Friday, December 9, 2011

We Mourn the Sudden Death of Max, Our Beloved Cat-Person

On planet Earth, over a quarter of a million humans died yesterday. In fact, that many people die every day. It's impossible to grasp the significance of this fact. Aside from the obituaries, only one or two of these deaths were mentioned in news reports that day. But each death is a loss, affecting the people who knew and cared about the individual.

My father died in a senseless car accident 45 years ago. He was taking his usual country road short-cut on his way to work. It was just before dawn. The other car failed to stop at a stop sign and t-boned the driver's side of the car. Dad was killed instantly. He was the father of eight children, and his death was not only deeply felt, it caused enormous consequences in the lives of my mother and younger siblings. His death was sudden and unexpected. One day he was playing with the kids in the front yard.

The next day he was gone. Forever.

My cat Max died recently. He wasn't among the quarter of a million humans who died, but his death mattered to me. The relationship I had with Max for fourteen years was one of the most important relationships of my life. I expressed my love for him often.

He and I had a morning ritual called "drinkee." Max slept with us every night. When I got up in the morning, Max would run to the sink and ask to be lifted to the counter. He could just as easily have jumped up, but he liked being lifted. I would then turn on a trickle of cold water for him. The ritual had two parts. First, he would step into the sink and drink from the faucet. Drinkee. Then he wanted me to pet him thoroughly. After a while, he'd take another drinkee. Then more pets. I couldn't shave until he was done with our ritual.

He was my TV buddy. I got this wide-screen HD TV so I could watch sports, movies, and science documentaries. Max would settle next to me in my recliner and watch all these programs with me. If I had cheese and crackers, I shared my cheese. If I had popcorn, I'd give him little pieces that he swallowed whole.

He had the most expressive face I'd ever seen on a cat. He had more than a dozen distinct, recognizable expressions. I could tell what he was thinking just by looking at his face. No language was required. His most common expression was, "I love you, Dad."

It happened like this...
  • Afternoon the day before, Max scarfs down his dinner.
  • Next morning he's late for breakfast - maybe the first time in his life.
  • Later, he chases a cat toy, then takes a nap.
  • That evening, he won't touch his food and eats only a little of his favorite treat.
  • When Kathleen notices he's panting abnormally, we take him to the emergency vet.
  • His condition declines quickly. Max seems in pain and is having a hard time breathing.
  • The vet takes X-rays and explains he has a cancer tumor that is causing his chest cavity to fill with fluid. The fluid is pressing on his lungs so that he can barely breathe. She says without an intervention he will die that night. The intervention will be painful and will give him only another week. Other more radical options ruin his quality of life. No scenario has him living more than a year. She said he had probably coped and disguised his condition for some time.
  • So we say goodbye.
  • At 1:30 AM we go home without Max.
It's a strange thing to continue my life routines without him, because he was a special cat-person, a member of our small family. The whole episode was bewildering because it happened so suddenly. One day he was getting his drinkee and playing with cat toys.

The next day he was gone. Forever.

We know how to grieve, and we'll create a special memorial for Max somewhere on our property. Kathleen said she might want to plant a dogwood tree in front of the house.

Meanwhile, I'm going through the motions, slumping towards acceptance and ultimately, affirmation.

More about Max...

Kathleen mourns

Max - My Role Model for PATIENCE

My Buddy Max, An Intelligent Life-form

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .


Elizabeth Westmark said...

Denny -- I have been away from blogs, but am inching toward returning yet again. Once again, our lives seem to be on parallel tracks with you and Kathleen in many ways. We had to say goodbye to our Maggie two days before Thanksgiving. We have not yet reached the affirmation stage, but I know it is out there somewhere.

Our hearts touch yours on the sudden loss of your Max.

I will email you my new site when it goes live next week.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Loosing our beloved pets is so painful. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

My heart aches for you. I know exactly how you feel. My own cat, my darling Oscar died one week ago today of Renal Failure and I miss him (and our morning ritual) with all my heart and soul.
Know that you are not alone in feeling like this. Your beloved Max will always be with you in spirit.
Peace and blessings to you and yours.

Unknown said...

My big seal point cat, Max, was killed by a coyote this year. A poem by Sandi Pray (twitter) helped a lot:
"Moth shadows
blowing out the candles
I disappear"