I hadn’t fully accepted that Jelly Bean had an end-of-life condition and I felt so helpless at the pace of his decline, but his last hours were sweet and his leavetaking quiet.
Along with those last hours this article does discuss his euthanasia and the time just after when his mother and brothers each spent individual time with him, and all the changing emotions I felt. I have a few photos of them after the euthanasia which really just looks like they are napping on the cabinet like they always did, so please take that as a trigger warning. I want to share my experience as it was for others who have lost or are anticipating a loss and know that others share their experience.
That last morning Jelly Bean was in his carrier on my bed, awake but a little bleary from the buprenorphine. His brothers were on the bed with him along with Sienna and Mariposa, then they all began stretching and moving around but stayed in the room. I had slept on top of the bedspread for the two hours I’d slept.
I reached in to pet Bean and he did finally turn his head and look at me. I don’t know how he would have reacted without the long-acting dose of buprenorphine* and that played with me then and later, my doubts that I was really connecting with him, but I know not to trust what I see on the outside, but to feel what’s on the inside. I zipped up his carrier so I could get dressed and feed Mr. Max and Morty without him possibly crawling off the bed. But I carried him in my arms down the stairs to the kitchen, also carrying the mesh carrier, a little awkward but no other way to do this.
Dr. Elgersma would be here at 11:00. I placed him in the carrier on the kitchen floor and gave him a dose of fluids to keep him comfortable and to be sure his veins didn’t collapse when he would get the necessary injections. I didn’t want to see any struggles or discomfort.
I don’t remember much about feeding breakfast to the rest of the household but when I set out the dishes I had to include his, partly my not wanting to accept, and partly just keeping track of how many I was feeding and which dish went with which cat; I wasn’t even accustomed to Mewsette’s missing dish yet. I even offered him a Greenies treat when I handed them out to everyone else before I put the dishes down, the one thing he would unfailingly eat in the past two months, but this time he turned his head away. Even the night before, late into the night/early into the morning, he eagerly took a treat. I had decided to stop all other medications so not to stress him, but he would have felt better with his dose of Cerenia. Still, seeing how he reacted without it, it was clear how ill he really felt.
His brothers went to him after they’d eaten a bit, and I sat and talked to him while he shuffled and didn’t lift his head too far but looked at all of us and looked around. All were very subdued and really just his brothers and Mimi and Basil stayed in the kitchen. I do remember that the day was lovely, sunny and a perfect temperature, a quiet July morning, a week’s break in the renovations, nothing to attend to on that morning or that day but Jelly Bean.
He suddenly got up at one point and wobbled his way to the basement door, moving so fast I was surprised. Of course, he was a good boy and wanted to get to the litterboxes in the basement. I ran next to him down the stairs as he was propelled by gravity, pit pat pit pat, and kept my hand on his back, but he once again missed the bottom step, the one that had been broken during the basement work and needed to be repaired, and tumbled on the floor. A mess of the watery stool indicative of liver failure poured out of him.
The fall was my fault, I should have kept my hands on him. It didn’t seem to hurt him in that moment with the buprenorphine, any pain he’d feel from it would come later and he wouldn’t be feeling any pain at all by then. I cleaned him up, and as I had been doing for the past week or so I held him against my chest as we looked out the basement door into the backyard. He was alert and looked around; I studied his profile, rounded nose, whiskers, forward ears.
Though he’d never once shown interest in being outdoors I decided we should go for a little walk. We followed the path from the basement door, across the brick patio covered with things from the basement and excess construction materials, through the grass to the steps up to the deck. My tent was still in the garden and walking around there was impossible, I had put the green wicker loveseat and Mewsette’s chair in a safe place, and the rest of the yard was strewn with stuff.
I walked slowly up the steps and we stopped on each one to look around, then at the top we turned and looked out at the yard. No dancing lights, but possibly I sensed Mewsette, and in fact I felt later that she had encouraged us. Then we turned and went back into the kitchen. I had kissed him on the head and face repeatedly when we stopped and I think I felt a tiny bit of a purr. I felt bad that the fall was one of his last memories but I hoped he remembered me cuddling and kissing him, and our walk through the sunshine and fresh air.
Holding him felt so good that I decided to keep holding him since it was about 10:30 and we only had a few minutes left. His eyes were still bleary and he was still a little wobbly, but he felt warm in my arms and active but relaxed. Like the moment of clarity on Sunday, holding him warm against my chest and sharing this adventure was a bonding moment I’ll never forget.
As the time approached I had to at least move the breakfast dishes and things, and because I had to keep leaning over I put him back in his carrier rather than jostle him around like that. His brothers walked around him.
I am so grateful for Dr. Elgersma’s demeanor, quiet and understanding, no small talk unrelated to the task. I told her he’d stumbled down the steps and we’d just taken a walk outdoors and he hadn’t been interested in a treat for the first time and I was a little disturbed by the distance I felt from his reaction to the buprenorphine; I was just glad to talk to someone.
I picked him up out of the carrier and was a little surprised that he had lost the relaxed active posture and alertness he’d had just a few minutes before. I set him down on the cabinet and he was almost limp, his eyes were open, but he had lost the alertness.
Mimi had gotten up onto the cabinet when I set him down and then Giuseppe joined us. As Dr. Elgersma prepared things Mr. Sunshine jumped up. Before she gave Jelly bean any injections I leaned over him and circled him with my arms and kissed him all over again. The first injection acted quickly but I gave him some more kisses and turned his head to take another look at his face. His eyes nearly closed, it wasn’t the same, but the big ears with the white brushes of hair in them, the crazy white whiskers, those were his trademarks. His mom and siblings settled around him and Dr. Elgersma administered the second injection.
It had happened so fast. But it was clear he was ready. I found I had actually been hoping for a reprieve, some miracle, for Bean to have more time here, so that we wouldn’t lose him so soon after Mewsette, a million reasons. But he was ready. Dr. Elgersma stayed with us for a while longer, then we all sat with him at the cabinet. Mr. Sunshine left at some point to sleep in his bookcase. The guy has been providing support to unwell siblings for months, and he has multiple conditions himself, and he has always been the one to sit with the cat we are losing before and sometimes long after, even if they were a short-term hospice foster, so I was glad he took a break. Giuseppe simply sat next to him then curled up against him for a while.
When Giuseppe left Mr. Sunshine came back and curled up next to Jelly Bean.
Mimi took little breaks for water and came back. None of the others in the house got up on the cabinet with him, but Basil was on one of the chairs, Bella was on another for a while.
I had made an appointment to drive him to Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation at 3:00, but Deb called me after Dr. Elgersma left and said she’d be in my area around that time so she would stop by, and she did. We talked for a bit and I gave him my final kisses and wrapped him in a towel. I walked out to Deb’s car with her, not wanting him to go but knowing he had to, feeling incomplete, as if I hadn’t loved him enough in those last few hours, but said goodbye and watched her drive up the street.
I turned around to see Mimi sitting inside the screen door watching us. I went back in the house and picked her up, carrying her to the kitchen, and sat down with her on the cabinet where we had been just a few moments before. His spirit was entirely gone. There was nothing left of him in the house. The house was quiet, like a void. I felt I hadn’t held him enough, kissed him enough, not now or in his life, I’d taken more photos than given affection, I’d spent so much time caretaking and worrying, and I felt I hadn’t connected with him in those last hours, especially the last minutes, the feeling of distance from the buprenorphine, or maybe my fears and holding off the reality of the situation, still grieving Mewsette. I just wanted one more chance, I wanted to drive down to Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation so I could hug him one more time. So many thoughts. I sat there with Mimi and just let some time pass.
Later I checked my messages to find friends had checked in, sent greetings and sympathy and I was grateful for the first few chances to gather my thoughts and respond.
And somewhere in there I remembered that it was their 16th birthday.
*This medication, Zorbium, is a four-day transdermal dose of buprenorphine.
Every grief journey is different. Mewsette and Jelly Bean may have been siblings and in many ways were very much alike, but the experiences of their losses and the time afterward couldn’t be more different. In my next article I will write about my conflicted thoughts and searching for him and finding him in interesting ways, and finally coming around to some sense of peace.
You can find all my posts about Jelly Bean’s illness and loss and my resulting grieving experience in the category Remembering Jelly Bean.
From the time I began writing about my experiences in pet loss with my loss of Namir in 2009, relating what I was feeling and thinking about it as I moved through grief, readers have thanked me, often in private, for my honesty, grateful to know another shared their feelings as they moved through grief, or helped them make a decision.
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