Today we said goodbye to Rory Choi.
Rory was a cat. She was originally my cat, but since my marriage, she has firmly explained that she is really my wife's cat, and that I in fact belong to her.
In April of 2019 she was diagnosed with late-stage kidney failure, one of the most common 'old age' ailments for cats. The vet gave us a prognosis of 'months' and prescribed medications to manage her nausea and blood pressure, and subcutaneous fluid injections to keep her blood toxins down and reduce the load on her kidneys. We have been doing those faithfully for the past eleven months.
In the past two months, she has taken a noticeable downturn. Unable to really eat much, losing a lot of weight. So we've been on high lookout. Our criteria, always, was 'as soon as we can't keep her comfortable.'
It was clear last week that that was the case, imminently if not already. So on Thursday I made an appointment for the vet to visit on Sunday so we could help her on her way. My wife works Saturdays, and we wanted to have some time with Rory together before she left us.
Saturday she was staggering, and by Saturday evening she was unable to stand by herself. She didn't seem to be in pain, just very weak and unable to balance, and confused by this. She did manage to jump up into bed with us Saturday night, and we spent all night with her, spoiling her with attention which she accepted as her just due.
Sunday morning she was even weaker. I had to take her to the litterbox, and then hold her upright in front of her water bowl. She still didn't complain. I put her in her soft cat tent, and she curled up (with assistance) to nap. My wife and I waited for the vet, sitting on the sofa because when Rory opened her eyes (which she did every few minutes) she could see us there with her, and she would settle back to sleep.
When the vet and RN arrived, I took her out of the cat house. She was nearly limp, although fully aware. Normally, she fights the vets with great and furious anger - but that day, she was completely quiet and accepting. We held her, and told her how much we loved her. I explained that this was the last thing we could do for her, and she licked both our noses. That almost broke both of us. When the vets gave her the initial sleeping draught, we held her together and stroked her, and she purred as she went to sleep.
It's never easy.
But by taking on responsibility for that small life, I took on a responsibility for her death- the responsibility to make sure she lived as full and as long a life as she was able, and that she didn't suffer.
She didn't. Her fur was still glossy; she wasn't in pain. The timing ended up being perfect. She wasn't in pain, but she was tired, so tired - and she hung on for us. For me. She saw me through the worst, most horrible years of my depression. She saw me meet and court and marry my wife, who told me that early on, my relationship with my cat was one of the reasons she was attracted to me as more than a date or two - because, as she put it, 'Rory showed me how deeply you could love.'
This cat was given to me, handed to me as a kitten, by my now-deceased mother. Mom never got to meet my wife. But I feel that, through her agent Rory, Mom did in fact keep tabs on me - and Rory stuck it out until she could pass the baton on.
There is one ritual my brother and I observe, each time we say goodbye to a cat. I performed it live, through tears, on Sunday, and I'd like to do it here.
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here she lies where she longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
-Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson
Home is the hunter, Rory. Home from the hill. Rest now, and say hello to your brother and my mom for me.