This post is four months, two days, and approximately three hours overdue. On July 9, we lost our beloved Jeoffy. We’d known for some time that his life was winding down; pancreatitis flare-ups were wearing him out; his increasingly severe arthritis was making getting around difficult, though he’d figured out how to let us know when he needed to be carried up or down the stairs. At a few months shy of 16, he’d finally started to look just a little bit like an old cat.
The last few weeks before he died were good ones for him; I asked myself if perhaps we’d been catastrophizing. He was bright-eyed and cheerful, loving his food, loving us, his mother (Lyra), and sisters (Jones and Aoki). Jones stuck very close to him in the last weeks of his life; I thought it lovely that siblings could fall in love so completely at such a late stage in their lives after having been only relatively close beforehand; in retrospect, it seems like she knew what was happening. Jones stayed close in his last hours; for two weeks after he died, she refused to move from his favourite spot on the sofa except to use the litter box.
The morning of the day he died, he was as happily engaged with life as he always was except when feeling particularly unwell from his pancreas trouble. At noon, I went upstairs to meditate; when I came back downstairs an hour later, I found him collapsed and trembling in agony on the living room floor. As I frantically texted our vet, I tried to figure out where the pain was; it was in his abdomen and I could barely touch his fur without him crying out; he did a thing he’d never done in his large and loving life: He growled at me and staggered for a few steps before collapsing again. By then, the vet had cancelled her other appointments and was on the way. I took Brook away from his work meeting and we waited.
The last thing Jeoffy asked of me was just to leave him alone; for his sake, I’m grateful that when Brook gently pet his head, Jeoffy purred a little, that he could ask Brook for something more. When the vet arrived, I just nodded at her; it was clear that whatever was happening with our boy, there was no coming back from it. She examined him to be sure; it wasn’t a long exam. We stood back a bit while she looked him over and all I could think was, “Look as long as you can. Look as long as you can.” Over and over, just that.
There was nothing to do but end it, so we did. After the injection, Brook and I laid on the floor with Jeoffy until he was gone. And for a long time after he was gone. Eventually, we let the vet take him away with her, wrapped snugly in a blanket.
Fur babies are the only babies I’ve ever wanted; it’s no help to know in advance, to accept beforehand, that they will almost certainly die before we do. It’s no consolation to know that Jeoffy, who had a heart bigger than the whole damn world, taught us to love more widely and deeply than we ever had before. He adored everyone he ever met, including raccoons as they tore shit up on our back porch, or random stray cats that inspired only bristling fur and trash talk from our other kitties. He was kind and gentle and present; when Columbo was dying, Jeoffy lay next to him and looked as long as he could at one of the many friends he loved.
There is no consolation. There is only the choice to keep loving even though we know our hearts will be broken again and again. There is only making the choice to never stop loving, to go in without reservation over and over. To know that having Jeoffy even for a moment, though we were fortunate enough to have him almost 16 years, is worth everything.