I have been thinking about death. In the past year death has taken on a prominent place in front of me. This winter Whirl saw her cousin die of brain cancer. I had my own confrontation with death at the same time. Last night Whirl and I put Elijah down.
We first noticed changes in his behavior a couple weeks ago. This disease moved quite swiftly— mercilessly. The final lab results came in yesterday afternoon and showed that Elijah was suffering from a highly aggressive carcinoma in his gut. He had considerable interior bleeding, blood in his urine, and several large cysts on his liver. He would not have survived surgical treatment, and chemotherapy would probably have killed him faster than the disease. As of yesterday, he had stopped eating entirely—although he really has not been eating or keeping much down for the past ten days.
I do not want to be overly maudlin or angry in telling you this. It was tough—is tough. When we went to see him last night, he was alert and very affectionate. He had his loud purr going. He looked better. He seemed better— until I touched him and saw the distended belly. Until I felt the bones of his spine. Until I witnessed the weakness that was all through his body.
I miss him. I was with him until he died and then stayed for a long, cumbersome time after, to remove his bandages and to say goodbye. To say thank you. Just a few months ago he helped me. He stayed with me and watched over me while I struggled to get back on my own feet. He has been with us for ten years. Only weeks after Whirl moved to Chicago we adopted Elijah and his brother from the Harmony House for Cats. These two cats have been an extraordinary part of our family. We have nursed him when he was sick or injured; we played with him when his fickle, feline demeanor permitted us to. He loved to curl up next to me on the couch.
Elijah will be cremated. Whirl and I will spread the remains in the garden just to the south of our building.
I miss him so very much.