and the way it happened was… sugar died peacefully at home this morning, curled up in a corner with loving family nearby.
i couldn’t put her down. i woke up this morning and prepared for it. the vet called me back with an appointment time. i called my mom to make sure sugar was still alive and how the night went. and something about the way she was talking, i just knew it wasn’t gonna happen.
my mom takes a passive stance on death, she refuses to make the big decisions. but if you listen you can hear her point. it became clear to me that what she wanted was to take care of sugar until it’s her time. masked in “it’s up to you”s and ideas about how maybe God will take them at the right time… but this, combined with how peaceful sugar is… i just couldn’t do it.
she is weak, she is tired. she can’t move very much, but she still sashays her tail around when you talk. she responds to noise. she doesn’t appear agitated or labored. her breathing is slow and deep. all her life she has been anxious and tense when you hold her, but now she just lays comfortably. and she lets you know when a position change is in order.
maybe it’s these vegan documentaries i’m watching, thinking about peaceful cohabitation with animals, and the cruelty that they sometimes see. it’s definitely that she looks peaceful. and it’s for sure about bearing witness to the experience of watching my aunt and Grama die. i know now that if someone is going to die, they will die in their own time. sometimes it’s about coming to terms with life, or death, or spirituality, or relationships. i don’t know. ever mysterious. i understand the humane aspect of putting an animal down that is suffering. i’ve done it before. but she appears so peaceful that i just don’t think i can interrupt her dying process.
is that weird?
i’m a different person now. death demands my attention, my patience, my respect.
so take your time, sugs.
i got my very first cat on my own when i was 21 and living in a house with 5 rotating roommates. she was all white and half persian, found through a co-worker at the answering service. yes, telephone answering service. what a relic. i intended to get a boy, i never had a girl cat growing up. but when i went to look at the 4 all white kittens, the boy had a crooked tale and this little girl was perfect. i took her home and didn’t name her right away, it took a few days. i was reading a book, something toni morrison i think, and read a line about brown sugar. sugar! and that was her name.
dainty, lovely, perfect sized, beautiful, aloof, my little princess. she was a feisty little thing as a kitten. i let her be an outdoor cat, though the regret came quick – she got into a fight with some kind of animal and came in with her cheek bitten and beginning to swell. i didn’t know if she’d make it. but anti-biotics and my roommate shari’s willingness to drain her puffy cheek by hand got her through. she had more adventures – getting stuck on a rooftop across the street, dropping dead mice at the doorstep, and general tough outside kittie cat business. she always lived with one or two other cats, so she was never lonely, but very private. she’d only really allow me to pet her when i shut my bedroom door and no other cats or people could interrupt. when i moved to an apartment facing a busy street, she lost interest in going outside. she’s been an indoor cat ever since.
when i got my first studio apartment, living alone for the first time, it was just her and i. she got very needy! in addition i was doing full time day school and ft night restaurant/bar work. i wasn’t home too much and she was demanding. one january when i took a vacation, i brought her over to my mom’s to be catsat. when i came to get her she hid from me. i tried a couple of other times, and gave up easily because i really didn’t have the energy to be a good mama at that point in my life. i was overcome with guilt for a long time after that, and my mom’s style of passive aggressive cat narrative didn’t help. i came to terms with giving her up when in 2007, i catsat for a friend who was going to europe. she eventually let me keep her 2 cats and i was thrilled. sometimes cats need a new home for unordinary reasons. so technically, today, i have 3 cats. louie and mazzy live with me, and sugar lives with my mom, stepdad, and sister. they have spoiled her rotten, giving her and spunky (their other cat) treats every night, canned food on a regular basis, and constant supply of water with rocks (ice water), which she entitledly dips her paw into and with much grace, licks off to her liking.
but today will be the last day i have 3 cats. if she doesn’t die tonight, i’m gonna put her down in the morning. i’m pretty fucking sad.
she’s been losing weight for about a year, but things have gone downhill quickly in the past few weeks. she’s scrawny now, i can’t imagine that she weights more than a couple pounds. she’s listless and weak, but still perks up sometimes. i had planned to put her down when she stopped eating but in talking about it as a family it just didn’t seem right yesterday when she was still attentive. but she’s 15 years old. all our cats have died of old age and kidney failure, and this looks terribly familiar.
what i told my sister the other day was that it’s both good and bad that i just experienced 2 significant people deaths in my family. both of them begged to be put down, but they were in pain. sugar doesn’t look like she’s in pain, but she’s losing all muscle control and it’s just sad. i think when she was wobbly but still able to move around and drink and eat a little bit it was ok. but at this point, it’s time.
the other thing i told my sister is that what i know about death is that you just have to love them as long as they can understand, and then try your best to provide a peaceful passing. i learned that from Barb and Grama. i found myself angry with them on my ride home. angry with them, angry with God? angry at whoever is greedily taking away precious beings from my life. i was angrily shaking a proverbial fist and threating, you better take good care of her.
peace to you, sugar. you are so very loved.
what i liked so much about take two was that things got more specific and i could visualize them better. since my friends had such a positive experience with it, i decided to do the activity with a couple of my groups. one group is outpatient chemical dependency treatment for men, the other is inpatient for women.
now it’s been a couple of weeks, so i’m not so much on the details right now, but it was interesting. it really plays on your sense of hope, and depending on what you’ve been through in life, hope can be a precarious emotion. though we started by talking about new years resolutions, hopes and dreams, i built on the curriculum over the next couple of weeks with discussions about goal setting and how cognitive distortions (negative, faulty logic) can get in the way. it made for great discussion.
it was important for me to bring up ideas that have come out of my past experiences with goal setting. a few short years ago, i was vehemently anti-goals of any kind. sometimes life takes us places where you find yourself in situations you never thought you would be in, suprising yourself by making decisions you never thought you would make. i have been there. i systematically ruined my faith in myself and my integrity to the point where i really didn’t see anything positive about setting goals and making promises that i couldn’t trust myself to keep.
it takes a long time to rebuild trust and integrity. i don’t disclose a lot of specifics about myself in groups, but if i’ve been through something that to me seems like a no brainer elephant in the room that nobody is bringing up, i’ll do it.
the most striking thing i found in doing the lists activity in my groups was how vague and short-sighted many of the goals were. but it’s a reminder that dreaming big is a luxury of people who are stable and have their lives together. i’m thankful to be on this side of it. but i also really enjoy the part of my job that involves re-igniting the hope that comes from dreaming, even if it’s just for a little while.
technically this first list is a continuance of take one. my original list for 2013 written from a place of sadness and fatigue went like this:
- i want to get crazy vulnerable and deal with my fears and discomfort in a relationship
- take my boards
- form an Adler study group for my boards
- solidy work friends
- 1 more tattoo
- do at least 1 community ed class per season
- take a dance class
- go to a coffee shop and read the city pages twice a month
- keep blogging
- take 2 one-week vacations
- challenged, creating, collaboration at work
- finish my presentation on social interest and present it
- create and present a powerpoint on mixed race identity
- go to john’s workshops (my favorite professor does quarterly workshops for alumni and students)
- stop victimizing myself
there’s nothing inherently wrong with this list, it just lacked the hope and joy i was looking for. the energy was all wrong.
the morning after i made this list, i flew out to philadelphia to spend new years with good friends. i was telling them about the lists and they were super interested. they decided they wanted to do the activity themselves. i thought, hey, why not? the first try didn’t go as i had hoped so lets try again!
very close to midnight, we started in on our lists. they wanted to know all the rules and regulations about it, as if i had them. no rules. again, just 2012 in review and hopes and dreams for 2013. it was interesting because each of us did it a little differently. aaron somehow uses his telephone calendar really well and was able to go back through the year with major events mostly chronological by month. i made a much longer list for 2012 review, included a lot more details, big and small milestones. for some reason i don’t want to display 2012 here so i’m not going to. but i felt better about it.
we stopped around midnight to cheers with sparkling water and swedish fish (don’t ask because i don’t know why), and decided to play some games. we eventually went back to trying to continue to finish 2012 and start 2013 lists, but the moment had passed for me, and i was disappointed again that i wasn’t having the experience i wanted. so we watched some tv and went to bed.
i got up early the next morning and enjoyed a little quiet time and a cup of coffee with chris’s new keurig (i want one really bad but i’m having trouble justifying it!) and decided i felt like finishing my list. i would be flying home today and was hoping we could compare notes over breakfast later. morning is my time – i’m full of ideas and inspiration, and my new list poured out, organized, pretty much in one shot:
- add in regular classesd (yoga, weights, step)
- use my personal training sessions (i’ve had about 12 paid for since 2011)
- begin to buy organic
- summer shop at farmers market
- 5 mins of quiet meditation 3x/wk (or more)
- journal 30 mins 2x/wk (or more)
- monthly budget
Trying New Things
- take one (or more) community ed classes per session
- take a dance class @ 4 Seasons
- go to dinner or coffee shop – one new place at least once a month
- take 3 trips – to oakland, dc, and then something in the summer with friends
Get Outside My Comfort Zone
- make plans with friends once a month (or more)
- pursue 2 new friendships (or more)
- open a craft night group on facebook
- host or go to one creative event per month
- finish the soulmate secret (an awesome practical book about making room for love in your life)
- keep dating brian (or someone just as compatible or better)
- continue the practice of being open to a relationship
- blogging weekly
- taking leadership at work
- enjoying workouts for endorphins
- deconstructing my masters project into 3 seperate presentations
- submit a portion of my masters project for publishing
- work on a black excellence campaign at work
- finding myself in relationship with my dad
- take licensing exam
- home improvements jar (an idea from natasha – put your projects on slips of paper in a jar, and when you have an afternoon free, pick a job and complete it)
it was an awesome way to start the new year! i felt refreshed, hopeful, and fulfilled. being with these friends always lifts my spirits, and we laugh so hard (i wheeze) and just get ridiculous. everybody needs friends and laughs like that!
i came home ready to conquer my life and the world.
today sucked. so many things have been going on lately. one of my goals for this weekend is to do some serious blogging 🙂 i’ll be playing catch up, i’ll continue the saga of the lists… but for tonight, just this.
during the first few weeks after the deaths of my aunt and grama, i got obsessive about reading and writing about grief. i engaged fully, i dove in head first to connect with my grief. lately, i’ve intentionally taken time off from that. i think i engaged so fully so that i would be able to put it aside for intervals and move on with life. so now i read the blogs that i follow, but i don’t search for grief anymore. except sometimes. and tonight i happened upon a couple of things.
there’s a woman who has been blogging about her dying daughter for over a year. as i was browsing grief for the first time in a few weeks, i happened upon the notice she posted that her daughter died today. i looked back over her blog, and saw she posted a lot of pictures over the past couple of weeks along with detailed slice-of-life narratives. it brought me right back to my aunt. i hated those moments, that whole phase of waiting to die time. yet, i’m still so drawn to it. i can’t pass up a story of someone else talking about it. i don’t search for it often anymore. but i’ve been aware of this woman’s story for several months, and i’ve always wondered, when is it gonna happen to her? the haunting.
then i found another woman’s blog who is working through feelings about her mother’s alzheimers. and i think back to my grama. you know, right now i try, and it’s mostly natural, to think of them in good times. smiles, laughter, i try to put aside the dying process, the end. but sometimes i can’t. i’ve been reminded a lot lately about that terrible phase, the feeling of knowing it’s iminent, but not knowing how or when… and so resigning myself, steeling myself to accept the present and keep moving. i accepted some shitty shit with grama. i sat across from her knowing she didn’t know who i was. before that, i sat with her and saw her struggle to remember my name. and i pretended that that was fine. i’m your favorite person, i’m your loyal granddaughter… but you know… that’s fine. and before that, when she remembered me… coming to visit on her last birthday, only to have her lean over to me twice and confide that she had plans to kill herself. and i pretended that was normal, too. to protect her.
but who protected me?
i think that’s as much as i want to get into tonight. today was a bad day. traumas and triggers and activation. i’m connecting the dots.
where do i begin? i suppose on the friday before new years. i joined a tradition with a couple of friends who make a list of things that happened the previous year, and a list of hopes and dreams for the coming year. on that friday, none of us were in a very good place emotionally, and it was late. we pulled out our lists from last year – my hopes and dreams for 2012 written in late 2011. overall, pretty general – make new friends, eat more mindfully, enjoy my workout, date/take a lover/have a relationship, blah blah. there were a couple of specific hopes i did accomplish – graduating and getting hired at my internship site. that was cool. but i was overall underwhelmed by the types of goals i had – too vague, too lame.
anyway, once we looked at the hopes and dreams from last year, we had to write a new list of what actually happened in 2012. i’d been dreading this moment for a while. sitting in a little booth and perkins with two good friends, it took me a good couple minutes and a face full of tears to get my pen to write:
auntie barb died.
i knew there would be something about it. the acknowledgement of writing it on my list. how many times have i poured my heart out on this blog about it? yet writing it with a pen on my list made it very real.
“that happened,” i said aloud, after i finished writing and crying.
there were other sad and happy things on the list. some notable moments: my tattoo, dad’s visit, retiring from distance running, good work accomplishments, and starting a gratitude blog that turned into a grief blog. as i was looking it over, i realized that 2012 could be summarized in 4 short statements.
school and work.
everything fell apart.
earlier in the day, i had pictured a more transformative experience in getting to write the hopes and dreams for 2013. but the energy at the table was not celebratory, and it didn’t have that melancholy but hopeful vibe i was waiting to transition into.