Thursday, January 29, 2004
  time to say goodbye time to say goodbye

Yesterday my mother put Nikki to sleep. She was 19 years old. When I first carried her home in my coat pocket, she was a tiny ball of fur and I was eleven. She was my cat and she knew it. I was her human. After I left home, whenever I came back to visit she slept in my suitcase.

“Heather, Nikki went to sleep today,” said my mother to my voicemail. “She's in peace now. She isn’t suffering anymore. She’s sleeping under the tulips in the back yard. I’m so sorry. Please call. I want to know how you’re feeling.”

I don’t know how I’m feeling. Do I have to answer this question? I call home anyway, to be a good daughter for a change.

But I’ve lost my appetite for sentimentality. There was a time, age 10, when I could write a story about my cat that would make my English teacher cry in front of the class. But that was when I was 10, and now I don’t want to talk about this.

So instead I talk about what it is to suffer. What it is to die. What it is to go to sleep and not wake up. What it is to play god.

What goes through the mind of a cat as the barbiturates enter her bloodstream? What becomes of the instincts of domesticated animals?

It’s not a matter of right or wrong, but euthanasia seems to go across the grain of what is the natural order of things. Suffering is part of life. Do animals in the wild perform mercy killings?

Death is an intensely personal and sacred experience. Or it should be. And yet, through modern medicine and technology, we keep people – and pets – alive until they simply don’t want to be alive anymore. And then we euthanize them. But who are we to make such decisions for another? Is it our right to deny another the experience of dying, any more than to deny the experience of living?

We legislate. We make rules and absolutes. Suffering is bad. Medicine is good. Death is bad. Life is good. Are you Pro-Choice or Pro-Life? Are you For or Against the death penalty? What about legalized euthanasia? Are you Compassionate or Progressive? I know where my politics lie. But what of the natural order?

We’ve become just so, so far removed…

Nikki isn't sleeping.

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