My heart, my grief, my joy.
One week ago, last tuesday, in a day I can only call a blur, I came to the Los Feliz Small Animal Hospital to say goodbye to my closest friend and the greatest love of my life. Inky, 17 years going on 18, had taken a significant turn for the worse on the Saturday before. I was getting ready for my 3:30AM performance at Theatre of Note when I noticed that Inky had been laying on his side for hours. Once a strapping cat with a ravenous appetite (especially for rodents and birds), Inky was now down to 3 or 4 pounds. He could barely walk across the floor to get to the litter box. He could no longer keep his head up and, after drinking a smidge of water, it just came pouring out of his mouth. He was in his last days.
Monday morning, I was waken by the meowing of my middle cat Sahaja. I knew it was Sahaja because Inky long since stopped meowing, something he did in spades. he was a bonafide run of the mouth, he was. But his infirmity only allowed him to purr, the last noise he made with me before we took him into the euthanasia room for his shot. When I entered the hospital, along with my friend, strike that, my hero Dan, there was Inky. He had a catheter in his paw where they had been pumping him with fluids and anti-biotics all night. His eyes had begun to fill up with fluid several days before, but he never went blind thankfully.
There are moments in life that stamp themselves into your heart and soul forever. The sight of Inky lying in the cage, helpless, his food uneaten, nothing in the litter box, was the single most heartbreaking image of my life. It is difficult to write these words down now even. But there was something much much greater than his dying life at work here. Words cannot express what I knew and felt as I looked at him. He had absolutely no fear whatsoever ("yeah, well he's just an animal isn't he. Why would he"?). He had a grace around him that was transcendent. He was, in his own inimitable way, incredibly happy to see me, even though he would never dare show it, he was such a cool customer. I began to caress him and he started purring. He also did that thing he always did when he was at the vet, he put his chin down on my hand and then put his head down under my arm. I kissed him with a kiss of my soul and grabbed his head in my hands. I brought his face to mine and said "I will see you very soon my friend". Dan and I and Doctor Chen, the vet that God personally sent for this moment, all agreed that he was ready. We knew it was time.
Dan and I went to the small room and an aide brought Inky in in a lovely blue towel, the towel I brought him in. They placed him down delicately on the table and I put my hand directly on his heart. The lights were pretty dim, thank god, and Dr. Chen calmly talked us through the entire experience. She took out the small syringe with the blue liquid, a very small amount I was surprised to say, and told me that he would get a touch dizzy from the anasthetic and that within seconds he would be gone. She put the syringe in the catheter and injected it. He lifted his head up very gently for a moment and then, within seconds, I felt his heart stop. His eyes remained open, which she warned me off, and also said there may be some convulsions which he would not be concious of. They never happend. He lay still, wide eyed and the vet checked his heart and lungs and then said these exact words: "I'm sorry, he's gone. You gave him a wonderful life. 17 and a half years in a long life for an animal. I'm so sorry for your loss". Time froze. I could hear Dan sobbing next to me and I heard someone else sobbing, and I realized it was me. We held each other for a minute. I thanked him for his courage and thanked the vet for her sensitivity and kindness.
I leaned down and gave Inky one last kiss, I looked into his eyes, now empty, and began the process of grieving which I am now in the throes of.
It's difficult to encapsulate a life. Human words are simply not capable of expressing the depths I felt and will always feel for this extraordinary being. It will take several entries to cover most of the wonderous times we had. I know I will be writing memories down for months, if not years. Sufficeth to say, my life has been enriched in ways that carry far beyond Inky's physical life and death. He represents what is most precious about life, the ability to simply be, to offer almost nothing but the most important: love in being who we are, companionship and the deepest level of living from my heart. If I can aspire to these aspects and live them like my great mentor did, then I will have left something of myself that can be called eternal. I will have left a precious piece of gold.
I will see you again, my love.