Negra, February 2010
I have experienced true love with my dearest little black cat, Negra. We offer each other unconditional devotion and support and are rewarded by the sweetest joy life can offer - giving and receiving love. She plays, hunts food, responds to prompts, eats heartily, shows bounding energy, snuggles up beside us, sleeps long and sound.
Hope is all we have when a loved one is fading. It is a sweet comfort. The hardest thing, apart from juggling conflicting emotions, is abandoning hope, letting go. The mark of true love is - when the impending inevitable demands that we surrender - letting a loved one go on to the next world, released to the pain-free other side when their will to live drains away from them, or the pain of living becomes too much for them and you to bear. Deep empathy with another soul is surely the most tender, all-embracing emotion we can feel, one that brings us ecstasy and agony and everything in between.
As Dr. Meredith Galbraith expresses it so eloquently: “It is because animals bring so much to our lives that we feel such intense sadness when they die. The love we share is a prerequisite for the loss we feel - and often, the more intense the love, the more intense the loss. Yet it is a sad truth that love and loss will always go hand in hand. Every life is finite, every single one, and dying is as much a part of every life’s journey as being born. And since the richness of any life’s journey is in the connections and relationships fostered along the way, living fully means opening your heart to loving fully, even knowing there will be also be loss.”
On Friday, August 2, after many days of not eating and showing low energy, I took Negra to the vet. Poor little thing was so stressed that she panted and panted on what was just a warm day. The news was bad; she had a large growth in her abdomen, affecting either kidneys or intestines or both. The vet recommended putting her to sleep at the earliest opportunity, there being no long-term hope for her.
On the evening of Wednesday, August 7 at dusk, a coming storm announced itself with distant rumbles of thunder. Negra vanished stealthily, to be found up on the rise, lying alert in the middle of the gravel laneway, watching the storm approach. She loves the rain. As the rain began to come down in buckets, she scooted off into the long grass, re-appearing drenched through after it stopped.
A week later, in the late afternoon of Wednesday August 14, I was watering rows of greens that had been recently sown. And there she was, coming down and lying watching in the grass. I talked to her about how sweet and special this moment was, with her in her element, down in the field. After I’d finished watering, she moved to some longer grass and lay inhaling the breezy air and looking out over her preserve. Finally at dusk, she came home. I felt blessed to have witnessed her devoted attachment to this realm she inhabits with us. When she goes, she will take a lot of our happiness with her.
And now, seventeen days later, she has eaten all she can – raw grass-fed beef liver, raw ground beef, raw fish, tuna, yogurt and milk, with cake and ice cream as treats. Most of this is probably going to feed the tumour in her tummy. She has peed and peed but the poops seem to have dried up. Her belly is larger than ever, she now wobbles shakily and turns her prone body around restlessly. Excursions outside to breathe in the air and sit with us are an increasingly rare reminder of her devotion. Though we wanted her to reach the end of her days entirely on her own terms, following nature's course (just as she has lived all her life with us), we now think she is feeling too uncomfortable and we need to help her go and rest in peace. Last Wednesday, I felt the time was already nigh and went out to dig her a new and permanent home.
With Negra, it's always on a Wednesday. This Wednesday the house-calling vet will come and guide her on her way. Then she can move in, and we will have to move on. You’ll always be with us, little one.
Negra, late August 2013
Wednesday, September 4 Update
Yesterday, as I was distractedly selling produce on a sunny breezy Riverdale afternoon, Gundi tells me Negra decided to venture out across the lawn at home to sit for a couple of hours inhaling the air, one last time. When I got home she was tired, sat on her mat but purring contentedly, perfectly calm. This morning, due to be her last wake-up, she is alert and still hungry for food and love. I just sat on the deck pondering if she is ready to go. A fluttering fanfare of goldfinches rose up to will her on her way. I wandered to the fields up the hill and clambered up on a large round hay bale. The alfalfa flowers in full bloom in the early morning low sun waved in the breeze shaking off the dew. Time is precious but short, they whispered. For good measure, I released a swallowtail butterfly from the plastic barrier of the greenhouse. She flew off happily and landed in the greenery. My Dad was always drawn by the spirit of butterflies. To cap the list of good omens off, a cawing raven came to roost on the tall elm tree just before the vet arrived. He circled off, up into the blue distant sky, and the vet pronounced Negra more than ready to go.
Our little sweetie now rests in peace. She passed so trustingly, graceful to the end.