Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Heartbreak - Losing Theo, Losing Purpose

"“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, ..."
Matthew 25:31-46

Theo passed away early yesterday morning, about 4:15 AM.  I was up with him all night.

He had been sick for the last 4 months or so.  At first they thought it was a kidney trauma, but a new vet recently diagnosed it as diabetes.  Perhaps if I had found that out sooner I could have done more.  I have never had a diabetic cat before, it was all new to me. 

It's a problem when you owe the vet money to get care. Sometimes they won't serve your animals anymore, or at least are very discouraging when you call them, preferring to give you phone advice than having you come in and run up more bills.  So I get a lot of phone advice.

But that also causes me to run around seeking new vets and sometimes I end up finding gems.  The new vet who helped Theo is a gem. 

But that is not what this post is about.  It's about the spirit of desolation you can experience after a loss, especially if it is a person or animal who has been sick for a time and you have been caring for them every hour on the hour.  Like the female octopus blowing on her eggs to keep them afloat, you find you cannot afford to look away or think of yourself or your own tiredness or needs for a moment or you lose ground.  And as important and overwhelming as your own needs appear to be, when you succumb to them and turn away from your convalescent you always find they didn't matter as much as the ground you lost with your loved one.

And when you wake up everyday to his or her needs, and suddenly they are gone, you face a horrible emptiness without them.  It gives you purpose.  It gives you something more important than yourself to think about when they are foremost on your mind. 

I once had a dog who became paralyzed.  He was in wheelchair the last year of his life.   He needed round the clock care.  When he died the silence and the emptiness was overwhelming.  I found this article on the Internet about this very subject, here is a portion:

"Caregiver Syndrome"

For those of us who are caregivers for a terminally ill or other special-needs pet, their death is a loss that can hit us doubly hard. I had a difficult time understanding why I was so devastated by Major Barbara's death, until one day when I was in conversation with close friend who is a former AIDS hospice volunteer and a minister. I told him about the extremely difficult time I was having coming to grips with her loss - far more difficult than I'd had when I'd lost friends and family members in the past - and asked him "What's wrong with me? Am I crazy?" His response: "You have Caregiver Syndrome, and what you are experiencing is completely normal".

In a nutshell, Caregiver Syndrome is something that is a familiar concept in the AIDS hospice circles. Caregiver Syndrome happens when a person's life becomes consumed with taking care of another person (or, in this case, a companion animal). We devote huge amounts of time, energy and attention to our sick pets, and when the pet dies, we are left not only with the "normal" grief of the loss of a loved one, but also the gaping hole left because we are suddenly bereft of that which has been such an all-consuming focus of our attention for so long. A friend of mine who was a caregiver to an AIDS patient expressed it this way: "I don't know what to do with myself anymore. My whole world revolved around taking care of him, and now he's gone." We become so wrapped up in our roles as caregivers, that when the object of our care is no longer there, we find ourselves literally having to re-assess and even re-invent our lives. Doing this takes time, patience and work.

The spirit of desolation can be overwhelming.  It is tempting to succumb to it, especially if you are alone, have no one to talk to, or feel no one close to you understands what you are going through.  Sometimes people, to fight their uncomfortable feeling with the subject of sickness and death, are too quick to minimize your pain and loss, which can isolate you even more.

The spirit of desolation can make you angry, resentful, self -righteous, insecure, hopeless.  God feels far away.  We have to fight it.

I feel Theo's loss terribly.  Meanwhile a neighbourhood cat, beautiful Rainbow, has shown up with her litter of kittens.  It appears her front leg is injured.  Is it broken?  She brought the kittens to the food bowl and left.  The last time I saw her she was hiding in the bushes across the way. 

At the park this morning I saw one of the youngest females, Pansy, a kitten herself, with her recent litter.  She had brought them to the water bowl.  Small and sickly, I wondered if they would make it.  I found her sister Anemone in the road, killed by a car right after I found Pookie.  Anemone had been pregnant, too.  I don't know if she had already had her litter when she was killed. 

This afternoon I noticed Solo's front paw is swollen and painful again.  The last time she had this problem she had to be administered a course of prednisone.  She will need to go back to the vet. 

The needs will be never ending, this much is clear.  Theo is gone but others rise up so to speak to take his place in their need.  I want to help them all.  The vet told me this afternoon when I called him to let him know Theo had passed, "You can't save them all."

"I know," I said, "But we have to try." 

I met an elderly Cypriot lady in the grocery store.  She was loading up on cat food like me.  She came and whispered to me, because she said people get mad in Cyprus when you spend money on animals. so she wanted to be quiet.  She told me a story of how a mother cat she was feeding took a piece of ham she put out and took it straight away to where her kittens were hiding, and set it down before them so they could eat.  She said, "You see, they are like us."

God Bless that woman.  She lived with her brother she said.  She said he payed for all the cat food.  I will probably never see her again.  I wondered if she was an angel.

The mother looks after her young.  When she knows she is in trouble she makes sure to bring her young to where they will be cared for, like Rainbow did.  Like we do. 

Look at the octopus. Look at God's great design. We are all created in His image, all His creatures, more alike in our needs and ways to the animals than different.

"...they are like us."

God is coming at us every minute.  Are we too busy, is it too painful to listen?

"You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them."
Ezekiel 34:3-4

I will share some memories of my beloved Theo with you in the next post. 

Thank you, Theo. 


  1. I am so sorry for your loss.

  2. Thank you so much. You have no idea what that means to me.