I have been taking an awful lot of hot baths recently. At least one a day.Not because I need to relax, although I do enjoy a good blissful soak...and not for the purpose of getting clean - I prefer to get clean in the shower - not that you asked. It's because of my best friend - my little feline sidekick, my constant companion for 18 years. It's her absolutely favorite thing to do in the whole world. She doesn't get all the way in the bath with me, of course. No self-respecting cat would get all wet on purpose. She lays on the shelf in the corner of the tub on her folded-up towel, swirls her tail in the water, and occasionally leans in for a few sips of "hot tea". And she purrrrrrs...
She has been a fixture in my life since my senior year in college when she and her 2 brothers were brought to me by one of my apartment-mates. These three squirming little kitties were newborn and, according to him, motherless...so I hand-raised them. Bottle feedings every 2 hours, several baths and blow-dryings a day...if you've ever done this, you know what I'm talking about.
So, I have been responsible for this sweet little creature for most of my adult life. Her comfort, her health, her safety, her nourishment...and now, I find myself making the choice of whether she will live or die. An almost year-long battle with a very aggressive cancer put me in this position, and I've had a long time to think about it. None of which prepared me for the reality of making the final decision, though. For weeks I have been agonizing about whether it is "time". People kept telling me that I would know...and today, I knew. So, I have exactly 13 1/2 hours left with my precious little girl. I am emotionally all over the map - mostly just heart-broken, a little angry that at one point I had to make a decision about her treatment based solely on my ability to pay for it, content in knowing that my schedule worked out that I was able to spend the last couple weeks as her nurse, tending to her every need, appreciative of her gentle spirit and the preternatural connection between us.
I am no longer wishing for her to hang on a little more...that time has passed. What I'm wishing for now is the ability to filter through and CHOOSE what to feel. I have often told people that we (warning: cliché ahead!) create our own reality...it's not what happens to us, but how we react to those things that shape our experiences. In this moment, I truly know how much easier it is to say that than it is to practice it. However, in the interest of not being a hypocrite, today I will do my best to focus on the following emotions:
I choose gratitude for having been given 18 years with her. I choose relief, knowing that I don't have to worry about her condition, how much pain she is in, and whether I'm doing enough. I choose awe, because through the power of modern medecine, I have the ability to gently and lovingly put an end to her suffering. I think mostly I choose to be thankful that I have had the time, over the last several weeks, to honor her by making sure that she has everything she needs, and is as comfortable as she can possibly be. So I've been taking an awful lot of hot baths recently. At least one a day.
In Memory Of:
Cantina aka "Toonies"