Trigger warnings for death by illness and mention of suicide.
I’ve recently been watching video blogs posted by Jackson Galaxy on Youtube – a guy known as the “cat daddy” who originally came to fame through being a cat behaviorist who got his own tv show, “My Cat From Hell”. The videos are documenting the journey with one of his beloved cats, Caroline, who is now, and unexpectedly, at the end of her life.
He’s on #4 which I have on in the background while writing. Caroline has cancer and after a lot of research on options, Jackson has chose palliative care. On this video, he opened with talking about all of the moments you take for granted during regular old life. Basically, just being with that someone, making memories, enjoying their company, enjoying all those small, everyday things.
I think that’s something all of us can relate to. As I’ve been thinking about the past, I think about all the good times Mario and I had. I think about all of the laughs, the good conversations, the trips, the shows, the music we made, and yes, even all the difficult times, but why dwell on those, you know?
Looking back over the years, I know we both took some things for granted. Hell, up until 6 months before his grand exit, I was still hoping that he would pull through and we’d get to take that trip to Iceland that we had literally been planning for years and never took. I took his health, while he had it, for granted, and he did too. Liver disease is a slow killer, but there was always not enough time or not enough money or one thing or another that would come up to prevent trips like that from happening. We’d “settle” by taking a trip to New York, or Seattle, or San Francisco, or the Grand Canyon, which were all fantastic trips, but we always just figured there would be time to do those really big trips. We were going to grow old together after all.
Back to Jackon’s video blog … he also talks about anticipatory grief a lot. I first experienced this with my cat, Isis. I didn’t even know what anticipatory grief was initially. I knew she was getting old and nearing the end and I was just sad all the time about it. I knew that in the very near future, I would have to deal with her death. I finally ended up looking up “grief before someone dies” to find out. So it was sadly a familiar feeling when I started to feel that way about Mario.
Liver disease due to addiction is not a pretty picture. As the body slowly gives out, the drinker ignores all of the signs. What finally got his attention was a symptom that his mother had when she had cancer. So he thought it had intestinal cancer and vowed to quit drinking. It still took him 2 months to actually quit drinking. By that point, he had all the symptoms of end-stage liver disease. Those last 6 months I went to bed every single night with tears in my eyes. I still had some hope that he would be one of those .2% of people who are able to survive and he would fight, but the truth was, he did not have the fight in him. It was a painfully slow suicide that took 15 years to manifest.
I’ve written about it numerous times now only because, in the end, Mario wanted others to avoid his fate. While he was staring down his own death, he was thinking about other people who might struggle with alcohol abuse and how, if they just found a way to overcome that, they would not have to suffer like he was.
It was 3 months of low-level, non-invasive treatment and 3 months of basic palliative care – stay comfortable, eat whatever food he wanted, etc. It was in the last 3 months that I knew he had given up and I lost my hope. He still carried on though, as if the dire situation was just a minor inconvenience and I admire that to this day. It brought to mind one of my favorite poems, “Death is Nothing at All” by Henry Scott Holland.
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight.
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
The last thing I said to Mario as he slipped away was, “I love you. I’ll meet up with you later.”
Life really is such a “brief moment” when you really stop and think. Even if one is gifted with a long, healthy life, it is still the blink of an eye when compared to the epochs of time. So whatever I do, I’m not taking any of the moments for granted from here on out.