Sunday, September 05, 2010

Scraping the Plates- More on Letting Go

When I was writing this morning's post about worrisome dog behavior and troubled pets, I had my friend's cat in the back of my mind. Her cat had recently developed serious, terminal (what a terrible word) cancer. She came over the other night and T, J and I had a long talk about the "time." At this point, J was in the rational part of the brain about letting go- she didn't want her brave, tough, stubborn street cat to suffer. No one wants their pet to suffer, but J was particularly adamant- that was not Jack, and she didn't want it ever to be Jack. She was frustrated that she hadn't felt heard at the vet- she felt they wanted her to do more treatment and pain management and had sent her home with pain medication and antibiotics (she was at my house picking up the next round of them). She was questioning her choices and how she would know it was time. T and I had different feelings- I was kind of surprised by mine, actually. Talking it through was all T and I could offer- no one can tell you when is the right time.

After I wrote about letting go- very shortly afterwards, actually- I got the call from J. It was time. Jack was bleeding, and J couldn't poke him for his pain meds, not even one more time. I went over to her house and took her to the vet for a comfortable passing. J told Jack all of the things that she loved him for- never biting her, keeping the dogs in line, scaring the shit out of her on the nights he didn't come home. Rest in Peace, Jack.

The odd coincidence in this all (I once had a teacher who didn't believe in coincidences. I don't remember what she believed was going on at times where it seemed like coincidences- fate? actions of our own doings? But every time things like this happen, and I think that it's a a coincidence, I think of her and wonder. What *is* this?) came after writing my post on letting go which I decided to write without letting it sink in because I had a memorial today for my uncle. I went straight from the vet to the house he had shared for the last two years with my aunt and cousin. My uncle passed last week after having cancer for the last 6 months or so.

I write "having" because I can't really bring myself to write "a battle with" or "fighting" or any other trite word. I highly recommend the Atul Gawande article from a fairly recent New Yorker about hospice, death, and dying. My aunt, uncle, and cousin had chosen the hospice route towards the end of my uncle's life, and this choice seems appropriate for their situation (they shared much of it through a blog that they all participated in). I don't think he "fought" his situation so much as "lived" it. The family was very close- the three of them were/are an extremely tight knit group, in an enviable way. Words that kept getting mentioned today were "dedicated," "matched," "devoted." And not in a cheesy way. And someone read a letter from my aunt from 1996 about how she was in a good place- she had let go of his terribly terribly annoying habit of scraping his plate when he was done eating. It was a wonderfully poignant moment. At the end of sharing stories, my aunt read something she had written- she hadn't known her old letter would be written. She mentioned letting go of the small pieces, and remembering to "take your time," something her husband had always said to her.

My mom said to me, later, during the eating portion of the memorial- can you mourn without eating?- did you catch that about forgetting about scraping the plates? I said, oh, I was going to say that to you! It was the take home message- letting go. On my way out, I mentioned to my aunt that both of us had been moved by remembering to let go of the plate scraping. My aunt looked at me and said, you have to, or you could end up divorced.

You have to forgive, forget, move past, the plate scraping. The nights the cat doesn't come home. You have to take your time, and let go.

Rest in Peace, Zen Master Mort. Happy Trails, Jack the Cat.

jacques le chat