Erma is gone. She died in my arms on Tuesday.

She's been feeling "old" for a while now, so it wasn't a huge surprise. But it wasn't exactly expected, either. She was fine when we all woke up, and while I was preparing breakfast for 'A' and 'H' she came and asked for some food too. This was our routine. She would sit by her plate and look at me until I finished up with the girls and fed her.

While I was getting breakfast ready, she left her place at her plate, and the next thing I saw was Erma, hobbling and limping as quickly as possible back to her comfort spot by the pellet stove. I wondered if she had twisted her leg or pulled a muscle. I called the holistic vet to say that she needed to come in for a chiropractic adjustment. I got a 12:30 appointment and went along with my morning plans. But Erma wasn't okay. Every time I checked on her, she was agitated: tail flapping, pupils dialated, posture twisted. She was in pain and she was confused. Perhaps even scared. I offered her food and water, but she wasn't interested. I offered her comfort, which she took in small amounts. I didn't know what was wrong with her, but my gut told me it was the end.

By chance, 'A' and 'H', who are always with me during the day, were ready to be picked up by our babysitter extraordinaire, Rachel. Last week, on my birthday, I thought about the perfect present, and realized that a day by myself to get things done would be just what I wanted. Rachel and I talked and decided on Tuesday. As I got them ready, I told them to tell Erma that they loved her and say good-bye to her, just in case she died that day. It wasn't a new conversation: I had been telling them for a few months that Erma wasn't going to live much longer, and when she died it would mean that she would stop breathing and walking and purring, and she wouldn't be living with us anymore. She would be dead.

Rachel picked them up; I got Erma ready for her cat-carrier. When I picked her up to put her in it, she lost control of her bladder, and urine went everywhere. I thought, "This is it. She's dying." Then I thought, "Maybe she has held it in all day and she just had an accident." I had this thought because you know, I'm the mother of small children who put themselves in just these situations. These kinds of thoughts aren't foreign to me.

I called the vet and informed them that this was perhaps The Day, and I would be there soon.

On the car ride, Erma sunk more and more into herself. She started to find that place where we go when we die from natural causes, that place inside of her where all that matters is her own survival. She responded just barely to my touch. She put her head down between her paws to rest... her head?... her eyes?... her life?

When I arrived, she was examined and it was agreed that her heart was failing. With it, her systems were failing. My goodness, it went fast. I always wondered how it would unfold. Would it be long and drawn out? What would the signs be? How would I know? As it turns out, it went along rather quickly.

I made the decision to put her to sleep right then and there. I was alone. My girls weren't with me, and Jeff was at work. The decision was mine to make, and I would be there without my family. It was then that I realized that the day was unfolding just as I wanted it to. In the past, when I thought about this day (and I had - it was a long time coming), I had always assumed that the girls and Jeff would be present. The only question was, "would the girls wait in the waiting room during the procedure?" Now that question was irrelevant. It was me and Erma. And somehow, it was everything I wanted it to be. I realized that if the girls were there, even if they waited in the next room, my thoughts and energy would be directed toward them and not toward Erma. If Jeff were there, I would have stumbled over how to let him into my pain. She was, after all, my cat of 18 years. I got her as a kitten when I was 20 years old. She's been with me for all of my adult life, and almost half of my entire life. She's my cat and my friend. Saying good-bye to her was a very personal thing for me. Doing it alone was best.

I had some time alone with her, but her progression was so rapid that she didn't want to dilly dally. I put my ear to her belly to listen to her purr, as I have done day after day for 18 years. For the first time, her purr was weak at best. She was barely with me. She was ready. I called for her doctor and sat down with her in my lap. A sedative was injected first, and I sat with her for about 15 minutes, just holding her and watching her slow down. She was awake but became increasingly relaxed and unresponsive. I didn't have a lot of thoughts at this point. She was just ready, and I was there to see her through it. Then the final injection was administered, the one that would stop her heart. It was all so peaceful. I did have a fleeting thought that perhaps I shouldn't be doing this, because it's So Final. But it was the right time, and I couldn't override that. She died quickly and peacefully in my arms. And in that moment, everything about it was right.

Emotions are funny. I thought that I would be devastated. On the way to the vet's office I cried and cried. I couldn't bear the thought of losing her. But when it was all happening, and I saw that she was ready to die, and then watched it happen, my emotions changed. I went right away to acceptance. Don't get me wrong, I'm sad. I find myself looking in places where she habitually sat; I look down to see if she's scratching at my chair to get my attention; I miss the feel of her soft fur; and I just called Grace by Erma's name on accident. Heck, I get teary just writing this. I miss her. But I know that the time was right. I don't have any second thoughts or doubts about her death. It happened when it was supposed to happen.


Courtney Says:

Hi Jillian,
Just found your blog through the fromscratchclub and realized I often pick up my veggies from you at KFF! I just read your post about Erma and it was so reassuring and well written. I have two dogs and often wonder about what that day will be like. Thanks for sharing your experience and putting me at ease. I'll be back to check our your posts and I'll say hi at the Saratoga Farmers' Market too. Take care! Courtney

Mama Jillian Says:

Hi Courtney,
Welcome! Yes it is so sad when you have to say good bye to an animal, especially one that has been with you through so many things. But she was ready and that made it easier.
I hope you're enjoying all these spring greens at the farmer's market. Cheers!

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About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!