Rest In Peace RomeoLast night at 8:40pm my friend and companion for nearly 12 years passed away. Romeo was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy after suffering a saddle thrombus from which he thankfully recovered. It was simply a matter of time so my partner and I were treating symptoms. He was on Plavix and two diuretics and the last weeks of his life we rented an oxygen concentration unit and created for him a little oxygen tent to help him breath when he suffered an episode but last night the fight was simply too much for him.
It was about 12 years ago when I was living in Sacrament that Romeo found me. It was not the best of time in my life. I was with someone whose favorite past times seemed be either convincing me that I was so lucky to have him because no one else would want me or simply physically abusing me. My self esteem was nonexistent and I was so afraid of being alone because no one would want me that I put up with the mental and physical abuse. Then one day as we were going out I had to run back to the house for something and found this little white fuzzball on the welcome mat. He was so cute and so tiny. I was afraid to do anything at the moment not knowing where his momma was so I told him that if he was still there when I got back I would bring him in. Well four hours later when we returned he was in the same spot so we brought him into the house and found him something we thought he would eat, played with him a bit and then fixed him a little bed on the couch. When I woke up I found him sprawled on my tummy and when I petted him he started purring. I asked my partner if I could keep him and he begrudgingly said yes but it was my responsibility (obviously he was far too busying being a kept man to be bothered taking care of a kitty) so I set up an appointment with a vet in the area and began bonding with my new found friend. When I took him to the vet for a checkup I was asked what his name was and I said "Romeo" because he took to me quickly, always following me around, curling up in my lap, rubbing his face against mine and sleeping with me... in short showing me love.
Not long after meeting Romeo I found the strength to leave my abusive relationship.
Romeo and I had several adventures including traveling throughout the country (he was always a hit with children on the flights). When I partnered up with someone and we moved to San Diego Romeo came with us. Every day when I came home I would see him sitting in the window sill and as soon as I shut the car door he would jump down and run to the door to meet me. Regardless of the other domestic situation I was always greeted by Romeo with a purr and a rub against the leg. He would always look up at me as if to say "Welcome home daddy". Regardless of where I was in the house he would be with me, sleeping on the bed, sitting on the wash basin while I showered, in the kitchen with me when I cooked... always watching after me no matter where I was as if to tell me it would be OK, he was there to take care of me.
After six years my partner left and it was once again just Romeo and me and it seemed that Romeo, ever by my side, was closer than before. He helped me through separation and was once again watching closely anyone I brought home (somewhat embarrassingly during certain intimate moment... I think Romeo had a touch of the voyeur in him). Then I met my current partner who took to Romeo immediately and more importantly Romeo to him. It was a long engagement (well, long in gay years) and not once did Romeo voice disapproval.
After a couple of years of the three of us together and the bonds growing ever tighter Romeo had his traumatic episode where he was diagnosed with suffering the effects of a saddle thrombosis and further investigation showed he suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The prognosis was not good (about 50% of kitties who suffer the thrombosis become paralyzed and are put to sleep). My partner and I went into caregiver mode with medications and special foods, getting an oxygen concentrator for when his breathing became labored, whatever we could though I knew it was simply treating symptoms. During this time Romeo began to pull away a little bit, as if saying he didn't want us to watch him suffer. I also think he was still watching to see how my husband was reacting with me being the emotional wreck I was becoming. Fortunately for me he is made of stronger stuff and loved me even more, always giving me what I needed.
Last night it was fast. His episode didn't seem that bad, I thought I had caught it in its early stages but the medicine and the oxygen didn't seem to help as it had before. I laid on the floor next to his oxygen tend where he could see me and talked to him as he was panting. When he started to "moan" I told my husband through a waterfall of tears that it was time, I couldn't see him suffer any more. We quickly dressed, not more than 5 minutes total time but when we checked on him before taking him to the car he wasn't breathing. I reached in and petted him but there was no response. My friend, my protector, my Romeo was gone.
After bundling him up in his carrier we drove to the ER. It was like being in a funeral procession. I was losing it, my partner silent but his eyes were tearing up. We made it to the ER and after being taken into a private room I lost it. My partner made the arrangements and we said our goodbyes. When we got home we watched videos we had made of Romeo, talking about him and what he meant. Later that night I kept expecting to hear his paws patting on the floor and then feeling the thump on the bed as he joined us as he had for many years. When it didn't happen I cried myself to sleep.
This morning isn't any easier... the empty kitty bed in the living room where he would sometimes lay, the empty shelf in the TV console where he would curl up while we watched television, the kitty carrier, the food dish, all of the physical things showing me that he really was here and it wasn't all a dream or my imagination. These I have to deal with. I'll talk to his vet about the possibility of donating his personal effects to kitties less fortunate... I think he would like that.
In A Grief Observed the Christian writer C. S. Lewis provides us insight into his own hellish grief he experienced during the time following the death of his wife. As in the death of my own father I again with Lewis as things like
"Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'
Our elders submitted and said, 'Thy will be done.' How often had bitter resentment been stifled through sheer terror and an act of love — yes, in every sense, an act — put on to hide the operation?
Of course it's easy enough to say that God seems absent at our greatest need because He is absent — non-existent. But then why does He seem so present when, to put it frankly, we don't ask for Him? "
"But I find that this question, however important it may be in itself, is not after all very important in relation to grief. Suppose that the earthly lives she and I shared for a few years are in reality only the basis for, or prelude to, or earthly appearance of, two unimaginable, supercosmic, eternal somethings. Those somethings could be pictures as spheres or globes. Where the plane of Nature cuts through them — that is, in earthly life — they appear as two circles (circles are slices of spheres). Two circles that touched. But those two circles, above all the point at which they touched, are the very thing I am mourning for, homesick for, famished for. You tell me, 'she goes on.' But my heart and body are crying out, come back, come back. Be a circle, touching my circle on the plane of Nature. But I know this is impossible. I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the drinks, the arguments, the lovemaking, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace. On any view whatever, to say, 'H. is dead,' is to say, 'All that is gone.' It is a part of the past. And the past is the past and that is what time means, and time itself is one more name for death, and Heaven itself is a state where 'the former things have passed away.'
Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand. "
But in the end the experiences of having loved, been show what love is like, learning through the relationship becomes evident and we have an even greater strength to make it through life than we had before. If you haven't read it I suggest you do, it is powerful and moving.
Personally (and no I can't support it with any amount of theological certitude) I think Romeo knew he could pass on the job to talking care of me to my husband. Romeo was sent to me when I most needed someone to love me. He was always with me, seemingly closer when times were harder. He was the one who always watched for me, the one happy to have me around. After two and a half years with my partner I think Romeo knew I had finally found someone who loved me as unconditionally as he did, someone he could trust to watch over me, to care for me and protect me. He was confident that he would lay his weary and sickly body down and go to his reward knowing that I would continue to be surround by love.
I miss you my friend and if my best wishes come true I will see you again. Until then I will see you in my mind's eye strong and bright eyed, chasing butterflies and resting in God's light purring with contentment.