Letting Go

I’ve sat down to write this post too many times in the past few weeks. I’ve thought of phrases that I wanted to include, or pictures to post. I’ve had second thoughts. I’ve started. Then stopped again.

It’s an obituary.

My cat Birch is 16 1/2 years old and he’s going to die. Not like sometime in the future that seems unreal and distant, but imminently. For three weeks he’s been slowing down, eating less, then nothing. Drinking less, then nothing. He’s in kidney failure I’m sure, but he’s peaceful, and at home.

I know he isn’t experiencing his own decline in the same way his family is. He isn’t thinking about when he was a kitten, or the nine houses and two states he’s lived in with us, or his two trips across the Rocky Mountains in a moving van. He’s not thinking about the time he hid in the basement for a week, or his best friend Steve, or how he’s one of only two pets my kids have ever known.

I know he is comfortable, but slowly fading. When I check on him first thing every morning I feel bad when I see that he is still hanging on – another day of watching us through gaunt eyes, purring raspily. Another day when the decision to put him down is still mine to make, but I don’t make it. I’d like him to slip away quietly, at home, in his sleep.

It’s a horrible thing to wish death on your pet.

The kids went to visit their grandparents this week and I asked them to say goodbye to Birchie just in case. My son asked that if Birch died while they were away, I would wait and tell him in person.

I’m not looking forward to that conversation, but I am looking forward to peace for our gentle giant.

13 Responses to “Letting Go”

  1. Marianne Says:

    So So sorry you are going through this. It is the hardest decision to make. But you must do what is right for for your kitty. Birch will let you know when it is time and you both will have peace when the time comes.

  2. christie Says:

    oh rachael, i am so sorry that you are already feeling the heartache of his imminent loss. i know it is never easy to say good bye, and for some reason it is so much harder to have to say goodbye to our sweet animal angels. hopefully though, you will find some comfort and solace in the fact that you gave him a forever home, and all your love. some animals don’t ever get to experience that. he is a lucky cat, and i am sure if he could talk, he would thank you for being there for him, and loving him so much and so completely. (((big soul squeezing hugs)))

  3. Diane Says:

    How very, very sad for you. In April we lost our beagle Clyde who will be included in your calendar. It was sudden and unexpected and absolutely no words in the world would have given me comfort in those days. After we lost him I almost canceled the painting because it just hurt too much to think about but I also knew it would be the most amazing way to honor and immortalize him because your work is so beautiful and so personal. There’s no love as unconditional as that from a pet and my heart hurts for you and your family. I hope that sharing 16 years of memories and love brings some comfort to all of you. You’ll be in my thoughts.

  4. Kimberly W. Says:

    My heart goes out to you and your family. Losing a family member is never easy, even those with four legs and fur. And it’s especially hard to watch them fade away. To wish for Birch to pass away peacefully is not horrible. That’s a natural feeling for one that you love. I pray that God answers that prayer for you.

    You and your family are in my prayers as you go through this difficult time.

  5. Allison Says:

    My heart aches for you; I completely understand what you mean about wanting him to pass on his own, peacefully.

  6. Theresa Says:

    This is such a sad time. I have 2 senior kitties (18), that are still going strong, but starting to look their age. Aside from the fact that 1 wakes me at 4:00 AM for b’fast, then is looking for another one at the usual 6:00 AM, everything else is ok. My thoughts are with you, take care.

  7. Laura Says:

    Your post was so heartfelt and true to the reality about our pre-grief for our furry family members. I’m so sorry that Birch is declining but I think you are right to be grateful that he is at home for now. My prayers are with him and you.

  8. Amy thomas Says:

    I’m so sorry you are going through this. The loss of a beloved pet is so painful because they give so much love unconditionally. Thankfully you will akways have your great memories of the big guy!
    Thinking of you & your family. <3

  9. Birch's Aunt Amy Says:

    I remember when that scrawny fellow was presented to you as a wee kitten. Know that he was lucky to have you as a person.

    He will be missed.

  10. Sara Jorgensen Says:

    Rachel –
    I am so, so, sorry for your loss. My heart is with you. I’m not sure if you remember, you painted my cat Rocky for a Pioneer Woman contest earlier this year. Well, in sad coincidence my sweet Rocky passed today from what we think was kidney failure as well. She had similar symptoms to the ones you described in your post. It’s been a tough day, but I hope that Rocky and Birchie were able to meet today on the Rainbow Bridge to support and comfort each other.
    Sending you and your family many heartfelt hugs – Sara

  11. Nikki Says:

    “It’s a horrible thing to wish death on your pet.”

    I went through the exact same thing this past weekend and it is horrible and full of guilt and what-ifs and Am-I-Doing-The-Right-Thing moments. It sucks.

    I hope he goes peacefully and surrounded by love because even if the kids aren’t there, he knows how they feel. It’s in his heart. I know what you’re going through and I’m so sorry, Rachael. He’ll have lots of friends on the other side of the bridge, I’m sure. Love to both of you. Be strong!

  12. Linda Kriss Says:

    But what a loving family, a stable home and long life he had. We should
    all hope to be as lucky as your beautiful tabby. His spirit thanks you.

  13. Lindsey (aka modchik) Says:

    awww Rach my heart breaks to read this I know he just passed and even though you knew it was near it must be so hard after almost 17 yrs, what a special companion. I have never in all my life had the pleasure of owning a cat for so long. Peace Birchy.

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