, and I spent the next 24 hours in bed, exhausted and recovering. Noire stayed by my side, purring, nibbling, playing, and talking. Tuesday night, she stretched her small 5 pound body across my chest once I got into bed, and stayed there, one paw on my cheek, the other curled around my hand on my chest.
Wednesday morning when I left for work, she was sleeping downstairs, in a storage room. I had an inkling what that meant. When I got home from my long and stressful day Wednesday, she was laying curled around the dogs’ water jug in the kitchen, the most visible yet hidden place in the house. She refused food, and though she acted as though she wanted water, she didn’t appear able to drink it.
I curled up with her in bed while my boyfriend called the vet. Thursday afternoon, we said goodbye. She managed to eat a little bit of tuna water, and a dab of butter off my finger before we went, but made no protest when I bundled her up in her pink blanket to get in the car. She rode silently with us to the vet’s office, and sat peacefully in my arms while I heaved and sobbed, my heart breaking.
The veterinary staff at our hospital (Hampden Family Pet Hospital) were absolutely amazing, empathetic, and considerate. The whole thing took less than an hour, including all the time I spent crying, punching furniture, crying, sobbing, collapsing on the floor, holding my baby, and crying.
I promised her 19 years ago that I would always take care of her, and this was the last thing I could do to make sure she lived her life well, free of pain, and to go in peace. It’s killing me, but I know it was the right thing. As a Jew, I don’t believe in heaven, but I do, in my own way, believe that animals must go to an afterlife where there is no pain, no violence, no hunger, no starvation, no loud noises, and that it is a place with lots of catnip, trees to climb, and little windows to watch their people on earth. If there is any good on earth, it is the innocent animals that will have this afterlife.
I miss her so much. My body aches from crying, and the pain in my heart and limbs and head just feel like my soul was ripped from me without any anesthetic. I cannot believe that the world continues to turn now that she is gone, but I knew it would happen one day. That she waited until I had the room to say goodbye was her last gift to me. Making it easy on her was the least I could do for all she ever gave to me, which was everything.
The funeral scene in the movie “Four Weddings and A Funeral” made W.H. Auden’s poem Funeral Blues famous in popular culture, but it was one of my favorites even before then. I loved it for the story of love it expressed, and I knew that if I ever loved enough for the loss to hurt that badly, I would be so lucky. And now, I know that loss and that pain. I know that the world should have rightly come to an end on Thursday, December 13th, at 2:43 pm. And yet, it didn’t.
Funeral Blues – W. H. Auden (with minor edits regarding gender by me)
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message She Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
She was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.