A few days before Christmas, I lost my beloved friend of 15 ½ years.
Eamon was a black and white cat I took off the street. We lived together in four (4) different places. When I took him in, I was living in a 547-sq-ft apartment. I subsequently moved to a second apartment with double that space, and then a third with a little more space, and finally I bought a home where we lived together for the last 8 1/3 years of his life.
I could tell you stories about Eamon, many stories. I could tell you about how I named him after the first president of Ireland, Eamon de Valera, as my family has deep Irish roots (my sons are named Shannon Michael and Patrick Seamus). I could tell how Eamon had a unique way of cuddling, how he would jump up into bed and kind of sit down on his haunches in the space between my right arm and right side of my body, just under my shoulder, and look at me and purr. I could tell you that when I cleaned the house, moving his food and water containers to get at accumulated dust and dirt on the dining room floor, how he always had to rearrange them so that they were on the floor just so.
But what I need to tell you is how his last days were spent. I need to tell this because as I’ve reflected on this time, I’ve come to realize what a gift God gave to us – to me and to Eamon.
Eamon started limping the day before Thanksgiving. My son Patrick, who was down visiting me for the holiday, went with me when I took Eamon to the vet’s office. The doctor there completely misdiagnosed his condition, giving me antibiotics and pain medication that made Eamon so sick he couldn’t eat and was about to shut down. I stopped this medicine when I realized it wasn’t helping him, and I took him to another doctor. This vet was able to help Eamon feel good enough to eat and drink again, and helped him get back a little of his old self.
But at more than 16 and a half years of age (I took Eamon in when he was somewhere in the neighborhood of a year old), Eamon’s body was simply worn out. We tried sub-cutaneous fluids, appetite stimulants, but things weren’t going well. I worked from home on days that I could and on days I couldn’t I made sure he ate and drank enough and was comfortable before I left, and I would break away from work as soon as I could manage and return home to him.
In the last few days of his life, I fed him baby food from a spoon, and carried water in a cup for him to drink. When he finally would no longer take food or water, I knew he wouldn’t be with me much longer. His breathing had become shallower and more rapid.
Eamon passed away at home with me at his side, loving him and talking to him, on December 21, 2016. His body simply could not go on any further. He left Earth to go to the place God made for pets in Heaven.
As I’ve reflected on this loss, still fresh as I write this, I have come to realize that our last days together are a treasure I was given by God that will always remain inside of me, in my heart. Life ends in this world. Love doesn’t. Even the love of a man for his cat. God gave me the opportunity to love Eamon by caring for him, by being at his side, by fighting to keep him with me, alive. I had the opportunity to tell both Eamon and God in this that I valued the gift of this loving pet, that he mattered to me, and that I would suffer at his side as he wound his way down to dying.
During a time of suffering, when death is imminent, we want it all to end. We want our loved one to no longer suffer. That is natural. I faced the same thing with both of my parents, as they died, their bodies failing. I was able to demonstrate my love for them as well by being at their side.
Eamon’s death brought all of that back to me as well, and helped confirm to me how God graces us in those last, trying moments. They are moments not wanted, not desired, but valuable to what makes us human, what makes us children of God. They give us the chance to walk with God in the life of a beloved one and care and suffer with them.
I will miss my Eamon for a long time. I am not ready to get another cat. It will take time for me to grieve my loss of him, and that is another way for me to honor him.
But I will also continually thank God for His gift of Eamon, for the mercy He showed us both in letting me be by Eamon’s side as he died a peaceful, natural death in his home. And I will thank God for the memories I have of my beloved pet, and relish the confident assurance that I will see Eamon again when it is my time to go home to God.