What My Dying Cat Will Have Taught Me
This piece is dedicated to Flip the Cat, ~2007 — March 19 2021
Humans are compassion. Nay, Beings are compassion. Housepets were domesticated out of mutual reciprocity. In exchange for keeping vermin away, cats have been allowed to mostly lounge and get free food/water/shelter. It’s that compassion that we must remember as our loved ones slowly die. Dying is not a point in time. It is a process that takes time It is that time that hurts most in many ways. It’s the time telescope. In the moment and process it lasts forever, but upon retrospect we perceive the event with a much different sense of temporality. Another thing is our modern society’s go-go-go nature. 100–200 years ago and all the way back, it was not uncommon to be able to find the time to sit with the dying. John Mulaney hits on this note in his bit about “old times activities”. Our aversion to drawn out activities and processes feed our unhealthy fear of death and dying. We, in general, expect death to be an event that happens so that we can grieve and move on. That’s not how this works. Some who have lost very dear people in their lives even say that it gets harder with time. I argue that we must get back to being comfortable with the slow process of death and dying, and stick by each others’ sides througout the process. I also advocate for at-home end of life care. I don’t want to die of old age hooked up to machines, and I don’t want that for my loved ones, including pets (young people dying is a different conversation).
Here’s a bulleted list of the lessons before I distract myself too much.
- Dying is a process and it should be
- The kindest option is always care. Always choose it
- To save the dying’s dignity, it is ok to temporarily sacrifice your own
- One of the deepest acts of kindness is sitting in silence together
- We don’t need to speak the same language to communicate
- Knowing what I think about death and dying does not change the heartbreak, not should the thoughts change my feelings
The big takeaway today is about compassion. We only have each other, and we cannot leave each other behind because it feels easy in the moment. Life is hard sometimes. Sitting with your cat you’ve had for roughly 15 years as he slowly dies is hard. But I sat there with him out of compassion. He sat quietly by my side for many years, and I in turn sat by his side for as long as he needed to be ready to go. Take care of one another, even when caring feels hard.