Can you miss someone before they are gone? Is it really possible to “let go” and “prepare yourself” for the fact that your best friend will not be around much longer? I don’t think so. You can’t ever be prepared for something like that. And the situation is made worse by the fact that my friend’s death will ultimately be when I decide. It is my responsibility to take care of him to the best of my ability until it becomes selfish for me to keep him going. The little voice in my head keeps asking, “…but how will I know?”
I am, of course, talking about Jess. The furry gray man who has been my constant companion for the past 13 years, never judging me, never betraying me, loving me unconditionally no matter my mood or my weight. Never intimidated by my tears, ever patient with my emotions. Most marriages don’t last this long and aren’t this healthy.
He’s had a good life. He’s been adored. Blah blah blah, yes, I know. But why must it end so soon? First the diabetes, and now his little heart is failing. And I feel guilt, deep down, because he had none of these health problems in Texas. They started when we moved to Colorado a year and a half ago. I know that’s not logical, but it’s a fact and it hurts. Some have pointed out that perhaps he was “waiting” for me to find my human soul mate before he could let go. This is an incredibly romantic and sweet notion, but… seriously? He loves Robert too. Why can’t he live to be the ripe old age of 19 or 20, like some of my childhood cats did? Did his intense human-like personality simply wear him out? Did I wear him out? Did I draw on his goodness and strength to the point of draining him?
I have lost pets before. I had to let Meggie go a couple of years ago, and that was incredibly hard. I still miss her and often turn my head, expecting to see her steady gaze and hear her insistent, chatty meow. But Jess. It’s different. He’s different. It’s not that I love him more, but I love him different. He is more like a little man than a feline. Everyone who meets Jess loves him, cat person or not. He has converted even the most stoic dog lovers (Tam) and the extremely allergic (E.) into Jess-people. When I left him at the vet overnight a couple of weeks ago, when the techs brought him out to me the next day they said sadly, “…but he’s SUCH a good cat…” Yes. Yes he is.
I desperately hope, like everyone else with a loved one, that he will simply curl up on my head one night and go to sleep. I want him to drift off peacefully, absurdly content with his nose tangled in my hair and his paw resting on my cheek. But if that doesn’t happen, it is my responsibility to prevent his suffering, and I take that responsibility very seriously.
How will I know when it’s time? I think Jess will let me know, in his gentle yet persistent way, as he always has. I pray that he will.