Euthanasia, End of Life Issues

Euthanasia, End of Life Issues

On November 15, 2010, for 24 hours after seeing the doctor, my older son and I thought hard about this subject.  The next morning, I decided to write about the subject, because a part of me did not want to do it, but the other part was doing its best to comfort and tell myself, it was the right decision and best for Amber.  Since this topic is one of much discussion, besides one my family had to face, I decided to share my thoughts.  I had to stop trying to second-guess the decision too, in the hopes of saving her life, but writing did not stop the tears or the pain.

There was a time I said I would never do that to a pet or anyone else for that matter, because I thought it was murder, at least when I was in the Church.  The thought of killing someone to save them from suffering and pain was an abhorrence to me and I truly believed that we should do everything to save their life, even if it fails.  Why?  I do not know.  However, since I left the Church that has changed and I have set different standards for even my own death when the time comes.  I write about Amber, as though she were human, because she was family, but if such were the wishes of a dying human, I would respect and honour those wishes.  I also feel, portraying her as human-like with only an occasional reminder that she was not, shows a point concerning end of life issues.

For over two months, I watched my precious furry four-legged daughter, Amber get thinner, sicker, and weaker by the day, refusing to eat or drink.  The doctor, as an advocate for Amber, finally recommended euthanasia, because as she told me, I could have all the money in the world and it more than likely would not help her get better.  Any treatment at that point would only prolong her life, but in suffering and pain.  The doctor was not recommending it because we had three cats and are on hard times nor was it some sick bizarre desire to rid the world of too many non-human animals.  Amber was truly sick with an extremely enlarged liver and kidney, as well as severely jaundice.  She went from a very healthy thirteen pounds to barely six pounds in a couple months and felt like an anorexic on death's door.  Nothing we tried over the last couple of months helped her and the thirteen-year-old girl only got worse.

This precious little girl, who I still think of as being like a daughter and spent her whole life, minus the first four months, with me, would cuddle up under the covers at night beside me and purr me to sleep.  She was my ears when someone approached the door and told me there was another human on the other side, before they knocked.  She also became a mother to Shiva when she joined our family at six weeks old six years ago, although Amber never had kittens herself.  She loved everyone, even the cop with shiny things dangling from his pants, in which she tried to grab.  Luckily, the officer had pets and understood, without wanting to harm her for trying to grab his handcuffs.

So why would I want her life and death to be any different from my own?  Why would I want her life prolonged with a very slim chance of recovery, only to die with tremendous pain and suffering, when I would not want that myself?  She was family and as family, she was entitled to the same rights and privileges, as any of us, applicably applied of course since she was a cat.  She lived a good life, probably better than most other cats living with humans; because we never treated her any differently than we would a human animal, with some exceptions of course.  For example, she could not sit at the dinner table like a human, thus it had to be reasonable and accommodating to her.  Why should her end of life issues be any different from what we would desire?  Why should we prolong her life when the doctor had little hope, especially when we would not want it for ourselves?  Why would I want my family to spend money they could not afford to keep me alive a little longer when in the end, I would just die a painful death anyway, probably more pain than if I were allowed to die sooner?  I would not want it and I would hope they would have a memorial that celebrated my life as they return me to the earth.

Anyway, the doctor explained to me, that they would cremate her, give us her ashes, and "Friends of the Family" would set up a time to help us scatter her ashes in a field.  I could not help but think, even with tears, “that is exactly how I would want it” and I could picture the beautiful field in my head as we gave her a funeral celebration.  For me, it sounded as beautiful as anything I would want my family to have when they celebrate my life after I die.

That night, I visited her at the hospital, albeit with tears, before the doctor euthanized her.  Although it was hard, both my older son and I were with her at 5:30 that evening when she breathed her last.  I said I would never do it, but Monday evening, both my older son and I thought, together and separately, about what we would want if we were in Amber's place.  The thought of dying in pain from organ failure seemed to me as bad as dying from painful cancer.  I would not want it and would prefer to just go to sleep and sleep the sleep of the dead before the pain became too much.  I have always wanted to die in my sleep, just as my grandmother, her sister, and my great grandmother did without euthanasia.  It cannot always be done naturally, but still possible, before the pain of dying gets to be unbearable.  I wished the same for my darling Amber, even though it hurt greatly to let her go.

Therefore, we made the decision that I said, before leaving the Church that I would never do.  Thoughts on death do change though.  Instead of going to a fictional place, she, just as us humans, will be returning to the earth and giving back, what she took from it while living.  It is no different.  Death treats no animal, human or otherwise differently.  It is an equal opportunity event, which comes to us all eventually, regardless of species, and how it occurs is no different either.  We come into this world the same, struggle to survive, and die much the same.  No one can keep us young and alive forever.

The only unfortunate part was that my younger son, who was nineteen at the time, could not be involved with this due to his circumstances, but the next day, I told him that Amber died.  My sons called Amber their sister.  I knew it would be hard for him to hear the news.  However, it is a fact of life that we must all face and the same ideals we apply or wish for ourselves sometimes have to apply to other family members, even if they are furry and four-legged, no matter how hard it may be.  In the end, our pets die just as we do and go to the very same place as we do- back to the earth.

Even in death, Amber was treated as a family member and like a human, even though it was extremely emotionally painful for us.  Her doctor felt we made a good decision and said she would not just arbitrarily make such a recommendation, because she knows our pets are family, which is common for pet caregivers, I hear.

The next night, I arrived an hour early, with my older son, to painfully let my furry four-legged daughter go, basically having a wake, fitting for a human, even though I did not want to let her go.  We spent about an hour with her on a blanket we laid on the floor, loving her, hearing her purr, played some of her favourite music, even danced with her on my shoulder a little until she lay over in my arms tired, which did not take long given her condition.  She was so weak and her skin very yellow, but she seemed glad we were there that she spoke to us a little too.  Aside from dancing with me one last time, she spent most of her time lying down.  I told Amber, she cannot go home, but would feel better soon, as she looked at me as though to ask, “Why?”  Before the doctor left us alone with Amber, she reassured me that I could not have prevented this, explaining that organ failure happens often with older cats.

The doctor came into the room again at 5:30 and asked if we were ready.  No, I was not ready, but I knew it was better than continuing to allow her to be so sick until she died.  The doctor had me pet Amber while telling her “she is a good girl” and that I love her, as she gave Amber an injection through a tube in her “wrist”.  Amber's head just fell over as though she suddenly dropped off to sleep, like a child too sleepy to eat her dinner.  The doctor grabbed Amber’s head to sit it down gently on the blanket that was still on the floor.  Less then fifteen seconds afterward, the doctor called it saying, "She's gone."  I started to cry and said, "It was so fast."  The doctor replied, "Sometimes that good" and offered to let us stay for a while.

I had forgotten what happens the first few moments after death as I picked up her limp body, and then it suddenly dawn on me- my baby had a little accident, so to speak, but it was not the first time and probably would not be the last time such a thing happens.  I did not care, until I put Amber down and my son hugged me.  I tearfully told him, "I have pee on me."  Ironically, it is somewhat funny now, but as a parent/sitter of human babies, puppies, kittens, and all, even the living have done that to me.  Thus, I can say, both the living and the dead have peed on me.  However, my son did not care.  He just wanted hold me and let me cry some more, as he cried also.

Finally, I took the blanket the doctor provided us when they brought Amber to us to visit one last time, and wrapped her in it, as though she were sleeping, laid her on the examining table, and kissed her cheek, telling her I love her, one last time before leaving.  I wanted to stay a little longer, but my son did not want to stay much past twenty minutes, partly out of fear.  Death bothers him greatly, but still, I asked him, half jokingly, if he wanted to stay until she released her last air and he said, "No," but he knew I would have stayed until rigger set or longer, while petting and talking to Amber the whole time.  I did not push him to stay longer though.

If I had my way, I would prefer to have Amber healthy, lying beside me, and purring me to sleep at night, but I still have Suga'Ray, my Hemi, who lies on his own pillow beside my head and also purrs me to sleep.  I have my other furry daughter, Shiva, my half Siamese, still too.  Therefore, the bedtime lullabies continue, albeit without my precious little girl, Amber.  The trio is now a duet and while we miss Amber greatly, she will live on in our hearts, treated, as usual, no differently than any other love one.  I said good-bye to her, while she was still alive, as painful as that was, even though I did not want to say good-bye.  In time though, the tears and pain of losing her will pass and she will be a beautiful memory, right up and including her funeral celebration.  It was the first in my life as being a celebration and not a religious dirge, as well as the first I performed, before even receiving a license as a humanist celebrant, which I hope to get one day.  Thus, her memorial ceremony was non-religious, and I think, given that, she was a member of the family and a cat; it is excusable and permissible for me to do without a license.

Would I make the same decision again?  If there was no hope of recovery, but only suffering and pain until death, be the patient human or other species, yes, I would.  I would not prolong one's life, just because I want them to live, especially if it meant they would only suffer until death.  It seems the only logical thing to do when a doctor can do nothing more for a person.  Even my sons know that if there was no hope of me recovering and living a quality life, then they are to do the same, especially if I am unable to speak for myself.  It seems the most logical thing to do, and more preferable than quantity, especially when the quality of life is lost.

In loving memory of Amber Marie Brinson
Species:  Feline
Born:  August 1997
Adopted from the Humane Society four months later.
Died:  5:30 P.M.  November 16, 2010
Survived by her human mother- Mriana, two human brothers, adopted feline brother- Suga’Ray, and an adopted feline daughter- Shiva.
May the memory of her live long in our hearts and minds.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • sleuth

    after half a century of sharing my life with many companion animals, I have only had to make that decision two times. The rest had all quietly gone to Rainbow Bridge in their sleep (other than a spooky and very sudden disappearance for a third one from the house in February). I now have that big decision coming up again with an elderly dog who is not in pain, but dying from cancer. I would just say to you, our companions are here for a very short time, but that time is packed with love, comfort and understanding of our human failures. And we are the better for that short time we have been privileged to share.

  • yknott

    It is such a hard thing to do, but I believe it is right. Your story brought me to tears because I have been through it several times and am close to it again with my dear dog. Like you said, all things live and die and if we can help our animal companions die with less pain and in a comfortable setting then we are doing them a great favor. My heart goes out to you in you pain and I'm sure Amber is appreciative of what you did for her. Peace.

  • 1smartcanerican

    This brings back the sad day that my eldest son and I had to take our beloved cat to the vet for the same reason. She was so sick and so embarrassed that she culdn't control her functions. It was so hard. I cried there and back, son driving.

    My husband had to take our dog in and now won't let us have another because he was so upset with Rosie leaving us. I'm still working on that because we all need a dog. I'll make sure that he does not have to face this situation again as it traumatized him.

    We still all talk about Boots and Rosie and it has been years since they left us. Even our granddaughter knows about them and they left long before she arrived. She sees pictures and hears our love in talking about them.

  • Yes, but I don't think just other animals should have this option and that is is part of my point of writing this too. When I said I wouldn't want my life extended just because my loved one's wanted to prolong it, only to face pain and suffering, I meant it. Sometimes I think chronically ill humans, with the same chances of surviving should have the option of quality v quantity also. It their quality of life has a much chance as any of our pets we let go due to such illnesses humans should have the same option. I think the only state that allows such as option currently is Oregon. Not sure, but I know it's one of the north eastern states.

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