In 1994 I struck out on my own. I left an unsatisfactory marriage, the apartment we’d lived in for 14 years, and began working in a new profession. In other words, I changed everything. All. At. Once.
Yes, I really shook it up. In tarot terms, it was my Tower year. Everything exploded and came back together in a brand new way. It was exciting and terrifying and, I never regretted a single decision.
I built a life I loved. I got an apartment on the edge of a trendy, fun, neighborhood. For the first time in my life, I was free to decorate an apartment to reflect who I was, without compromise. Thinking about it now, that’s how I lived, for a few years anyway – without compromise. I was my truest, most authentic, self. And I loved my life.
There was heartbreak, for sure. Minutes after being single-ish, I entered into a relationship that could only end in disaster. It did. On my 35th birthday, plunging me into the deepest depression I’d experienced to that point. I got help. It got better.
One of the things that made it so much better was the 9 month old Catalescent I’d adopted. Morgan became my baby and my partner. She was the most social cat I’d ever met, and grew into 12 pounds of kitty-love, which she poured over every one she met.
On her fourth day of living with me, she tentatively crawled into bed, snuggled up next to me and there she slept for the rest of her life. She had a way of tucking herself against me, pushing, so that when she relaxed she made the maximum contact of her body and mine. She had a gentle purr that was more felt than heard, and that vibration put me to sleep every night.
In time, I met Tim, and he moved in. At first she was appalled that he took over her side of the bed, and she wasn’t sure about this whole situation, but that didn’t last long. She accepted him into her colony, and he became hers, as she was mine.
A few months after that, we adopted Kali. A scrappy kitten who was too much kitten, at 16 weeks old, and not enough cat, for the person to whom she’d been given as a gift. We took her in.
I remember the very first time she met Morgan. This scrappy little kitten sauntered out of her carrier, looked at the very full-grown Morgan, arched her back and hissed. It was hilarious. Morgan’s response? She lifted one paw, and whacked the little one on the head. This continued for 4 days. Morgan would hiss, Kali would hiss back, Morgan would whack her upside the head. Kali wasn’t stupid. After a scant 4 days, she figured out that when Morgan hissed at her, if she just sat down and was quiet, Morgan would stop.
It was as if Morgan threw her paws up in the air, and with a very resigned expression, knocked Kali down, held down with one paw across her throat, and bathed her from nose to tail. Kali was now hers, as was Tim, as they were all mine. That was the dominance order in our family (at least according to Morgan).
Kali and Tim bonded the way Morgan and I had. Kali would crawl on his chest every night and look at him with her translucent green eyes with adoration. It was as if he hung the moon and all the stars just for her. And did it every night.
When Tim had his car accident and was in the hospital and rehab for 3 weeks, she walked around bereft. She meowed, she looked for him, she took to sleeping in his closet on his laundry bag, on top of his dirty clothes. I couldn’t bring myself to wash them, because she needed to be in his scent.
We moved to Florida. Tim and I and both cats in the cab of a U–haul for 3 days. The girls were troopers. We’d let them out in the motel, they’d run around all night, and back in their crates in the morning.
They loved Florida. They loved to sit in the screened in patio, on the two chairs we’d bought for ourselves, and watch the world go by from the safety of their screen. I, however, hated it there, and 2 years later, we packed up and moved back up north. Again, my two little troopers made the journey to Schenectady.
We moved 4 years after that, and 4 years after that and 2 years after that. Each time, they were curious and adjusted. They made friends with our friends, watched the birds in the feeders we’d set up for their enjoyment (CAT-TV on 2 different channels).
The years passed. Where do they go?
In July of 2011, Morgan got sick. We didn’t know what was wrong with her, and suspected many things, but it turned out to be cancer. For a year we did everything we could to make her comfortable, ensuring her quality of life, but in July 2012, we couldn’t do it any longer. Morgan was ready to go, and we let her. It was one of the saddest days of my life, but I knew it was her time.
I felt like a hole had been ripped out of my chest. A huge, gaping, raw hole. My constant companion of 18 years was gone. And it didn’t seem possible. Or right. This was a big wrongness to my world. There still is.
There was a big wrongness in Kali’s world too. She started acting out in ways she’d never done before. The super fastidious cat, who would have gladly changed her own litter (but that’s another story) stopped using her litter box. She went on antidepressants. They didn’t do anything but make her sleepy. We tried anti-anxiety meds, which did help. But a part of the Kali we knew and adored was gone.
She rejected Tim completely. Would not stay in his lap, would not let him hold her. She was inconsolable. She would let me hold her, briefly. Our morning “pet and purr” (I would pet, she would purr) sessions were about mourning Morgan. She would cling to me, and I would cry. She would purr and nuzzle her face into my elbow. And then she would go back to her basket, where she would stay, only coming out for bodily functions and food.
Last week, she developed trouble breathing. We brought her to the vet, who diagnosed Pleural Effusion. Her chest was filing with fluid, and not allowing her expand her lungs. We had him drain them, and her breathing went back to normal. Now to see how long it would take before the fluid built back up. Maybe a week, maybe a month, maybe a few days. She got 24 hours.
On Wednesday, we brought her back to the doctor. He listened and heard the same thing I’d heard. She couldn’t breathe. Her chest was filled with fluid again. There was nothing we could do. She was suffering and terrified, literally gasping for air.
We did the only thing we could do. We ended it for her.
Also called mercy killing. the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, a person or animal suffering from an incurable, especially a painful, disease or condition.
I cling to this definition. I know it was a mercy. I know it was the right thing to do. I would do it again. It’s part of the contract I make with a pet when I adopt them, that I will never let them suffer if there is anything I can do about it.
Kali is not suffering, she would have. Left to her own devices, she wouldn’t have made it to today.
Kali’s passing brings me right back to Morgan’s passing. That hole that had scabbed over is right back where it was last July. I miss both my girls, both for themselves, and for the way of life they represented. My last thread of connection to the life I’d built, by myself, on the fringe of the trendy neighborhood (which has become so trendy as to be unaffordable).
And so it is the end of an era. I will mourn, I will grieve, I will move forward, but never move on.