A Tribute to Mr. Jazz – The Dignity of Life and Death and Finding the Beauty in Letting Go
The thing with inevitability is that no matter how many wishes upon a star, you cannot stop what is meant to be and I now find myself, a born writer, in stunned silence with no words to adequately convey both the crushing loss, yet the sobering relief of letting my beloved Mr. Jazz finally pass to his place on the Rainbow Bridge this past Wednesday.
On the surface you might not even know it, but upon closer inspection, every nook and cranny looks like a cat infirmary. Pill bottles, syringes, pee pads, disinfecting wash, special cat foods, pain medication, blankets in every corner, and more. But, the fact is, after a litany of blood tests, x-rays and endless examinations with no conclusive evidence in sight, and despite the mountains of cat paraphernalia dedicated to prolonging the life of our beautiful 15 year old boy, Mr. Jazz, he was dying.
We, of course, did not immediately know this and made it our mission, as if somehow our love and perseverance could will him back to his original healthy body weight and his younger days of life. We ran the gamut to assist – regular injections of fluids in his body, pills to stimulate his appetite, and, of course, my desperate and obsessive effort to find something to entice him to eat such as baby food, chicken broth, liver, cheese, specialty cat milks, turkey breast, tuna, and every and any brand of cat food on the market. He wanted none of it, to the point he was losing weight at such alarming levels that we were forced to bring him back to the vet to be taught how to force feed him with a syringe to bulk up his weight.
You would think that one frail cat versus one very stubborn and determined human would be an easy victory for the human, but that was hardly the case. Jazz became completely angry, depressed, and so desperate to get away from me that he would run and hide every time he saw me. I remained diligent and did my best to nourish him, but the eating victories were few and far between. This battle went on for weeks until one morning when I was getting ready for work and noticed a big bubble protruding from his throat. I woke Dan up in a complete panic, certain my time with Jazz would be reduced to minutes and we rushed him to the vet. She calmly drained the protrusion and broke the news to Dan and I, “You will need to make a decision very soon, as we don’t want to see a cat needlessly suffering.”
Dan and I brought Jazz home and made a promise to one another – above all else, and despite how hard the decision would be, Jazz deserved his dignity and we were not going to subject him to further tests, tubes, pills, syringes, or anything else. We were going love him as much as we could and enjoy whatever time with him we would be blessed to have. That being said, it was like a mini-miracle was given to us. Jazz seemed to intuitively know it was up to him and he began to eat on his own to the point he was asking for “snacks” all day and night long which we happily obliged and let’s just say that I was “cautiously overjoyed.”
We were given three more glorious months with Jazz who also seemed to sense the finality of time. He would drape his body on mine like days of old when we were on the couch and give me a bear hug as if to reassure me that he knew every day he had with us was a precious gift on loan. Dan and I lavished him with kind words, love, and extra petting and for a brief moment, time just stood still for us all. That was, until last week when everything began to change and we knew it was over. Jazz became incontinent and would take to slumbering for extended periods of time in very odd places. He was having trouble walking and took what would be his last bite of solid food and no amount of pleading, begging, crying, or cajoling would get him to eat. He began to nest and I knew he was trying to find a final resting place.
I put comfortable blankets all over the house for him to lie on – jumping on the couch or bed was no longer an option and I spent the entire week by his side at night, petting him for hours, until I knew he wanted me to leave so he could wander off without me watching him find a place to sleep through the night. He sensed that our time together at night was important and so did Harley. One night was especially difficult. I knew Jazz was laboring and she came to lie on the blanket next to us. I tried to shoo her away, but she got vocally agitated with me and pressed the warm girth of her body into his. I realized she was offering him her comfort and I let her stay with us. She never once moved and I remain in awe of her compassion towards him. Actually, all of the cats have been extraordinarily in tune with the emotion of the house and I don’t know what I would have done without all of their support.
On Tuesday night, I went to bed paralyzed with fear as to what I would find in the morning. Jazz was more restless than usual and he did not want me by his side for long. While it pained me immensely, I allowed myself to leave him be and respected his instinct to be alone. When I got up to go to bed, Harley was again by his side. When I woke up early Wednesday morning, I instantly looked for him and could not find him. I searched for over an hour and finally woke Dan to help me. He found Jazz under the TV stand and he hugged me and with a heavy heart told me Jazz was no longer in pain and was gone.
As Dan and I held one another, Peanut was on the floor, looking at the spot where Jazz was, imploring Dan to look again. He then told me, “Deb, Jazz is still with us.” He was barely breathing and could not lift his head. We had prayed he would pass peacefully in the night, but for whatever reason, we were given the precious gift of being able to share his final moments with us. Dan picked Jazz up and put him on a towel and brought him into the guest bedroom where I laid down next to him on the bed. I grabbed a blanket and wrapped myself around him to offer soothing words of love and comfort and pet his head as gently as I could. Kizmet and Harley lay at my feet and all of us spent the entire morning with Jazz. We did not move an inch until it was time to go. Dan had made the appointment for the afternoon – we knew the final gift we had to give Jazz was finding the grace, beauty, and dignity of letting him go.
At Dan’s suggestion, we placed Jazz in a beautiful wicker basket to carry him to the vet. It fit his body perfectly and he looked so peaceful resting in it. Once we got there, our vet talked to us for a few minutes and then she dimmed the lights. It was actually quite beautiful and serene. Dan and I held one another as we comforted Jazz in his final minutes and we left with the knowledge that he was so very loved and cherished and that he did not have to suffer any more. It obviously hurts deeply that we had to make that choice, but we knew it was the right one because when it comes to a pet, despite the wish to never have to let them physically go, one has to be gently reminded it is about the quality of their life, not the quantity of years that it needs to be measured by.
And even with the remaining gang of seven – Zee, Zoey, Mia, Peanut, Harley, Rolz, and Kizmet – there is still the loneliness of not having the eight. I will miss him so much – he was a part of my life for as long as I can remember and was one of the kindest, sweet tempered and docile cats I have ever known. Never once did he start a fight with the other cats or cause any trouble. He was not a cat prone to jumping on the counter, nor did he break things. He did not play with DaBird or laser pens. He was a lover, pure and simple, and the greatest joy he ever got was those blessed moments when he could drape his body over mine and give me a big ole bear hug with his beautiful, fluffy paws.
Rest in peace my darling boy… we love you so much…