Dealing with death is not like Beaches. No one is the wind beneath your wings. Rarely do ailing creatures, no matter their size, stoically set off to die at the edge of a stream amongst the poppies. I remember Marianne (rest her soul) talking about being on a cross-country flight with Michael towards the end of his illness. He was too weak to walk unassisted. He was thin and pale and throwing up blood into an in-flight bag. And all the other passengers looked at him like he was invading their image of the human life cycle. As if dying were something you do behind closed doors.
That started two hours of the cat dragging himself around on his belly to various corners of the room until I corralled him into a space where the only available corners were my hips and armpits. And I waited for something to happen. I waited for him to howl, or puke or start panting or have a seizure or something. But nothing happened except the constant squirming. So there we went, belly crawling across the floor together in no particular direction.
I petted him. I told him that I wasn't ready for him to die quite yet. I told him all about the new litter box I bought for him on the way home. I bought three different kinds of cat treats because I wasn't sure which ones he might want. I thought he might want some variety.
The entire time he crawled from my hip to my armpit to my hip again, like a princess on a pea. Part of me wanted him to settle down and got to sleep so he wouldn't seem so wretched. But as soon as he would quiet down a bit, my eyes would shift from his face down to his belly to make sure he was still breathing. Through all of this, his tail was whipping around as if it had a mind and lifespan of its own.
I told him he had to let me know if he was hurting. That now was not the time to be the strong, silent type. I needed him to help me know how he was doing. But he just looked at me and squirmed.
Around 9pm he finally stayed in one place long enough to nap on a blanket. He started looking like a normal cat again, his left paw firmly planted on his tail as if to say "enough with the whipping around already." He's now moved to the space between my two sewing cabinets. I'm sitting on the floor with my laptop on a rubbermaid tub next to him. He's sleeping but it's like he's having bad dreams that wake him up every 5 minutes or so. I just don't want him to die alone. Rich tells me that the fact he's in our house and flea free and loved means he's not alone and a part of me knows that. I can resolve myself that he's going to die, but I just don't want him to be alone if I can help it.
Edit: This morning he is looking much better. He was back up on his window perch, had successfully used his new litter box during the night and was eating Fancy Feast like a champ. Such a good cat.