The end of suffering

Note: Not a gaming related post.

My mom, who was born in 1928, didn’t even really understand what the internet is, yet it was the source of so many good thoughts and kind wishes directed her way.

Her struggle ended this morning at 10:20. Unfortunately she was alone at the time (or maybe she planned it that way) but the nurse on duty said it was very quiet, very peaceful. She just slipped away. Yesterday she was lucid, or at least semi-lucid, and insisting that we not hook her to any machines or take any further action to prolong her life. She was ready to go and just wished it would all be over. And now she has her wish and I’m refusing to look at this as bad news for her, even if it’s bad news for us. But we knew it was coming…

It’s always awkward knowing what to say in times like these, so I’m closing comments on this post. So many of you have already sent along prayers, vibes, good wishes and just a general wave of positive thoughts. I really appreciate them and I still have them; there’s no need to reiterate and they get me all choked up anyway.

So I’ll just say thank you one more time. You’ve all meant a lot.

Now I’m going to lose myself in virtual worlds for a while. The arrangements are such that we can still attend PAX and I’m looking forward to that escape/distraction.

Dying and the kindness of strangers

Note: Not a game-related post.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about getting old and the ordeals my elderly mother is going through due to illness. It has obviously been a difficult and painful process for her, and it’s been a confusing, frustrating and sad process for the family. Since then I’ve sent a few updates via Twitter.

In response to the post and the tweets I’ve received a lot of support and advise from established blog readers, twitter friends and complete strangers. A lot of it has been carried out through private channels. People I really don’t know have contacted me and offered professional advice that has been very helpful. Other people have offered support and sympathy which has also been very helpful.

I’ve been moved more than I can say by these responses. You’ve renewed my faith in people, a faith that has really taken a beating over the years. Granted I generally lose faith over silly things, like trolling in MMO message boards, but I’d started to assume that was just how people are. But now I am reminded that when the topic turns serious people are inherently good.

For all the advice, support, positive vibes and restoring my faith in people, I thank you all.

Yesterday we put my mom on Roxinal, which is what they call an end-of-life tranquilizer. Its purpose is to take away her pain and distress during her last few days. On Thursday the hospital discharged her to the care center she’d been at since they couldn’t do anything for her the care center couldn’t do, and she’d be more comfortable there. Unfortunately we took that as a good sign, not understanding what they meant was that she was dying. Friday afternoon the nurse at the care center called to tell us she was in a very bad way. They could send her back to the hospital for “aggressive treatment” but the chances of a recovery were very slim. In the meanwhile my mom’s mental state had deteriorated to a point where she was terrified, not knowing where she was, crying and screaming in fear. Her physical state was continuing to deteriorate as well. My brother made the call to go with the Roxinal, supported by myself and my mom’s younger sister. The process my mom is going through is very similar to the process her mom went through and she made the same call in her mother’s case.

So now we wait. She isn’t on feeding tubes or anything of that nature (she always told us she didn’t want to be kept alive via machines) so I don’t expect it will take long. I can only hope that her end comes quickly, but if it doesn’t we at least know her fear and pain has ended.

Isis (2004-2010) Rest in Peace

Isis gave up her long battle with health issues and left us last night.

She’d been unwell for a couple of years, really, but a few weeks ago she got really bad and I feared we were going to lose her. We made a vet appointment but by the time we got in to see him, she’d mostly recovered. Nevertheless the vet gave her a slow-release hormone shot and she sprang back, seemingly better than she’d been in months and months. We knew she was really old for a guinea pig and that we didn’t have much time left with her, but it was so great to see her cavorting like a young pig again.

Then yesterday afternoon I noticed she hadn’t eaten some treats I gave her. By evening her breathing had become very labored, as it had last month. She was still eating some but was becoming very selective. By the time I went to bed she was moving around again and I thought she was going to spring back, but this morning I was greeted by her still body rather than her usual strident demands for breakfast. It seems she went peacefully…she looked like she was sleeping.

On some level there’s a sense of relief. It’s so hard to tell how much discomfort a guinea pig is in, since they’re ‘prey animals’ and showing weakness is a good way to draw the attention of a predator. But I think she’d been pretty uncomfortable for a long while. She was slowly losing weight over the past few months in spite of eating plenty. I suspect her eyesight was going, too.

Her appreciation for pets and cuddles and scritches never left, though. Yesterday evening both Angela and I spent some quality ‘lap time’ with her (though in my case it was more like neck time… she’d crawled up and settled in on my shoulder with her little bum under my chin) and the last thing I did when I went to bed was give her a pet and I got a purr as a reward.

If you’ve never lived with a guinea pig all this fuss probably seems silly. I thought Angela was a bit bonkers when I first met her and she’d talk about Isis. Then I met her and my attitude changed and since then we’ve added two more members to our guinea pig family. Over the years as the vet bills ran into thousands of dollars friends would tell me “Just go buy another guinea pig!” and the pre-Isis me would’ve thought the same thing. But these creatures have strong personalities and are smarter than you might think. They are definitely not interchangeable.

So goodbye to Isis, or “Little bear” as I often called her. She’s somewhere in a better place where there’s plenty of fresh grass to eat and nothing looking to eat her. She’s probably already bossing other guinea pig spirits around, making things “just so” in the same way she managed to do that here with us.

Mimi and Mona are unsettled and a bit confused. When I came into the room this morning instead of the usual chorus of good morning purrs and soft wheeks, there was just silence. They knew something was wrong. Angela wanted to give them a chance to ‘say goodbye’ so we put them with Isis’s body. Mona just seemed perplexed but Mimi kept trying to prod or nip Isis awake. Heartbreaking.

If you have a pet of any kind, give him or her a hug for me today, will ya?

Callie (????-2006) Rest in Peace

CallieI lost a friend today, after about ten days of trying one cure after another. My strange little cat, Callie, who came into my life about two and a half years ago, was put to rest at noon today.

I am overwhelmed and startled at how sad I am over this. I’ve lost grandparents and my father and a step-brother and a step-father and I don’t remember ever being quite this sad…and its over a cat. Strange, and probably not really true. I’m sure I’ve just buried the old griefs so that I don’t remember them as being as bad as they were. Or maybe its just that she was so totally dependent on me.

Callie was a wonderful creature, though she wasn’t much of a cat. She was a street cat that wound up in a shelter somehow and I don’t think she spent much time with her mother learning to act cat-like. We think she’d had some kind of head trauma, because she couldn’t walk very well and seemed constantly surprised by the world. She was a total mess of a cat who had trouble eating and so wound up with food in her fur constantly. That said, she’s often decide my beard needed grooming when I picked her up. She was sweet and good natured, but she hissed when she wanted attention (other than a quiet purr, hissing was the only sound I ever heard her make). She seemed happiest with a warm lap to nap on, or failing that, to stretch out alongside a reclining human. When I brought her home she had ear mites so bad that I think she was mostly deaf. She couldn’t see very well, either. Couldn’t walk very well… though she ran fine. And her lack of grooming talents extended to both ends of her, and more than once I had to plop her in the bathroom sink to bathe her. When this happened she’d quietly accept it, but she’d just look at me with this totally puzzled expression.

Today was her 4th trip to the vet in ten days and she wasn’t getting any better. She’d been mostly sleeping for almost a week and we decided that the best thing for her was to end her misery. I knew it was coming so we spent a lot of time together over the past couple of days, her sleeping in my lap while I watched endless tv while petting her and giving her scritches under the chin. At the vet I kept on petting her and keeping her comfortable while she drifted off (they give the animal two shots. The first puts them to sleep and the second actually kills them). I kept on petting her while she got the second shot. The vet checked her heart. It had stopped. He told me to take all the time I needed and left the room. I kept on petting her for a good while longer even though she was beyond feeling it. Then I left her body laying on the examining room table and came home. I chose to have her cremated; I’m not big on burials.

When I got home and saw her toys all over, and her favorite box (she *loved* cardboard boxes, as most cats do) waiting for her, I lost it all over again. I quickly gathered up all her things and removed them. Then I went out again. When I came home the house felt empty and silent, even though she wasn’t a ‘greet you at the door’ type of animal usually. I still opened the door carefully, though, just in case, because she wasn’t really smart enough to get out of the way if she was there.

I have no idea how old she was, but she was only with me for about two and a half years. When I adopted her they told me she was two, but the vet felt she was much older, and I tend to agree. She was pretty much a lap-cat and it took a lot to get her motivated to play. She clearly led a rough life before she came to live with me. I think she was happy to end up with me. I remember the day I saw her picture on and just knew she was the cat for me. Oddly, I’d wanted a big cat and she was tiny. That laptop she’s sitting on is a 12″ iBook, just for a sense of scale. I went to the shelter and they opened the door of the cage she was in and she just climbed up into my arms like she’d always known me.

I’m really going to miss that little furball…