Thoughtful Thursday: Facing Death
August 26, 2010
Picking up where I left off last week on the death of my cat…
When my husband arrived at the vet, we were brought into an exam room where they’d set out a plush purple blanket and our cat in her carrier. The assistant briefed us on the process, since neither of us had been present for a pet’s euthanasia before. We signed paperwork and decided what to do with her remains. The assistant asked, “Who’s going to be here when it happens? One of you? Both of you?”
I said, “Of course I’ll be here.”
DH said, “I’d rather not be in the room.”
The irony is that our preferences turned out to be the opposite of what actually happened. The vet was with another patient, and I waited as long as I possibly could (administering hundreds of kisses and snuggles in the interim) but had to leave for work, as a roomful of people that I couldn’t contact were waiting for me to arrive. I wanted so much to stay, but I absolutely couldn’t. DH stepped in and stayed with our sweet girl through the whole process.
I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that DH’s first impulse was to be out of the room, given his history of preferring not to be around for others’ medical procedures in general, but I was still taken aback since this seems different. If it were a human’s death, I would imagine that he would be present for a death if that’s what the person wanted, but that it wouldn’t be his preference to be there — depending on who, of course. We can’t really know what a cat would want, but given the possibility that she might have wanted loved ones present in her last moments, I presumed that I/we should be present.
I didn’t have any special desire to be present for her death, but it’s more that I didn’t want to be absent. I didn’t want to leave her alone, and I didn’t want any discomfort on my part to prevent me from doing what I thought was right or from supporting someone that has brought me great joy for almost a third of my life.
No one has ever died in my arms before — which makes me lucky, I suppose. I’m realistic enough to think that there’s a good chance that it will happen eventually, with someone. I have a little curiosity, and a lot of trepidation, but mostly I’m matter of fact, as usual. If I am needed, then I will be there, emotions aside. I kind of hope the day never comes, but knowing that various people in my life will someday die, and that some of them may want me there, I am also kind of looking forward to it. There aren’t many bigger expressions of love in this world than holding someone’s hand (or paw) as they take their last breath.
How do you feel about facing someone else’s death?