December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)
A lot happened in 2010. Some good, some not so good, some bad. How to pick just one moment to describe for the Reverb10 project was at first hard, until I focused on that one phrase, felt most alive. For me, that moment had to do with death.
Our beloved 18-year-old cat, Jazz, had to be put to sleep on November 17th, less than a month ago. He was old...I don't even know for sure how old in cat years--90-something?...so it was not that this was unexpected. He had been having kidney problems for several months and had been getting subcutaneous fluids every day at our vet's. But the only way--for a long time--that we knew anything was wrong was through the blood test results. He was still acting like his normal self up until the last few months. He had Siamese in him and had that characteristic caterwaul of a meow, but was such a lovable old guy. He spent most of his days sleeping in the sun--how he loved the warmth of the sun!--and would sit on anyone who would give him a lap.
The week before his death, he had been hospitalized. He just wasn't dealing with food in his normal way: he'd come out to the kitchen and sit patiently by his dish, and look up expectantly as I spooned food into it, but then when he bent down to smell it, he'd react as if it were rotten. Dr. Wendi said that frequently nausea is a side effect of renal problems, so initially, he was going to stay overnight to get IV fluids. That overnight stretched into a week as they took his blood daily and sent it to a lab for more precise measurements of his BUN and creatinine levels which were dropping every day. Finally, Dr. Ryan said that we should take him home because the levels had somewhat stabilized and although they were abnormally high still, he would probably do better at home.
Three days later, it was obvious he wasn't doing better. He was having problems walking--listing to one side, running into things and falling down--and wasn't eating at all. The night before the 17th, my daughter and I sat with him on the couch. It was so quiet in the house. Jazz just wanted to rest, just wanted to sleep but his body was jerking and tic-ing. These were neurologic problems that he had had for about a year but it had never been this bad. In the beginning, we had noticed a little tic, a movement of his head. Then a few months ago, he began to sometimes jerk out a leg as he was settling down to sleep. But that night, his head was jerking so suddenly, violently, and randomly that he couldn't lay his head down to sleep. It was agonizing.
The next morning, I called and talked to two of the vets. We all knew it was time to help him die. The picture above was taken about an hour before we left for the vet. He lay on the wing-back chair in the sun and was somewhat at peace, I think. He wasn't tic-ing just then. He slept in the warmth next to the window, purring a bit when I petted him. I sat on another chair next to him and watched him sleep, knowing that in just an hour..less, even...he would cease to be. The knowledge was so painful.
I'll spare you the details of his actual death, except to say it was quiet, painless as far as I could tell, and very, very sad. Dr. Mike was wonderful with all of us, especially my daughter. But in that moment of his death, I felt, FELT, my alive-ness the most.