Notes from the final hours

aremid.2012.05.23I’ve been completely drained over the past few weeks. The worst part was Aremid’s final week. And since he died ten days, I’ve been drained by other things not worth going into now. You might think I’ve been in mourning, but I have barely begun to mourn. I haven’t even uttered those blunt words “he died” until now. I, like many dealing with a loved one’s death, use the common euphemisms like “passed away” and “put to sleep” (generally reserved for pets.) Aremid died. Unless I’m using dark humor, I’m not going to say “my cat died”. That makes his existence and his role in my life seem so banal. I know very well that many people can’t relate to someone taking the death of a pet so seriously. That’s ok. I understand.

There’s so, so much about me that I don’t expect people to be able to relate to. I had this cat for 16 years and very often felt like he was the only thing I had going for me. Yes, justifiably or not, I very often felt like Aremid was the only thing I had going for me. And he’s gone.


But I didn’t intend this post to be a reflection on what Aremid meant to me. That’s supposed to be for another time. This post was already written prior to tonight. I just happen to be posting it now.

Me and Aremid 2012.05.26 (2)

6/3/2012 11:00 PM
I wrote during Aremid’s final hours, but I did not want to live-blog his death, so I’m waiting until now to post these thoughts. I’ll try to fill in what happened during the final minutes. I should do that now, before the memory of those last moments starts to fade.

IMAG08055/28/2012 2:16 AM
Over the course of the last few hours, I have meant to chronicle these finals hours with Aremid, my faithful companion of the last 16 years. Subtract days I’ve spent away from home, and it’s still been over 5000 days that we’ve spent together. How many places have we lived? I won’t count them up now. It’s at least ten.

Midway through Saturday, I truly thought Aremid was doing better enough so that I would be able to put off the inevitable by a week or so. He was eating better. He didn’t seem as frail. He didn’t seem as distant.

But by Saturday evening, he was back to being more listless. And then he seemed a bit better again. Sunday, I didn’t foresee needing to call my vet and ask for availability on Monday. Aremid wasn’t suffering…as much as he had been at his worst. But by 6PM, as I prepared to head out for a few hours, I realized that he was suffering, again, or still. I had seen this pattern over the course of the past couple of weeks, and the pattern wasn’t changing for the better. Just about everything that everyone who knows anything about the end of life of a pet had said was applying to Aremid. The notion that he’d “let me know” or that I would know when the right time was, finally, it did not just seem like a wishful sentiment.

I called my vet, and she told me she would be free to come by around 2PM Monday. When I returned home around 9PM, I found him in an aloof, seemingly uncomfortable state. It was as if he were telling me, “I know you’ve set it up for tomorrow, and I really am ready to go now, and you should be ready for me to go now.” I’m not one to ascribe such strictly human thoughts to cats. Cats are, according to anyone who studies cat behavior for a living, unable to comprehend the concept of their own deaths. In Aremid’s case, he has never seen another cat die, so he should have no concept of death. Yet, I have convinced myself that he does know. At a time of desperation, I find that I am able to cling to an article of faith, and that, yes, it is comforting.

I have had heard plenty of Aremid’s meows over the past week or two, both his usual greeting and complaining meows, as well as the meek, sad meows that have accompanied his decline. Tonight, I have not heard any meows, as if he would prefer to limit his communication to his mere presence beside me. For this, I am relieved, because his meows will pain me at this point. After embracing our verbal chats for 16 years, I do not yearn for anymore. I will grieve their absence after he is gone. I am grateful for their absence right now.

I have wondered what Zellouisa makes of all this. Aremid and she have never gotten along in nearly 15 years of cohabiting. I suspect she will celebrate Aremid’s passing, and I resent her for this. But I really have no idea. Aremid was actually a very different cat during the first year I had him, pre-Zellouisa. He was still sweet and loving. But he also never whined or complained at all. He was forever changed after Zellouisa’s arrival, remaining disappointed that he has ever had to share the spotlight, even if I always let him have most of it. So I wonder how Aremid’s absence may change her behavior. A little bit. I’ll wonder more about it later.

2:41AM Should I move from the couch to the bedroom with Aremid? Should I try to get some sleep? I should. Nine more waking hours with Aremid are going to be painful hours. If I can slip away for a few hours, it will help me better deal with the final hours tomorrow. Aremid is helping me, in an odd way, begin to disconnect from him. It is not going to matter to him if I am not awake for the next nine hours. I may very well be anyway.

12:24PM Dr. S is going to be here in about a half-hour, an hour earlier than we had first discussed. I’m grateful that he’s letting me have this time next to him on the couch. He is clearly exhausted, but I take comfort that he is leaning on me in his final moments.

Saying goodbye

I didn’t get to sleep until sometime between 4 and 5. Between the time I stopped writing earlier and the time I fell asleep, Aremid had lain himself over my right arm, curling up in a few different configurations. This was comforting. Then, after awhile, he got up and hopped off the bed. This, too, was comforting, because I knew I might, then, be able to fall asleep. Whether he wanted to go and hide or go and take care of some business, I was content with the time we had spent together.

When I awoke at 9, he was right there back beside me. This was comforting. I called Dr. S. to confirm the plans, and it was then she asked if she could come at 1. I said that would be fine, though I initially mourned the loss of an hour. I quickly realized that, in the grand scheme of things, the extra hour was not necessary. In fact, I spent most of the morning going out for some chores and errands. I got myself some lunch. I dropped off Herman at M & E’s. Aremid was in his perch, and I didn’t want to disturb him from his routine. I figured that 45 minutes was about enough time to spend some last quality time with him.

12:33PM I will put down the laptop now and simply be with Aremid now. I’m not able to grieve just yet. I’ll just be the best person I can be for him in the short time we have left.

[written June 3]

Goodbye my sweet boyFor the next 10-12 minutes, Aremid was semi-curled up, leaning against me as I remained seated on the couch. I just showed him a lot of love, gentling stroking him on his head and on his back and in his ears. He wasn’t up for his typical stretches or extra-effort nuzzles. He just seemed so exhausted.

I recollected how Aremid had so many times over the years sat across my stomach and chest facing me. I don’t think it had been all that comfortable for him in recent years, but I gave it a try. I pick him up on placing him atop me. He settled in as if perfectly content with the position. I would remain in that position for the next 15 minutes until Dr. S arrived. But then she called me. It would be another 15 minutes. I was relieved.

I had about half an hour reclined on the couch with Aremid a top me. His eyes were squinting and full of weariness, but he was looking faintly into my eyes. We had experienced these deep connections hundreds, if not thousands, of times before. Again, as an article of faith, I feel as if Aremid knew this was the final time we would commune. I was at peace. He was at peace.

Dr. S. knocked on the door at 1:15, and, without moving, I told her to come on in. As soon as she entered, I began to sob, the reality of what was about to happen slapping me upside the head. We briefly discussed what was about to happen and what I wanted done with the remains. I attempted to justify why I was so distraught. I certainly didn’t need to do that. I could not ask for a more empathetic doctor than Dr. S.

She said she could proceed without either me or Aremid moving. She inserted the IV into his leg. Then, a few minutes later, she asked me if Aremid’s head was starting to feel heavy in my hand. Maybe–had she started the solution to put him into a deep sleep? Yes, she had, in conjunction with the IV. Oh, I wasn’t paying attention. I was still waiting for the 2nd of what I counted as three injections. Nope, Aremid was headed toward a deep, irreversible sleep. I had just been stroking the top of his head, so I had no idea if his eyes were open or closed. After a couple of more minutes, Dr. S. told me that he was in deep sleep and no longer had any perception of his surroundings.

I had held him while he was put to sleep. That was enough for me. As I had discussed with Dr. S. moments before, I wanted her to take him from me to administer the last injection. This, she did. I did not look at Aremid one last time and she picked him up. I had no need to. I had looked into his eyes reflecting back at me perhaps ten minutes before, and that’s the last memory I needed. Within a minute, she had told me that Aremid was gone.

I didn’t mean to glance, but I did see a small, soft white blanket draped over his body. Dr. S. cradled him and brought him to her car, and then she came back to check up on me and say goodbye. In the meantime, I had let Zellouisa out of the bedroom so Dr. S. could see what Z is like when she’s not at the vet, and so that I would try to focus on my one remaining cat.

I was at peace. I finally felt like I was doing…had done…the right thing. I felt no need to linger on Aremid’s death at that particular moment in time. I would soon enough.

Aremid’s last 12 hours went about as well as I could’ve hoped. He was alert enough to interact with me. He was hungry enough to eat a few bits of food. He stayed with me for that last hour, and he very much seemed as if that’s what he wanted to be doing.

Aremid's last day with me


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