Saturday, November 01, 2008

Goodbye to a Friend

My best friend died today and life is going to suck for a long time.

I'd visited Simone earlier today at the hospital and outwardly, she seemed fine. She rubbed her fuzzy black head all over me and I gave her coat a good brushing - her favorite thing. She opened all cabinet doors, pulled out drawers and even gave herself a bath while I read an ancient People magazine.

Then, they took her away for an ultrasound. The vet - an incredibly kind, cool woman named Erin Miller - called me later at home to say that Simone was "one sick kitty." Besides liver failure, her lymph nodes were enlarged, her gallbladder was irritated and her pancreas was just plain "angry." Still, they had a plan - liver biopsy, blood transfusions, pain medications and so on. I said 'yes' to everything, knowing full well the bill would climb into the thousands.

We made plans for me to visit Simone tomorrow and I hung up. In anticipation of houseguests next weekend, I began to clean the house for about 20 minutes. The phone rings and it's Dr. Miller again. "I think you better get down here. Simone just took a big breath and collapsed. She's on the table right now and we're giving her CPR."

I broke several speed limits racing to the hospital and the Dr. took me in to the operating room. There were four people working on her but she was clearly gone. Her skin was all yellow and tubes were everywhere. I asked them to stop and thanked them through warbly tears. Dr. Miller then scooped her up in a big, leopard-print blanket, handed her to me and motioned for me to follow her.

We walked down a long hallway into a quiet room clearly designed for this very situation. Cushy couches and lots of Kleenex boxes. I sat there weeping and cradling my kitty for a very long time and the good doctor sat with me, telling me how impressed she was with Simone's toughness. Dr. Miller let me ramble on about various memories and laughed in all the right places. Those people are saints, I tell ya.

Eventually, I handed her limp body over to the doctor and that was incredibly difficult. Even though I had lifted up her head and could see that her soul had checked out, stroking her fur had been a comfort - at least physically, she was still there.

Next, I was given options (yes to biopsy, yes to ashes) and signed another enormous bill. Then, I made a couple phone calls and eventually left the building with my empty cat carrier.

Now I am home and the apartment is horribly still. Thankfully, I have long-made plans this evening and they couldn't be with more suitable company. Laura moved here this summer from Chicago and we were pals in San Francisco. It was she who told me long ago of a wild black kitten that needed a home and did I know of anyone?

Simone was feral and beyond feisty when I picked her up on New Year's Day 2001 - the first day of a new century. Because she was so wild, her keepers warned me, "Let us know how it turns out. You can always bring her back." I made it clear: "You don't understand, I'm taking her HOME." I promptly named her after another fierce and beautiful black creature - Nina Simone - and that was that.

Words just don't fit around the expanse of my sadness and I'm so glad this little black cat crossed my path.

Goodbye, Simone.


Lisa said...

I'm so sorry.
Love you, Lisa

briannawoon said...

Very sorry, Heather. Thinking of you and kitty.

Mrs.X said...

My heart is breaking for you and the loss of such a wonderful friend. You gave her a great life and I'm certain that she loved you for it as much as you loved her. I will give my kitties a kiss for Simone and for you tonight.

Many hugs.

Kath said...

Oh Heather. So so sorry :-(

Genie said...

Such a beautiful cat! I'm so sorry you had to lose her. As an avid fan of black cats, I can attest to how superb they are. Many electronic hugs to you!

hotdrwife said...

I am so, so, so sorry for you. I fell in love with Simone the first time I met her - she was an amazingly wonderful cat. Such personality! What a brave kitty, and what a brave mama.

Here's a favorite pic of mine of your friend:

I'll be expecting your call when you need someone, or you planted firmly on my couch if you are needing company.


quirkychick said...

So sad, so sorry for your loss, that empty house is the worst, but the memories that make it so sad will be good to have always and forever.

Love you.

ClizBiz said...

Many thanks to everyone - these kind words help right now. Especially knowing that most of us have had to say such goodbyes to a pet at one time or another. Still, it never prepares you for the unique sense of loss. That unconditional love is hard to do without.

Anyway, send more Kleenex - I'm going through it like crazy.

Renewed said...

Oh Heather! I'm so sorry. I teared up just reading your post. For anyone who odesn't understand the relationship between a "mommy" and her baby (cat, dog, hamster, whatever), they need only to read your post to Simone.

Love you girl. Let me know if you need anything.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if you remember me from old Grunion days. (Kath of the Pete's employee department!)
I feel for you right now. We lost 2 cats this year (we still have one - an amazing black one!) We lost one the day after my birthday, the other was 18 years old, and geez... I can't tell you how horrible that was... oh yes, you know and understand. That is why I have to tell you my heart goes out to you. Our 1 black cat my have a heart problem.. I personally can't take losing another. They are an amazing asset to our lives, and really leave us as better people. Huge Hugs from Maine to you.

Kathleen Teager said...

Oh, Heath, I am so very sorry. When I lost my 21 year old Opie 2 years ago, I thought I wouldn't ever be able to breathe normally again. He is still in my heart, and in my mind, and so Simone will be with you, forever.
Much love, Kath T

Maria said...

Heather, I'm so sorry! I know what a good friend she was and how much you'll miss her. Let me know if there is anything I can do...

Xa said...

Heather- My deepest sympathies. I'm thankful you had a chance to say goodbye to your feisty kitty (took after her "mom"). It is amazing how much our furry (and non-furry) friends provide to us silly humans, how much we measure our lives by moments we share with other creatures. I hope we can do the same for them.

Also, I'm glad you had a kind, caring vet who understands the bond you have with Simone. It sounds like she did what she could to ease this journey for both of you.

ClizBiz said...

Wow. I'm very touched by all the great words of support here. It just goes to show how much human-animal love is out there. If we could bottle it, we could save the world.

Elizabeth Glass-Turner said...

She was beautiful. I'm sorry!

rosalicious said...

Oh Heather, I am so sorry about your kitty...having been there all too recently, my heart hurts for you.

Sometimes there is just nothing we can do but let them go to that big old peaceful catnip patch in the sky.

I'm thinkin' about ya, as a fellow animal (especially black kitties!) lover...hang in there.

Anonymous said...

I'm very sorry to hear about your cat. I recently had to put my cat down. It was the first time I've ever had to choose life/death for an animal.

I stayed with her until it was over, and cried out loud like a baby.

I'm having a hard time dealing with the fact about what I chose for her, even though I know it was for the best. But who am I to decide/choose what is "best" for another?

Anonymous said...

Deeply saddened. I am so sorry.


laurie said...

Heather, I am so sorry. Losing my dog this year was terrible. My life is so different without him and I hate it. Still...of course wouldn't trade the experience. I just wish they lived longer. Not many people will take these cats on as you know and I love that you did it (not that I'm surprised) and gave her the kind of life you did. (and that she gave back that amazing friendship.) Love you - laurie

ClizBiz said...

Rosie - I LOVE the idea of a 'catnip patch in the sky.' Thank you!

Anon: I totally agree with you - that is a tough choice in deciding another beings' life or death. Your kitty must have been very, very sick for you to make the choice you did, since it's obvious how much you loved her. You are a brave soul.

The fact that Simone just took a big gulp of air and keeled over was her final gift to me, sparing me that heartbreaking decision.

Laurie: Funny you should mention your dog as I've decided that will be my next pet. I just can't picture another cat in my life for a long time. I'm so sorry for your loss this year. The pain is just awful.

I'm telling you people, you are THE BEST for posting such warm and supportive comments here. I cannot tell you what it means to me.

Megan said...

Hi Heather,

What a cute kitty! I love that you named her after Nina Simone.

I know exactly what you're going through, but aren't good vets just the best? I called Daisy's just a couple of weeks ago to thank her again for all her help. They proved such a wonderful service and make a tough situation so much more bearable.