Saying Good-Bye to My *Real* Firstborn
We had just returned from a harrowing 30 hours at the hospital with Drew — an ordeal I will share with you when I have the strength later this week, but I will spoil the ending: he’s on the mend now, thank goodness — when I looked around the living room, struck with a sinking feeling in my stomach.
“Where’s Marcy?” I asked Mr. Candy. It wasn’t like her to not run down the stairs the second we walked through the door — especially considering I, her favorite person in the world (if I do say so myself), had been gone for a couple of days. I was on high alert because Marcy had been having coughing fits for a while now and, although I’d tried to convince myself she just had allergies, I knew in the back of my mind that it could be a symptom of something worse. Way worse.
When I found her lying at the top of the stairs, a strange place for her to take up residence, she was breathing heavily. Her frame, once full and fluffy, appeared alarmingly gaunt. We attempted to lure her with her favorite dinner; she sniffed it and attempted to take a bite, then turned away.
“Should I take her to the vet?” Mr. Candy asked. I nodded, choking back tears. This was my real firstborn, the kitty who hopped into my lap and wrapped her paws around my arm when I met her eleven years ago — choosing me and thus throwing my original plan of getting a male kitten straight out the window. The kitty who kept me company when I first moved to Los Angeles, comforting me when my dad had his stroke and being one of the only constants in my life as I got married, moved several times and had two kids. The kitty who adored being walked on a leash — purring as soon as I would get it out — and cuddled beside my baby bump when I was pregnant. This was the kitty who allowed Skye and Drew to do pretty much anything to her without protest, including putting blankets on her like a baby, smothering her with vice-like hugs and (accidentally) falling on her. The thought of something being wrong with this cat, this one-in-a-million pet, was more than I could bear.
Later that night, I got the call from Mr. Candy: Marcy had heart failure. Already exhausted from our stay at the hospital, I could feel the floor fall out from under me. As I attempted to mute my sobs, Mr. Candy explained that we had two options: drain the massive amount of fluid from her lungs to give her more time or put her to sleep now.
“How much time would she have if we drained the fluid?” I asked.
“About a day,” Mr. Candy said, trying not to cry himself.
Dying from heart failure is a miserable way to go, causing the pet to painfully gasp for every last breath, so we made the heart-wrenching decision to put her to sleep. Mr. Candy said his good-byes, then came home to stay with the kids while I went to the vet to have my last final moments with my sweet Marcy. Even frightened out of her mind and mildly sedated, she purred when they laid her in my arms. After we had our alone time, the vet came in to end Marcy’s suffering. I was the one who was there when she came into our life and I wanted to be there for her when she left — so I held her as they euthanized her. Marcy laid down on the blanket on my lap, just as she had done countless times before, and within seconds, life escaped her body. It was peaceful…and yet so very haunting.
But this is how I choose to remember our girl: sweet; fluffy and clean (thanks to her OCD cleaning habit); full of life; and unbelievably tolerant of a three-year-old’s hug-slash-stranglehold and her mother’s strange penchant for kitty hats. Our crazy family won’t be the same without you, Marcy.