I’d never done this before, and now was the time to start.
Aborting work to a coffeeshop nearby my mother’s house, I placed the next thing-to-do in the back pocket of my mind. Studying a film schedule and list of scenes for this weekend’s music video shoot put me in half the state I needed to be in. I wasn’t fully there. The mocha was ok, and beckoned of sugar I had abandoned in the last month. Why the hell did I buy a mocha? Possibly because the caffeine rush hits me softer than straight coffee- maybe because I wanted something that felt like a reward for making it this far in the day- making it this close to a gesture I’d never given any living thing before.
My mom calls, “I’m here. You wanna just pull up and get her with me?” I comply because it’s what I drove down here to do, and backing out now would… well, it’d sever a few well-worked-on ties my mother and I have sewn over the past month, and it would put me in a hole I’ve had one foot in for some time. The past months have winded through my chest with the fervor of a whirling dervish and hasn’t stopped. I’ve been riding the proverbial lighting, and if I back out of this now, then surely I will have bucked myself off.
I will not be bucked off.
I arrive to my mother’s house, silent and still in my mind, I walk in. Henry, the family Golden Retriever, hustles head first into my knee cap. I stave him off and take him to the front door where he’ll utilize the front lawn as his personal public restroom. I walk to the basement door, open it, and- “Raaaaahhhhhhh”, she cries. Stashi, our family cat of 17 years looks distantly into the basement stares, withered and outside of herself. “Hey baby” I speak softly to her. I pet her lightly as her back arches and tail coils like petting is the last thing she’d ever wanted on this day.
When I put Jack in the box to go to the vet, he yelped and meowed so deeply & loudly, it damn near wrought me to tears. His passing was untimely after being stricken by a car and then having to be euthanized when the surgery didn’t help. However, with Stash… she knew. Somehow she just knew.
I placed Stashi in the traveling cat box, and there she sat silently. She’d brush her nose up against the sides of the box for some form of pressure, but that was it. The brushing of her face was unconditional- she brushed it against the doorframe, my sleeping face, tree trunks… Henry’s sleeping face. She was fearless like that.
I pick up the box and bring it to my mother’s car. What feels like an hour of traffic later, I land to the vet a few minutes after my mother. The woman at the front desk points me in the direction to the room my mother and Stashi are sitting. By this time, I’d almost put it out of my mind that this was happening, that we’d scheduled the visit, that it’d be the last moment with our own lil’ squirrel terrorist and rabbit chaser. And then the walls of any hospital, whether it be for humans or animals, are inescapably singing a harmony of your mortality. Things become just things as you give into the song of the hospital walls, and meaning for fruitless thoughts dissolve into oblivion. The walls keep you true, and this final moment with Stashi will bring my mother and I closer together, as it will bring me closer to an inescapably authentic reflection of the man I am.
The room is small, box-like almost. One couldn’t fathom this room serving any other function than what we are there for. What matters most, is that we are there. Throughout my lifetime, my mother, bless her soul, has made this voyage 5 times. And 5 times she has placed a last kiss, spoke final words, and given an ultimately ending caress to our families pets. For me, it was easy to say goodbye to our past dog and cats. I’d walk in the house, say goodbye, and then leave them. My final interaction was seeing them alive in the family house, or playing with something. The reality and responsibility would have to be confronted, and today was no better day than the last to do that.
A knock at the door came. Stashi delicately tipped to the door as it opened. Her left eye half shut, back left hind leg limping, and her back as skinny as a malnourished street cat, Stashi meowed at the doc. Placing her on the table, you could see the energy and light missing from her eyes. Somehow she just knew.
In the final days, or damn near past year since Jack passed, there was something removed from Stashi. I don’t know if it was because she missed her homie Jack, or because the last Summer was just a pain in the ass to move around at the age of 17, but she had slowed considerably. Now, she’d only meow for food, and incessantly meow more even after her feeding. I took as her trying to tell us that she wanted to go, that she wanted to move on to the next. Perhaps Jack had spoken to her in a lucid cat dream of the paradise that lay on the other side, and Stashi knowing no other was to communicate that by way of meow was somehow telling us that she longed to not only be there, but to be there with him. Yeah, that’s definitely it.
Before she was euthanized, we chose to have her sedated. Finding a vein in a cat ain’t easy, and it sure as hell isn’t a pleasure for the cat. The doc lay a tray of delicious food in front of her. I have to see this, I have to be here. As Stashi feasts, the doc injects something of a tranquilizing nature in a pinch of her back skin. I must see this, I must be here. Stashi continues to feast until her hind legs give out. Still licking the tray, her front joints dullen to the ability to carry her weight. Still licking the tray, the doc removes the tray, as she looks out at us, now licking the air. I will be here, I will see this. And that’s all she wanted… food… and peace.
I kissed her on the head with tears falling from my face, and stepped out of the building. My mother and I hugged at the car for a little longer than a usual hug. She passed on the experience to me. 5 times she has been here to do this with our family pets, and now for when I raise my family, I know I will be the one to do the same. There is an amazing honor in being with a living creature as it passes, a humbling solar-plexus shaking power you submit to.
And so today, Stashi passed on to that paradise in the sky with Jack.
And that’s all I ever wanted for her… food… peace… and to be with Jack.
All my love forever and then some,