You Bastard, You (Mitts, 1998-2012)

May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mitts, also affectionately known as “That Bastard”, in all his glory.

I maintain that there is a moment when something dies, a precise moment that is not only identifiable, but can be pinned down to the utter second when something goes from living to not-living. That second is the moment upon which so much of our work rests upon, and though it seems to consume so much of our life, it is still just a second.

Tick, we are alive.

Tock, we are not.

He was always a fighter, even after the tumor ate his eye and started making inroads into his brain. Three of us held him, gently, but firmly all the same in case he decided to take issue with our decision. After the injection, the vet checked his heart and said “He’s gone”. That’s partially true, because tick, he’s lying on the table, then tock and there’s just a body there. The body had not gone anywhere, but Mitts was no longer there.

I’ve heard someone, probably in a fiction story, say that there’s no dignity in death, but that author must never have seen a cat die in peace. Fighter or not, he lay down quietly and closed his remaining eye as the anesthetic stopped his heart. We wondered after if the tumor had been causing him headaches, but agreed that it would be impossible to tell. He didn’t seem to be in pain over the last few weeks, but, I reasoned, it’s unlikely he felt nothing as his eye dissolved and the right side of his skull ballooned out. Yet he didn’t whine. He didn’t grow aloof and hide, and he still purred when we petted him.

They say that, when you’re talking euthanasia, there’s no right time to make the decision. If you wait too long, you might have them live in pain that could have been avoided, but if you move too soon, you might cut them off from time that they could spend with family. They say that there’s no magical moment when they aren’t in that much pain and anything more would be too much; when you can do the calculus and find the exact moment to end the life of a family member. So we made a decision. We chose a time.

That time happened after he spent his last hours sitting on the grass with me, taking in the sun on a perfect May day. That time happened as we were with him in the examination room, stroking his fur as the vet softly murmured to him and depressed the plunger.

We wish we didn’t have to make that choice, but Life and Cancer do not care for our wishes. They forced us to choose a second, and so we did.

Fourteen years of happiness in exchange for a single hard second. It seems an uneven trade.

John wishes for a great many things, including those he must never have.

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