Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Hardest Decisions


This post is dedicated to my cat, Gryff. I lost him yesterday. On an orange towel. In a vet's office as tears streamed down my face and a tissue appeared in front of my eyes. (I still can't write this without crying.)

I adopted Gryff 15 years ago - a month before I started graduate school in Los Angeles. He has been my best friend, traveled with me from LA to a tiny, dark apartment in San Francisco, and then down the Peninsula. He put up with one husband, one very large dog (who has since gone) and two overly-loving and energetic boys.


A month ago, Gryff developed a severe upper respiratory infection and blood tests revealed more serious underlying health problems. Over the past month, he's had good days and bad days - increasingly more of the latter. Yesterday, I made the decision to let him go. To help end his pain, his suffering, to not prolong it with well-intended pokes and prods.

My mother told me that she wished she could come with me. My father asked if anyone could accompany me. My sister offered me a telephonic hug and wished she was there. My husband said that he wished he could have gone with me.

But this was something I needed to do alone. This was the hardest decision and it was mine.

I remember reading that "Jack", the bulldog in the Little House stories, had a much longer life in the books than in real life. Laura Ingalls Wilder chose the timing of his death in her stories because it signalled an end to her childhood and the beginning of adulthood.

That is how I feel about Gryff passing. Leaving Gryff was, in effect, leaving behind my young adult years. The freedom. The ability to put off truly hard decisions. To not look truth too closely in the face.

And so this post is about Gryff. And how I will miss him. How my backyard already seems empty and lifeless despite fluttering butterflies and chirping birds. How I won't find him lounging in the shade under the tomato plants. How I won't have a furry little body at my feet as I type.

This post, though, is also about me. And about you. About how we are grown ups now. About how our country and our planet are sick. How the hardest decisions are ahead. There will be tears, financial struggles, illness, and all the things that a changing climate, a loss of biodiversity and a dwindling energy supply will bring. We have the strength inside of us, though, and the will to make those decisions. We need not put off the inevitable any longer. Need not dodge it for a few more years or pass it down to the next generation.

We have the strength, the fortitude to examine issues and see the truth - not what we want to see or what the media wants us to see or what a political party wants us to see.

To look at our food system and see not just cheap, plentiful food but pigs that are raped and beaten, downed cows that are kicked in the face, or a dead zone that spreads from our country like a cancer.

To look at our educational system and see teachers who are underpaid, children without physical education or recess, schools that are crumbling.

To look at our energy usage and see that mountaintop removal is ugly and deadly and wrong. That drilling for more oil to temporarily alleviate (10 years from now) the price of gas is prolonging the inevitable.

To look at our planet and realize that we have reached the tipping point. That the Arctic ice will not come back. That the polar bears - whom Sarah Palin does not considered "threatened" - are so hungry they have taken to eating each other. That we cannot bury out heads in the quickly melting ice any longer.

To look at our homes and know that we have too much, that we are lucky, that we do not need that gadget, this year's shoes or that toy for our child. To know when enough is enough.

So, I will take a moment of silence for my dear departed friend. And in that moment, I will also thank him - not just for being a friend, for being with me through anything and everything, but for signaling my adulthood.

I am now all grown up and must make the hardest decisions.

37 comments:

Simply Authentic said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I put my cat of 17 years down last Christmas and still from time to time wonder where she is. But you're right: it does signal an end to one phase of life. What powerful words. Puts me to shame, but forces me to take a deeper look inward. What a good point.

knutty knitter said...

You're lucky he had such a good end. The first cat I owned as a student lived 16 years and moved about 5 times, got jealous of my husband and survived the advent of the first child.

She didn't survive the fight with the possum. We could hear her screaming but couldn't get to her in time. That is a sound I never want to hear ever again!

We now have chainsaw who is 14 and was found as a kitten pinching my sisters dog food. Their dog was elderly and petrified of cats so we got him as he was a stray.

We also have Skillsaw (Skilly) who was found in my brothers rubbish tin. She was only a few weeks old so we gained another stray. She is now 12 and possibly related to Chainsaw - same location and almost identical markings (pure tabby).

Hope you get another great cat. There are so many that just need a home to be part of.

viv in nz

Burbanmom said...

Oh Michelle, I'm so sorry. Losing a beloved pet is akin to losing a family member. My heart goes out to you.

Lovely post. It is time we all grow up, nut up and do what has to be done to save our planet for future generations. So that they may have a carefree youth as well.

betweenbabies said...

I'm so sorry. It's so hard when you've had a pet that long, you really are losing a family member. My parents have a beagle who is 17 years old, and I'm terrified of the day that they call me to tell me she's gone. And it really is hard to hear that you should just "get another" pet, because they weren't "just" a pet.

I also agree with what you have said about growing up. I've become so aware over the past few years of the things I never knew were troubling our world. I'm still sometimes skeptical, but I realize that even if I'm skeptical, I still have to consider the possibility and do something positive myself to change what MY impact is.

Bless you in this time of mourning, and I hope that you and your family can lean on each other for support.

Electronic Goose said...

This post was beautiful, and it made me cry. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Our critters are part of our families and it has to be one of the hardest decisions to make. I teared up just reading the post, thinking about how I would be feeling if I was writing this about one of my kitties, they are my buddies, and I know they will eventually go, but I don't like to think about that.

But you do make a good point, this symbolizes a "changing of the times" if you will. We all have to grow up, make the hard decisions, and be willing to struggle along the way.

Stephanie said...

I'm sorry. :(

Robin said...

I'm so sorry. We had to put our dog down in May; he was 13 years old. He was the bridge between who I was and who I am now, and I felt like I had lost an anchor. I wrote about it then and reread it for the first time just now, and here I am, crying all over again. It's so hard.

I admire how you are able to use that emotion as a source of strength. Thinking of you today.

Melinda said...

Michelle, what an amazing post. Beautiful. I'm so sorry you lost your kitty. Two years ago I lost my dog, Grace, who lived with me through all the growing up years. 16 years. And after she died, I did change. I did feel like I was in a new phase of my life. To put her to sleep was one of the hardest things I've done, and I still tear up thinking about it. But it was the right thing to do, and she lives on in my heart.

And we are grown-ups now, you are right. We're not playing in the sandbox, we're playing in the real world, with real people, real lives, real creatures that suffer needlessly every day. Thank you for that reminder that this is real, this is adult, and this is bad.

Joyce said...

I feel so bad for you! I know we face the same decision in the near future, and at our house I think it will be the transition from childhood to adulthood for my daughter, whose kitties they really are. I'm not looking forward to that day, especially for her sake.

kale for sale said...

Gryff was a lucky cat to be loved so beautifully. I suspect he's still at your feet and always will be. Thanks for your wise, and yes, grown up words. They are quite powerful.

Lisa Sharp said...

I'm so sorry for your loss! Sounds like you gave him a wonderful life. Sending you thoughts, prayers and hugs from Oklahoma!

Sphere Trending said...
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eco 'burban mom said...

Oh, that made me tear up. I am so sorry for your loss. Why the furry ones can't live on with us breaks my heart. I have an 11 year old labrador that has been with me as a single parent, put up with 4 boys as part of a new family, a new puppy, a bout with cancer and even a cat. I know her days are numbered and we cherish each one. Like Gryff, she has been my constant companion through thick and thin. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Wonderful post to make us step back and appreciate life of all kinds - furry, feathered, fins and all.

jennconspiracy said...

*hug*

You'll miss him for years. You'll always wonder. He was a well loved cat and you can take comfort in the joy you brought each other.

Heather @ SGF said...

I'm so sorry. I can only imagine what it is like to lose a little one you have loved and cared for for so long. Sending lots of hugs...

Donna said...

What a beautiful post. Lots of hugs to you and your family! I confess to never having loved a pet like that (OK, I've never even had a pet!), but from friends and family I know what a special part of life they can be.

I thought the observations you drew from your experience yesterday about growing up were right on. I've never thought of it quite like that, but you're right.

elbales said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. It's so hard to lose a pet, but it's clear he had a good life and left you with many memories to treasure. Thank you for creating such a lovely memorial to him.

My own older kitty is almost 19, and it will be time to let her go soon. It never gets any easier. My heart goes out to you.

Cindy said...

GB, I am so so sorry for the passing of Gryff. His beautiful picture made me cry. I don't know how hard it must have been for you to make the hard decision, but I can imagine it. We have a 6-year old dog. I cannot picture our days without her. My mother put her/our cat down and swore off any more pets because she could not handle the pain. Animals become a part of our family and stay in our memory forever.

You are absolutely right. Being an adult means that we are willing to face the painful facts in our lives (instead of running away) and work toward finding solutions. We can't live in a fantasy land, wishing all the bad things will just go away.

Every one of us is responsible for the goodness and the sickness of this world.

Abbie said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your cat. My sister-in-law works at a vet's office and says these are always sad, but it's happy because these animals are ones that were loved and had good, long, happy lives.

Allie said...

Oh, I'm so sorry to hear it! Sending good thoughts.

Bugs and Brooms said...

Oh GB. I am sooo sorry! It is so hard when we lose a pet - they are really part of our family! I had to put down my own cat a few years ago due to a rare mouth cancer - it was the hardest thing I have ever done. Your loss has made me cry and my thoughts are with you and your family as you move through this terrible time. What a wonderful picture of your baby with Gryff - I hope that you have lots of photos like that! We also have 2 dogs (and 3 other cats - we spend too much time at the Humane Society) and my daughter is best friends with one of the dogs. I am already dreading the day that these animal pass - it will be a very sad day to all of us especially her.

And you are right about facing reality and being grown-ups. We all have tough decisions to make and they will be hard and test us to our limits. But we can do this and do it as an entire nation - world. We can be united without compromising our personal ethics. I truly believe that!

Beany said...

I'm sorry about your loss. Gryff looks like such an adorable kitty.

Theresa said...

I'm so sorry Green Bean. You gave Gryff the kindest departure, peacefully and with love. Thank you for being his lifelong companion. So many animals don't get that kind of forever home. How compassionate of you to use your loss as a catalyst for change and to encourage all of us to keep working on the changes we must make too, together. Namaste to you and to Gryff.

Mary said...

My condolences. Your beautiful words made me think of my beloved dog and cats that have yet to be replaced. Pets are our best buddies on so many levels. I miss mine even today.

Chile said...

I'm so sorry to read it was time for Gryff to go. As do many others here, I know how hard that decision is and what it's like to sit on the floor at the vet's office and watch the light go out in your dear one's eyes. (Remembering Purty is making me tear up now...)

But, you're right. It's the responsible decision and the action we must take as adults. And so is moving forward in a new and changing world, still occupied by too many people who continue to act like they're in the kindergarten sandbox.

ruchi aka arduous said...

Oh, I am so, so sorry for your loss. But I'm glad that Gryff is no longer suffering. Big hugs.

Green Bean said...

Simply Authentic: It shouldn't put you to shame. We're encouraged as a society not to look too closely. I'm sorry about your kitty. I'm pretty sure I'll still be looking for mine come Christmas. :(

Viv: Oh, I'm so sorry about your first cat. I was happy that this was the way Gryff went - painless, in my arms. I would love to adopt another cat but unfortunately, my youngest is asthmatic and allergic to cats. I knew Gryff would be my last kitty for many years which made it all the harder.

Burbs, Electronic Goose and Stephanie: Thank you for the good thoughts.

Betweenbabies: Yes, you cannot simply replace them. Some pets are more special than other - touch your heart more. But I do think sometimes, when you've healed a bit, another pet can help ease the void. Maybe.

Jennifer: I hope your buddies have many good years ahead of them!

Robin: Thank you! I appreciate your thoughts and the comraderie.

Melinda: Interesting to hear that you changed too. Just sitting in the vet's office, waiting, I felt like I was closing a door on my youth and opening a door on responsbility.

Joyce: Thank you so much for your words here and on Facebook yesterday! It is so hard. My parents took in my sisters' pets when they went to college and those cats passed away within the last two years. Gryff was the last of the trio - we got all of them within a couple years of each other.

Katrina: Thank you for the image. I'll think of Gryff at my feet, purring, when I feel lonely.

Lisa: I so appreciate the virtual hug from Oklahoma!

EcoBurbs: Oh, your pooch sounds so much like Gryff in that you've shared so many life changes with her. They become even more than a pet and a family member in those cases. It is almost like they hold your memories, your struggles and successes for you.

Jenn: I appreciate that from a true "cattie".

Donna, Allie and Heather: Thank you for more virtual hugs. I love this community - through thick and thin.

Elbales: I wish you a few more beautiful years with your kitty.

Cindy: I can understand the desire to swear off pets. Losing them is so difficult. But I don't think I could do it. I wouldn't want to miss on all the wonderful things too. Though it may take me a while to jump back into the pet thing. It's hard, as you know, as a mom of young kids to find the time and I doubt I would bond with another pet like I did with Gryff but still . . .

Abbie: I guess you are right. At least that is the good thing - that pets like Gryff were truly loved. Thanks for the vet's perspective.

Bugs: You do spend too much at the Humane Society! ;-) I never go there or we'd have a household much like yours. And you are so right. I do believe that we can fix all the things that need fixing - and do it being true to ourselves which is really the only way to live.

Beany: Hey! Good to hear from you! And yes, wasn't Gryff a cutie! The softest fur ever, I swear.

Theresa: Oh, thank you. That brought tears to my eyes. It really did.

Mary: I suspect, like you, there will always be a hole in my heart for Gryff.

Chile: "light go out in your dear one's eyes" - what an accurate description. That is exactly how it is and it is such a difficult but necessary thing to be there to witness it.

Ruchi: Thank you! I wish that hug was physical rather than virtual but I'll take it. :)

MamaBird said...

Oh, GB, I am so sorry for your loss. I am with eco burbs, your post is so lovely and filled with heartache it made me cry. I have so loved the pets I've been lucky enough to have in this lifetime, and leave it to you to turn your private pain into a lesson for all of us. It *is* fascinating, becoming the adults or elders in the world. And remember to let yourself grieve...

CatHerder said...

Im so sorry for your loss. I lost my 22 year old Angel, 10 year old Casey, and my Siamese Sushi from heart disease all within 4 months, it was devastating. We ALWAYS do what we can, even if we have to take a loan to take care of them, but we know the time is up when they are suffering, its just not fair to them. We have 5 strictly indoor kitties left in the herd, thank the stars all healthy at present.......so sorry again, and ps, love your blog

CatHerder said...

OOPS, i mean TWENTY year old Casey!!!

Melanie said...

My heart breaks for you; I am so sorry. We lost dear Puss after nearly 19 years on 12/7/07. We got her when I was 7 years old...it was definitely the death of my childhood. They are with us for much too short of a time...

BerryBird said...

Oh, GB, I am so sorry for your loss. I had to let the beloved kitty I got in college go two years ago now, and I still cry every time I read a story like yours.

Joan said...

Like many of your other commenters, I, too, have been through this so I have a clue of what you are feeling. It made me cry as well because we will be facing this same terrible decision soon with our Newfoundland. I hadn't thought about whether I'd be able to write about it on my blog, but your words have certainly given me much to think about in the meantime. Thank you.

Crafty Green Poet said...

so sorry for your loss, it is so difficult to say goodbye to a loved pet.... I like the wisdom of your post, the connections you make...

April said...

Thank you for another thoughtful post. I am so sorry about the loss of your kitty.

Green Bean said...

Thank you all for the virtual hugs that continue to flow in. It means a lot to know other people understand, have been there, and care.

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