Death, Life Beyond Miz Izz, and Something Else to Say

Isabelnotamused

So I haven’t been around for awhile.  There’s a few reasons for that.  Let’s start off by saying I hope no one else in my sphere dies anytime soon.  Death sucks.  Especially when it’s Miz Izz.

I acquired Miz Izz- Isabel- as a four-week old (it’s really easy to estimate young kittens’ age) that had been abandoned in a grocery store parking lot.  What amazed me is that a typical feral cat, even one that tiny, would have at least tried to run or fight, but not Isabel. She let me scoop her up and take her home.  As if she belonged.  And she did.

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This is Jezebel at 9 weeks- she and Isabel were virtually identical as far as looks and build.

Had Isabel lived another month she would have been 16 years old.  But her poor little body just couldn’t take any more.  She had always been petite and somewhat frail, and she had become even more so when she developed a condition called “pillow foot” or more correctly, plasma cell pododermatitis. Suffice to say this is a nasty condition, and Isabel had it rather severely.  At times her paws would swell up so much they would bleed and I would have to take her to get shots- which helped for awhile, but then she became too fragile for the meds (prednisone and doxycycline.)

Maybe I shouldn’t miss an old, fragile black cat with set ways and a loud voice.  But I do.

Death can be a mercy, especially when someone is suffering and there isn’t any real fix for it, when there’s no longer any good life to be had. My last good memory of Isabel was of her greedily snapping up pieces of top sirloin as we shared a steak.  The dogs were outside of course, and the only two cats that were ever bold enough to ever approach my Steak Experience were Isabel and Jezebel.  Jezebel is a bit more restrained, but Isabel never had a problem getting right up close to get her little bits of gristle and fat.  That was the last time I can say I knew Isabel was still enjoying being a cat.  I buried her a week later.

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Ask not for whom the bell tolls…

I admit that I fight with the idea that humane euthanasia is OK when a cat or a dog is suffering and they have gotten beyond what I would call “good life to be had,” but the same concept doesn’t apply to humans.  I understand, at least from a spiritual and theological view, that God is the Author of life. Since humans are made in His image, we generally don’t have the authority to take human life away.  (Capital punishment is an exception to the general prohibition against taking human life, and so is just war, but those are topics worthy of their own separate and detailed discussions.  Suffice to say that I believe in the merits of both, in the proper circumstances.)

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It is morally right to put a cat or a dog to sleep when he or she is suffering and he or she stops enjoying being a cat or a dog.  Euthanasia for humans is not acceptable even when it would seem to be a mercy.

As far as the higher purpose of human suffering, I’ll be the first to say I don’t get it.

Not that I would put a human life into the same (noble but still lower) category as the life of Miz Izz, but my mother-in-law had been suffering and confined to a wheelchair for most of the time that Miz Izz walked the earth.  My mother-in-law died last Saturday after being confined to a wheelchair for 15 years, suffering with rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure and a laundry list of other maladies.  Her last two weeks were particularly brutal.

I don’t believe in euthanasia for humans- not ever- but sometimes I’ve got to ask God why.  Isabel pretty much enjoyed her cat life up until the last week of it. Granted happiness for cats is fairly easy- somewhere to sleep, food to eat and somewhere to drop a load.  Human life is a lot more complicated, but still, why did Jerry’s Mom have to suffer for so freaking long?

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Hospice is a great help for those who are actively dying, but it can only mitigate the process.

Worse than her dying was the funeral. I understand Southern Baptist soteriology (understanding of the mechanism of salvation) pretty well.  “Turn or Burn” is pretty standard fare at SB funerals, but to the uninitiated, it is about as anti-PC as one can get.  You don’t get a funeral message too often that includes, “Do you know where you’ll be if you get hit by a truck on the way out of here?”

Jerry’s sisters were a bit taken aback.  I had tried to give Steve-o a heads up on SB soteriology before the funeral so he wouldn’t freak out. His religious understanding has pretty much been shaped by growing up in a Lutheran church, so the really fundamental interpretations of SB soteriology would sound a bit bat-shit crazy to him.  Mom has confused him enough by trying to throw in the Catholic earn – your -points system.

I grew up around Regular Baptists (even more of the “Turn or Burn” mentality than the SBs) so I know all too well there could possibly be an altar call.  There wasn’t.  He did do the Sinners’ Prayer though.  I have to hand it to the preacher for preaching the gospel instead of offering pallid platitudes on how much life sucks and then you die, ya – da ya-da. At least Steve-o had a heads up.

Lutherans don’t do altar calls.  Our pastors do occasionally mention hell, but not usually at funerals.

It just seems strange to me. Life and death and all of that.

 

 

Beyond the Void, Someone to Talk To, and Miscellaneous Tidbits

hell_is_realI know where this sign is.  You can see it on southbound I-71, somewhere in Madison County- between Columbus and Cincinnati.

I don’t like to think about that most terrible place I think of as simply the void, but I was reminded of it in of all places in church this week.  It’s that bone chilling, thought shattering, crushing experience of being everywhere and nowhere and immersed in grinding, mind-blowing pain that is brought on by extreme trauma, whether it be emotional or physical.  Stephen King sort of describes it in his short story, “The Jaunt.”  What I mean by the void is a sort of airless, timeless limbo that is between time and space (if that’s possible to comprehend.)  It’s the moment in which you are hit with unspeakably horrific, life-shattering news and the grief and disbelief and shock hit you like a tidal wave- and worse.

In “The Jaunt,” the entry into the void was a bit different.  A scientist discovered that teleporting things almost instantly across space was possible, but that live animals and humans only made it through “the jaunt” if they were anesthetized.  Live animals came through the process aged and weak and died shortly after arriving at their destination- and the few humans that attempted it came out on the other side certifiably insane.

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Maybe King’s story isn’t the best analogy, but it’s the closest reference I can find to those times in which the wind is knocked out of you, you are transported to an airless, breathless, motionless state, and your world falls apart.  It’s infinity in there.  And not in a good way.  It’s what I would imagine to be a tiny sampling of hell- and no I’m not referring to the BMV.  I have to go there soon enough for the dreaded driver’s license mug shot, for which no matter what I do it will turn out positively frightening and should say “Correctional Institute Inmate” on the picture somewhere, because yes, my driver’s license pics have always been That Bad.  Even so, I’d gladly take an hour at the BMV waiting on having a shitty picture taken vs. one millisecond of the void.  Believe that.

mclovin-oldMy driver’s license is valid, but the pic is just as bad.

I don’t like to be reminded of the void or of the times I’ve been there.

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However, as far as psychological pain goes, I am almost always a delayed reactor.  I can only think of one time that I completely fell apart instantaneously, and that is when I got the news about my four year old niece being killed, which was completely unforeseen.  It seems that in order for me to fall apart I have to be caught off guard.

For years I dealt with- (and at times, still do deal with) post traumatic stress, which is the gift that keeps on giving, those brief illogical terrors that show up unbidden and in the least likely of places for the most bizarre reasons.  One of the most memorable unbidden episodes was back when I was working a really crappy job.  The only thing that kept me from going nuts in that place was that they sent me out to run titles from time to time.  It’s not rocket science but it does give you a lot of time to yourself.  You find the title offices of surrounding counties and turn in the paperwork so people who just bought cars get their titles registered and all that crud.  Most of the time back then, title offices were in the courthouse in whatever county seat so I got to investigate some really cool old 19th century courthouses.  Today public buildings might as well be prisons, but back in the day architects built things not only to last, but for their aesthetic value.  That part of the title running thing was almost fun.

courthouseThis is the courthouse in Marion County.  I hope that the powers that be don’t decide to tear this one down too.

I had to go to Union County, which was only about a half an hour out.  The title office had temporarily been moved to the old high school which was slated for demolition, while the new county building was being built.  So I find my way through the vestibule and follow the arrow upstairs.  The staircases were well-worn and crumbling, but the metal framework beneath them was holding fast.  I had a really strange feeling in that building, as if I were violating someone, or something’s space.  I found the temporary title office, completed the transfers, and as I was leaving, a huge framed glass and gold leaf memorial caught my eye.

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I don’t have a pic of the Union County memorial that was in that high school, but this memorial displays a similar concept.

It was a memorial of WWI veterans who came from that school.  There were at least fifty names on that memorial, and I believe eight of those names had stars next to them, indicating that they had been killed in action. I wasn’t able to linger there long.  For such a small, rural town to lose that many was sad, but the fact that the memorial was in a high school sort of struck me.  These weren’t old men.  This wasn’t a picture of grinning old men reminiscing over old times at the bar in the VFW.  These were kids just out of high school- boys who either came home jaded and scarred, or never came home at all.   I don’t know how to describe the wave of emptiness and profound grief that washed over me that day, but I had to run back to the car as fast as I could, and for some reason I was overcome with sadness and rage and I don’t know what else.  I wept over strange young men who I had never met, who had experienced terrors beyond anything I could imagine, and to this day I have no idea why.

On a brighter note, I remembered that I haven’t put up any pics of my newest kitty, Jezebel.  Jezebel was one of the feral kittens Jerry trapped back on the shop lot the week before Halloween.  The other three went to the owner of the body shop’s horse barn to keep the vermin away from the horses.  I wasn’t planning on another cat, but Jezebel, well, she’s all black.  All black cats don’t fare well in feral or outdoor settings, so we made her a house cat.  The first week or so she had to be handled with a welding glove (this is sort of normal with feral kittens.)  Now she is very social and fond of human attention, Isabel (and she looks just like a mini-Isabel) and really isn’t fazed by much of anything, including dogs.    The key to socializing cats is getting them before the socialization window more or less closes at 12 weeks.  These kittens were about 6 or 7 weeks when we found them, which is the perfect age to socialize them.  They can eat solid food and live OK without Mommy, so the mortality rate is low, but they can still learn to get along with humans, other cats and dogs.

Jezebel instantly gravitated to Isabel, (who is also all black) which we are grateful for because Miz Izz loves other cats and has always been good at schooling youngsters.  So now I have a 14 week or so old kitten who is going to have to be spayed here in the next few weeks.  But Jezebel is already a really good cat.  No welding gloves are currently required.

366Jezebel- “Mini-Izz”