As I write this, Charlotte is curled up by my legs, asleep on a blanket. Since September, I feel as if there has just mainly been sickness and death around here. Akasha died in late September, then I got pancreatitis, then Maceo died in January, shortly after I got my second cancer diagnosis and after we adopted the two kittens. As soon as I recovered from my pancreas surgery, Charlotte fell ill, and now, unbelievably, we are trying to make our sweet kitten’s last weeks happy and comfortable ones, after she was diagnosed with a fatal condition called FIP (feline infectious peritonitis).
Charlotte is doing OK, though she can’t walk very well. As when I was sick for months, sometimes it seems as if it’s always been this way, and it’s hard to imagine what it was like to be well. The comparison would be too hard, pitting the memories of 100 percent wellness against the current reality. It’s only been about two and a half weeks, but sometimes I can barely remember the Charlotte who scampered around the apartment or jumped for toys. I can’t reconcile that with the current kitty who sleeps most of the day or pulls herself shakily across the floor. Yet her spirit is the same; her eyes still alert. Weak as she has been, she located and caught a stray bug in the apartment last Sunday. Her ears perk up at her name.
I will remember her as she was later, when it stops hurting so much. I know it will never completely stop hurting, but I also know that, with enough time after a death, the pain of loss turns into a gratitude for having that person—or cat—in your life, even when the time with them seems too short. Even when the life itself seems unjustifiably, unbearably short. I can’t believe Charlotte has been with us for only about four months, and she’s been alive for only eight. I asked about drugs and treatments, but was told they are expensive and not proven to be effective. I can’t stop this disease from taking our sweet Charlotte no more than I can stop time from inching forward.
When we found out she didn’t have much time, we pretty much cancelled most plans so we could be with her. Since the FIP makes her wobbly, one of us always has to be home to watch her. For the past several weeks, one of us has slept on an air mattress to be with her since she can’t jump on the bed, but this week, after pumping up the air mattress at night, we would awake on the floor, the mattress around us in a deflated heap. Since the leak couldn’t be located, the regular mattress is now on the floor, off the box spring, so Charlotte can still get down if she needs to and she still has someone to cuddle with at night.
These weeks have been bittersweet. Seeing her up and about is heartening, while seeing her struggle to move is heartbreaking. Ziggy tries to be helpful at times, but he tends to bathe her kind of aggressively—as is his way with everything he seems to do in life. Ziggy also has been curling up with his sister and cuddling more with her the past few days, and it’s sad to think that they won’t be able to grow up together as we thought they would, as lifetime companions.
I don’t want her to suffer but I don’t want her to go. I stubbornly want her to get better. The vet gave her two to three weeks. We are entering week three. When she curls up in our arms and purrs, we’re at our happiest. It’s during these moments I will the impossible, for time to stand still. I want to keep her like that forever, a happy purring kitten, in my arms and heart.