Thursday, February 23, 2017

God's Love and A Soft Fuzzy Blanket

I'm not sure how it occurred really, this love of soft furry things.  Today I find myself cuddled up with a soft fuzzy blanket and it seems too lightweight as if it isn't right somehow.  I have these jackets that I love that are soft and fuzzy.  It is a texture thing with me I believe, as when in stores I am always touching blankets or pillows or jackets to feel how soft they are.  I am drawn to them as if they bring comfort some how like a mother's hug.  Today however, while I sit wrapped up and just exhausted with life in general, my favorite blanket isn't cutting it.

Two days ago you may have read we lost our Gabby.  Gabby was all cat just like people say boys are all boy.  I'm not precisely sure what that means but she was always herself.  She was seventeen which translates to about eighty four in human years.  She was like a teenager in the sense that she only really wanted to come around us if she wanted something from us.  She was like a little old lady in the sense that she was going to do what she wanted when she wanted.  For example; she knew where her litter boxes were but she would look at you even if you caught her in the act like, I know I have  have a litter box over there and I'm going to pee or poo right here.  I do what I want and you are my people who clean this up.

When she was younger she wouldn't really have anything to do with other humans except for my mother who hated cats.  Somehow she seemed to sense this and would always rub up against mom and try to win her over or being that she is my cat she probably did it just to tick her off.  A cat's attempt at sarcasm and jerkiness perhaps.  As she grew older though she would kind of be jerky to us and then be all angelic when other people came over.  It was pretty hilarious. 

She loved us like a teenager loves their overbearing, overprotective parents.  She was too cool for us but she did need food and water.  She also was protective of us.  She would scare off other animals when she was in her prime.  Other dogs and cats didn't stand a chance.  If a mouse got into the house, well, he could stay because she had no interest.  Lucy was our mouser.  She got so many mice even after she died mice were scared to enter the premises.  At least that is the story we tell, it is probably more likely that all the houses in the neighborhood got built up and the mice stopped coming from the fields to our house and sought their refuge elsewhere.  Gabby would take one look at a mouse and go the other direction. 

When we were sad, she was there to sit in our laps and comfort us.  When our Linus died she took his spot at the foot of our bed and she grieved his loss with us.  They had been friends for nine years as we brought him home once we lost our Lucy.  She was there for us through the birth of our son, the loss of my mom, and the loss of our number four.  She comforted and guarded and protected and loved us through so many years that I keep looking for her even now when we are mourning the loss of her.  I keep thinking I hear her meowing or that I will open the garage door where her litter box was kept and she will come slowly walking back into the house after doing her business.  I keep closing the doors inside the house then I remember that I don't have to anymore.  And yes, as I sit here cuddled up in my soft fuzzy blanket, tired and just worn out with life in general, I keep looking for her and wanting to feel the weight of her sleeping in my lap or nearby to comfort me in my distress. 

It seems silly to most I suppose.  I broke down at work yesterday when I first got there and all that happened was that the pharmacist asked me how I was.  Sometimes I think it is the days after a loss that are the hardest and not the actual day of.  The day of you are just in shock and running on shock and adrenaline.  The days after are when it seeps in and settles.  When the cloud just seems to have fully formed and decided to stay for awhile and rain.  It seems no accident to me that we have had rain yesterday and today.  It feels as if the heavens are weeping with us.  It seems so odd for her to not be underfoot and then I always lean on her more two weeks out of the year and this week is one of them.  The week of my mother's birthday when my inner demons come to call once again. When the struggle to put one foot in front of the other is harder and usually her fur catches my tears as I mourn another birthday my mom didn't get to have with me. A time when I replay every decision and try to align everything to make sure there isn't anything else I could have done for her.  This is my burden to bear and Gabby has always been there for comfort because I try to be so strong around everyone else.

Today we returned Gabby's food and medicine to the animal hospital. We also went to the store to buy things for cleaning up the garage where as I said before she went wherever she wanted.  We cleaned up after her daily but now it comes down to a complete fumigation process.  As if we need to remove all traces of her being there.  Our lives are changed so irrevocably by the loss of her.  But what is more is that our lives were so changed by having her and loving her and even if I had known the day and time we would lose her I still would have brought her home that day.  We were so blessed by having her.  That's the thing about love, no matter what form it comes in, even though it will cause you pain sometimes, it is always worth it in the end.  Love transforms us, it molds us, it helps us draw closer to God who is love.  I believe he designed it that way. Our love doesn't end when we lose someone or something it only expands to stretch to the other side. 

So this week I am sad but the sadness will eventually subside just as the clouds will part and the sun will shine again.  But my love for all of the blessings I've been given, well...that will last long after my time here.  In the meantime, I will find comfort in God's love and a soft fuzzy blanket.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Goodbye Gabby

Sadness permeates and settles into the soul really.  Like a dark cloud descending upon a day that was once full of sunshine and happiness.  It moves in dark and heavy.  The weight of it settling into your bones making movements heavy and awkward.  Rains come and pour down washing away everything in its path like a tidal wave coming on shore and taking everything the shore has to offer back out to sea with it.   It is so heavy and burdensome and yet....

Storms end.  Sometimes they seem to last forever with no end in sight and the heaviness seems almost crushing under the weight of it all.  Sometimes they are gone almost as quickly as they arrived.  But storms do end.  One way or another the end comes and with it the sun does shine again.  It breaks through the clouds in brilliant light.  It shines down through lifting and moving the clouds away.  At times when you look up you can almost see a robe through the sun's rays.  As though the Son has come to clear it all away and stand and survey the wreckage left behind.  For from wreckage can come great beauty.

I wrote the above last week when I was told that my seventeen year old cat was running out of options.  While once before she wasn't a good candidate for surgery because of her age, now she is in need of surgery to try and improve her life.  It was going to be a gamble but if it could improve her quality of life it was worth the risk.

Today my Gabby girl went in for surgery.  She had to be there between seven and eight in the morning and would be staying the night.  We took her in and brought her two cans of food for her stay.  We told her to be good and we loved her then we left.  We went about our day, dentist appointment, take the boy to school, go to the beach....

When my phone rang and I heard it was the vet I honestly thought, "Wow, my girl did so well that they are calling early to tell me about it."  I thought she was going to be fine and would have a weeks worth of recovery and then she would be good as least that is what I had hoped.  I just wasn't prepared, you know, I don't know how you prepare really.  Can you get use to losing those close to you?  I wasn't expecting the vet to say that when they opened her bladder it was full of cancer.  That there wasn't anything they could do for her.  There were stones sure, but the bladder was full of cancer and it would be the most humane to let her go while she was still under the anesthetic. 

She once scared a dog from our yard just by hissing and raising her back up.  That was at least fifteen years ago but that is what I remembered.  My oldest child was three and my middle child was about two when I brought Gabby home. My son doesn't know life without Gabby in it.  I don't know how to live in this house without keeping the doors shut because she's been old and sick the entire time we've been here and we had to keep her out of the bedrooms so she wouldn't pee on our beds.  I don't know how to do this.  It seems as if Gabby has always been in our lives, a part of our family and now she's just...not here.

As I rode in the car with my husband I could feel the walls going up.  I could feel myself disconnecting and shutting down.  I don't want to be that person though.  Not really.  I just, it's easier to shut down.  It's easier to disconnect to try not to feel.  I'm pretty good at it.  I shut down or I feel all the things all at once...and then I shut down.  I enter hibernation mode and crawl into my pit.  I thought about that but then I remembered what I had written down not even a week ago.  I realized that the heaviness doesn't last forever, the clouds do part, and the sun will shine again.  I know this from experience. 

It is supposed to rain tomorrow for most of the day and I keep thinking that even the angels are sad and they are going to cry rains of tears tomorrow just as we will for days to come.  I believe that God knows and feels our hurt.  I believe that we are not going through this alone because God will never leave us alone.  I also know that God has a way of making beauty from ashes and I don't understand how that is going to happen but I never do and yet he does.  I did not want to say goodbye to Gabby today. I didn't want to go home and tell my kids that the pet that has been around them almost their entire lives was now gone.  Today I did all of those things and tomorrow we make more decisions about her final resting place and we'll breathe in and out and pretend that our hearts aren't broken until we are back home when we can join our tears with the angels tears. 

Goodbye sweet Gabby girl.  We love you and we'll miss you always. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quality of Life: A Story About Gabby

Seventeen years ago I went into a pet store to look around.  We were living in my grandmother's house while our house was being built and my grandmother was living with my mother because her health was declining.  I had a preschooler and a toddler and somehow I ended up bringing home a kitten.  She was just so tiny and cute and when I held her I couldn't put her back into the cage. She was the cutest little calico fur ball and we named her Gabby because she 'gabbed' all the way home.

As she grew so did our love for her.  Once we were moved in and settled into our new house we happened to go into the pet store again.  This time there was a cute little white kitten with black patches and somehow we ended up holding this one too and were unable to let her go.  We brought her home, named her Lucy, and introduced her to her sister.  They did not exactly hit it off right off the bat.  Much like my Daphne was none too pleased with Megan when I brought her home, Gabby was not interested in having a sister either.  It took some time for them to become good friends and good friends they became. (Daphne and Megan are another story altogether.)

When I was pregnant for my son these sisters would essentially stand guard over me.  They would sleep near me while I sat in my rocking recliner watching A Baby Story and preparing for my baby while my girls were in school.  By this time I had a second grader and a kindergartener.  These fur babies grew alongside my babies.  When I had my son they were his guards when his sisters were playing or at school. 

When my mother became ill and was eventually diagnosed with cancer, they were there.  They comforted all of our broken hearts...even my mother's much to her dismay as she was always partial to dogs and not much of a cat fan. In July of 2004 my mother went home to be with the Lord and they would watch me fall apart in the depths of my despair.  When I cried they were there.

They were there for every birthday, every Christmas, every celebration, every argument, and every temper tantrum.  They were there for all the pet fish, all the pet birds, the newt, and the hamster.  They were there when we got a mouse in the house and I brought Gabby in to catch the mouse.  I put her right in front of the mouse who thought he owned my house and she took one look at it, sniffed it, and wanted to go back outside.  She had no interest.  I brought Lucy in and she chased it all night long and woke my husband up early with her prize on the stairs. 

The Easter following my mother's death Lucy was hit by a car.  We were all sad.  My beloved couldn't stand to see us sad so he asked a girl at work if we could get one of the kittens her cat had just had.  We went and picked one out. A long haired black kitten with a white patch on his neck.  We were actually told he was a she and we named her Lilly.  At "her" first vet visit we found out she was actually a he and changed his name to Linus. (No we never actually looked ourselves.  We took her word for it.  Also he was a long hair cat.)

Gabby was even less happy with a brother than she had been with a sister.  It took her some time to adjust to the idea.  Once she did however, they were inseparable.  They were two peas in a pod.  We had two girls and a boy in human babies and one of each in fur babies.  As Gabby grew older she spent more time with Linus than she did with us.  She would be in the same room but she wasn't really interested in us like Linus was.  Linus and I became best buds.  He would sit with me while I read books.  He would sleep at the foot of my bed.  He stayed near me after I miscarried my number four.

For a brief instance, they even had another brother when we took in a stray.  We named him Rerun as he looked just like Lucy.  Plus we kind of liked our Peanuts theme we had started.  But Rerun only stayed with us for a few months.  Once we got him fixed, which we only did once we were pretty sure he would stick around, he took off and we never saw him again.  We looked everywhere for him to no avail. 

Gabby and Linus were our comforters and they were each others best friends.  When Linus was killed by a stray dog, Gabby mourned his loss with us.  Where Linus had sat beside me while I read, now she sat in his spot.  While I cried myself to sleep at night she slept in his spot at the foot of my bed.  We saw each other through.  She had been with us through it all.  Our twelve and a half pound cat who loved eating and tried to take walks around the neighborhood like a dog was now our only fur baby.

A year ago we moved south to warmer territory.  It started before that though.  She started not going in the litter box.  She started declining.  Our girl, we realized, was getting older and we hoped she would survive the trip.  She has continued declining much to our dismay.  Our sweet Gabby who has been with us for so long and through so much is now seventeen.  She has two stones now in her kidney and essentially gravel in her bladder.  She also has hyperthyroidism.  Our once twelve and a half pound kitty as of today is now seven pounds and one ounce.  Her coat is thinning.  She looks frail and she pees blood.  Her Cat Chow that she once loved is a thing of the past as she now has to have special food for her bladder.  We've been dealing with this for months.  Today we found out it is getting worse.  And where before they talked like surgery wouldn't be a good option because of her age, now we are discussing quality of life and if surgery is worth the risk if it could improve her life if she lives through it.

Quality of life....interesting words when you think of them.  No one seems to discuss quality of life until life is coming to an end.  Why is that, do you think?  I'm no stranger to loss.  Our family at one time was losing so many that I though the funeral home was going to start offering us a group rate.  End game talks are not new to us.  They never get easier.  It seems to me though, that perhaps we should start talking about our quality of life while we seem to still have a lot of life left to live.  I don't know....just a thought. 

I keep thinking about We Bought a Zoo.  They discuss the end game for the big cat.  I keep hearing Scarlett Johansson saying that they are in so much pain but they can't tell you.  That you can see it in their eyes.  My cat who used to see a vet once a year for shots.  My cat who has grown up with not just my kids but me as well.  We've all grown up together essentially.  We were so young or maybe it just feels that way now that we are older.  My sweet Gabby who hated getting into her carrier actually fought to get back into her carrier while in the vet's office today.  She has been there more in the last year than any of us care to remember. So today we got more meds and made a tough decision.  Tuesday we will take the gamble.  We are going to try surgery and see if they can improve her quality of life.  They can't do anything about the kidney stones but they can hopefully take care of her bladder. 

I don't know how this goes.  I know that I can see it in her eyes.  I know that it is bad and I know that I can't say goodbye...not yet...not without trying everything.  I'm selfish.  I want her here with us for as long as the good Lord allows her to stay.  I have to know that I did everything I could because I haven't always been certain of that in other cases.  The doctor said it is routine and that while she is old she also doesn't have any other options.  She has had a good life.  She has had a family who has loved her.  She had a sister and a brother to love.  We've loved her even when she frustrated us and she didn't really like us. 

So here we are, once again in a place we don't much like and I come to you dear ones; our family, our friends both new and old, our beloveds who read and follow along with our family's crazy antics and our struggles and I ask you for your prayers.  I know that God already knows the outcome and I know that he will sustain us no matter what comes....good or bad. I know cats can't live forever and I know to some maybe she is just a cat but to us she is a part of our family.  If you could spare a prayer our way we would be grateful.