Goodbye Charles

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May 2020

Let me begin with Lulu’s backstory.

On the morning of April 14th, 2016, a stray Himalayan (we called Cleo) gave birth to five kittens. She soon moved her litter to our garage and abandoned them. We did what we could to encourage her to care for them. Still, their cries went ignored, growing fainter and fainter each day.

Photo of Lulu Belle

When her neglect continued, we stepped in moving boxes and shelving to get to where she’d hid her babies. Shining a flashlight into the space beneath the built-in shelving, we saw that two babies had passed.  We moved the last three, hoping she’d return. She didn’t, and two more passed. We brought the last living kitten just over a week old to the shelter. They said she’d likely die and wanted to put her down. We decided to at least try to save her and four years later, Lulu is part of the squad.

Lulu’s father was also a stray; we called him Charles. A busy breeder, I TNRed him to curb the area cat population.

Photo of Charles

Charles came to us from time to time for food, water, and a visit with his best friend (and fellow TNR cat) Rico. Over the years, we supplied him with collars, flea collars, and a good petting when he needed it. Whenever I went on my walks, he’d meet me at the front of the house and walk with me to the sidewalk. Then when I returned, he’d be waiting to walk me home—a gentleman.

May 2020

The day of my daughter’s 18th birthday was Chaos. Charles showed up meowing I put him out front, to prevent him from being trampled by our fast moving feet. Then the next day….

(Get your tissues ready)

I received an early Mother’s Day delivery from my mother, two 32oz tins of David’s Butter Pecan Meltaway cookies. I was inspired to give the extra tin to my neighbors who had sung happy birthday to my daughter the day before. Instead of delivering it, I second-guessed and over thought and pushed the idea away, for fear of seeming… whatever.

Hours later, and the Universe nagging the crap out of me, I walked the tin over to their front door. I was reluctant to knock. I set the tin on top of a package on their porch.

On my way home, I saw Charles lying in the bushes. He looked half-dead, ants were already staking their claim. I bent down and called to him, but he could barely lift his head. (A mother, her children, a repairman and homeowner had ignored him for hours).

I got him food and water, then went inside to call my vet. No answer. The local shelter was COVID closed. Another vet was closed for the day. I dialed my vet again; the doctor himself answered. Hearing about Charles, even though he was already ten patients behind, he would see Charles immediately.

I went outside, where Charles was trying but barely able to stand. I wrapped him in a towel, put him in a laundry basket, and drove him to my vet (a two-minute drive). The doctor took him right away.

COVID had me waiting in my car.

As I sat there, I thought about Iron (kids named him) another TNR cat I took into my home and cared for over a year. I had to put him down in early 2019. I was in the vet office for hours crying over him, trying to let go, but not wanting to give him a last goodbye. My biggest regret was being paralyzed by the fear of losing him, keeping him from the next part of his journey. Iron haunted our house for months after his passing. Even Lulu would go into his favorite spots looking for him. I suspect it took him a while to realize he was once again all spirit.

Photo of Iron and Lulu

As I waited for news about Charles, I asked the Universe, why do I have to go through this again so soon?

And the Universe responded because YOU CAN do this.

For no reason at all, I reached for my phone; the time was 4:44pm; an Angel number. I wasn’t alone.

The doctor came out to my car and told me that Charles was suffering (kidney failure) and need not suffer anymore. I agreed. He went inside to make preparations.

The vet tech asked if I wanted to be with Charles. When she saw my tears she said, “It’s okay, it’s hard, and most people can’t do it.”

The body that Charles occupied no longer served him and I would help transition to the next leg of his spiritual journey. No one should do that alone.

I entered the room. Charles was on the table, partially covered with a towel, sedated and comfortable.

The vet tech said, “Take all the time you need.”

Thinking of Iron, I said, “I don’t need time.”

She left the room.

I sat down next to Charles and pet him. He seemed scared. I told him he was a “good kitty.” Again I cried, but I didn’t want to be that… a victim of loss. Charles deserved better. So I told him, “It’s time to be with your sisters, and Iron and Rusty, and little Cairo,” and as I named them, I imagined their faces. I watched Charles’s eyebrows raise in joy and curiosity.

The doctor came in and gave him the final injection and said he’d be back in five minutes.

The door shut, and I continued to pet Charles. Then I took a deep breath with my hand over his heart and just prayed. I felt him leave. The doctor came in right after (it had been less than 5 minutes) and confirmed that Charles had passed.

The doctor and I had a brief exchange. I got some of Charles’s fur, and as I was about to leave the room, I turned back towards the table where Charles’s body lay. In my head, I said, “Goodbye, Charles.”

And I turned to leave from behind me, I heard, “Thank you.”

Have you experienced a long detailed dream but wake up and realize only 5 minutes has passed? The thank you was like that, loaded. It was a “thank you for taking care of me, for talking to me, for walking with me, for taking care of my family, for seeing me, and helping me pass in peace. It was an ancient, “Thank You,” a spirit with a deeper voice that felt so much older and wiser than I.

Charles knew where to be. He waited for me just outside my house, sure that I would see him. I realize that he could have suffered even less had I followed the initial inspiration to deliver those cookies.

Maybe it was another COVID experience to be had, or maybe he was mourning Charles, whatever the case, two days later Rico got very sick…

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