This morning was the first time since September that I didn’t wake up in a panic, looking for Hazel, to see if she was still with us. Since having a stroke in the fall, she’s just not been her usual self, she’s had good days and hard days, some more trying that others. And being nearly 17 years old, we knew that her body could fail her at any time. It was just a matter of time.
It’s so hard being the adult. It’s hard to have to feel that stress every night before bed and every morning when I wake up, worrying about the ones we hold so close to our hearts. How do we determine the quality of life for someone else? How do we set selfishness and love aside for doing what we think might be right and then living with the guilt of wondering if we were wrong.
The guilt. It’s so horrible. It’s so hard. I know that there is nothing more that I could have done to keep Hazel healthy and happy and living the life that she deserved. She filled our years with comfort and laughter and silly jokes. She was a warm and determined snuggler, always purring, always loving, always flashing her beautiful eyes.
But since September, we hadn’t seen those eyes that we loved so much. Those eyes that are ultimately what made me choose her over an orange kitten that 4-year-old Hannah was begging for. They have been stoic and dark, totally dilated. While she kept on with her days, mostly sleeping but venturing around some, her eyes seemed lifeless. But I knew that was just a physical manifestation of an illness, not of my girl. I know there was life back in there. And I don’t even remember the last I heard and felt her purr. It breaks my heart even more to know that I don’t remember when.
There were many things that led us to the “it’s time” decision. Honestly, this is a decision that pet owners are fortunate to have, to end pain and suffering but it really causes much more pain and suffering for me. To take someone elses life into my own hands, to be the one who ultimately says that your time with us is done, it’s horrible. It’s heart wrenching and immoral and more painful that one might think it should be. Don’t ever judge someone for taking time to make those decisions, even if it’s a choice, it’s brutal.
The many things had added up and we made that decision a few days ago, and the appointment was made.
I woke up yesterday, so unprepared, so down, and so devastated. Hannah came over before class and we all had a good cry and we looked at images on our phones and on Facebook and I know there are hundreds more on my hard drive. We even commented about her eyes, about how sad they look. She left for class and took the big kids off to school.
I had some breakfast and held my girl again. You will not believe what I saw. I almost didn’t believe it myself.
I texted this picture to my sister who said the best thing that I could have heard in that moment, “she is saying she’s ready and wanted you to see her eyes one more time…she’s thankful.” Talk about a tear-jerker. I don’t pretend to have explanations for things like this. I took her down and showed her to James. He saw it too. It is these kinds of moments that make you second guess every rational thought you ever had.
I got in the tub before the appointment. I was doing ok until I was washing my face. With my face in the palm of my helpless hands, I sobbed. I just lost it. I did not want to be saying goodbye and didn’t want to see my kids saying goodbye. I did not want our time together to be over.
Hannah returned after class and we left for the vet clinic. I’m so thankful for my friend and fellow vet tech classmate for being there waiting for us. Nothing really can make this situation any easier, but having someone you know and adore holding your hand and reassuring your heart is a little better. By the time we were awaiting it all, Hazel’s eyes had dilated and darkened again. More reaffirming. I don’t know why I’m looking for validation. Actually, I do. The guilt is crazy and I need to know that I made the right choice at the right time.
We loved her and held her, we pet her, smooched her, told her we loved her a million times. We comforted each other and reassured our decisions. We laughed a little, because she really has been such a silly joy in our lives.
And then in moments, she was gone. A piece of me is now gone too. A piece of me is hollow and empty and so horribly sad.
But none of that replaces the wonderful 17 years we had with this lovely Dorito-faced, muted tortie calico, turquoise-eyed,mostly overweight her whole life girl. We have so many memories. She was there for us through a lot of hard times, always snuggling and loving. She tolerated a handful of moves. She graciously welcomed 3 more kitties into our family. When she first came to live with us, it was just Hannah and I. And she played mama to 5 more babies, and I’m so glad they all got to love her too. James may not admit it easily, but I think he had a soft spot for her too! She had a meow that sounded like one ticked off kitty, but it was just her way. She played with strings and would steal your ice cream or crackers. She loved laying in the sun, eating the grass, and being close by to anyone who would pet her. She’d even force the petting at times!
(I wanted to add a video here but can’t seem to make it work – I will slip it in if I get it figured out.)
It sounds so cliché to say that not a day will go by that we won’t think about her. But it’s true. There is so much to remind us of her and each of us remembers different things. It’s time to open up the photo files and print our favorites. Very soon, her ashes will join Harley’s and maybe this time I’ll be able to pull that beautiful urn statue out of the bubble wrap and out of the closet where it has sat for the past 9 years. Ugh. Losing pets is so hard.
Until we meet again, my Hazel girl. You are so loved. Every day.
**a few days passed since I started this post. It’s been hard, and life goes on. I realize it’s all a bit disjointed but I’m just going to leave it that way. My emotions are too. I guess that’s just real life, and not a well composed bit for the blog.
If you’d like to read more about Hazel from a few months ago, you can find that post here.