Ruby’s Last Journey: The Long Goodbye

Ruby

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Today marks exactly three months since Ruby passed away. This is the last part in a four-part series about my experience during the last four months of Ruby’s life, from diagnosis to caring for her through her illness, to having to let her go. Click here to read part one, Ruby’s Last Journey: The Moment That Changed Everything, part two, Ruby’s Last Journey: Practical Considerations of Hospice Care,and part three, Water, Water Everywhere! Hydration for Cats with Kidney Disease.

I had prior experience with losing cats after a lengthy illness, and after a sudden, brief illness. The gift of time, short as it was, between Ruby’s diagnosis and her passing, made a tremendous difference for me in terms of how I coped.

From denial to acceptance

When Ruby first started drinking more water, alarm bells went off in my head. But, even though I have a lot of knowledge about feline veterinary medicine, and could reel off a whole laundry list of possible reasons why she did it, I didn’t react right away. Denial is a powerful force, and I just didn’t want to acknowledge that something was wrong. Would it have made a difference if I had pursued diagnostics four or five weeks sooner? Maybe, maybe not. Given how fast her cancer moved through her little body, I doubt it would have mattered. It was probably already pretty advanced by the time she showed symptoms.

Once I received the bloodwork results, I could no longer stick my head in the sand. I broke down while I was on the phone with Dr. Tasi, and I cried on and off for the next few days.

At some point during those early days, I shifted from utter devastation to rearranging my life. From that point on, Ruby was my only priority. Everything else took second place.

Making every moment count

I wanted to spend as much time with Ruby as I could. She had always been my little “Velcro kitten.” If she had had her way, she would have been glued to me 24/7. She was in my lap when I was working, eating my meals, reading, or watching TV. She slept curled up in my arms. I didn’t want to miss any of these precious moments, and I’m pretty sure neither did she. Of course, she didn’t know our time together was limited, but I know she loved having all that extra “Mom time.”

I always feel blessed that I work from home, but now, more than ever, I realized just what a gift it was to not have to leave the house for hours on end to go to work. But even though I was with her during my working hours, it wasn’t enough. I curtailed pretty much all social engagements for the last three months of her life other than an occasional lunch or dinner with a close friend that only took me away from home for a couple of hours at the most.

Being in charge of my schedule meant that I could easily feed her multiple small meals throughout the day. It meant that I never had to worry about leaving her when she was having a not so good day. It meant being able to make the most of our time together.

A deeper bond, until the very last breath

I felt that Ruby and I became even closer during the last few months of her life – something I experienced with Buckley as well, but with Ruby, it went even deeper. I knew from my experience with Buckley that I had to try to stay in the moment as much as I possibly could, rather than worrying about what was coming next. I made sure that when I had meltdowns, I went into a different room to cry, rather than letting myself lose it around Ruby. For the most part, our time together was incredibly peaceful. When we were together, there was only love.

Having time to prepare for her death didn’t make the actual event any less devastating. For the last couple of weeks of her life, I prayed that she would go in her sleep so I wouldn’t have to make the euthanasia decision. Once I made the appointment, two days before the actual event, I felt like time was speeding up. Everything became a “this is the last time we…” moment.  That Wednesday afternoon came much too soon. And yet, there was no doubt in my mind that Ruby was ready.

I will not be writing about Ruby’s last day or the actual euthanasia. I’ve shared what I can with you. The rest of it is private.

Did I make the most of loving you?

This brings us to the end of  my Ruby’s Last Journey series. It was very difficult for me to write the series. I sincerely hope that sharing my experience will help you with your own cats, should you be faced with a similar situation. I also hope that if you’re faced with providing hospice care for a beloved cat, you will allow yourself to fully experience this special time in all its beauty and pain. You and your cat deserve no less.

Throughout Ruby’s final weeks and months, the title track for the Downton Abbey TV show, Did I Make the Most of Loving You?, became our theme song:

Did I make the most of loving you?

So many things we didn’t do.
Did I give you all my heart could give?
Two unlived lives with lives to live.
When these endless, lonely days are through,
I’ll make the most of loving you.

Did we make the most of all we had?
Not seeing you makes my heart sad.
Did we make the most of summer days?
We still have time to change our ways.
When these endless, lonely days are through, .
I’ll make the most of loving you.

Did those tender words stay in my head?
So many things were left unsaid.
Did I give you all my heart could give?
Two unlived lives with lives to live.
When these endless, lonely days are through,
I’ll make the most of loving you.

Ingrid-Ruby

By the time I had to let Ruby go, I could answer the question with an unequivocal “YES!” Yes, I gave her all my heart could give. Yes, I made the most of all we had. Yes, I made the most of loving my precious little girl.

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31 Comments on Ruby’s Last Journey: The Long Goodbye

  1. Debi
    March 21, 2020 at 6:34 pm (1 week ago)

    I’m very appreciative that you shared Ruby’s last journey. I just read all 4 parts because I kept postponing it. I thought it might bring back the guilt I felt after letting my sweet kitty go last June. Instead it did the opposite. It helped me realize I did all I could do for her and letting her go was the final most loving thing I could do under the circumstances. Amazing how such a little girl can leave such a big hole in my heart. The grief does lessen over time, although missing her will never end. <3

    Reply
  2. Nora
    March 21, 2020 at 1:33 am (1 week ago)

    I’m so sorry for your loss Ingrid. Your posts on Ruby’s illness and passing was very moving. I feel like I knew Ruby.

    Reply
  3. Stephanie B
    March 20, 2020 at 11:33 am (1 week ago)

    Thank you for sharing this and the other 3 parts. My heart breaks for you but I know when this happens in my house I can go back and look at the strength you had for Ruby and hopefully it will help me when that time comes.

    Reply
  4. Bernadette
    March 20, 2020 at 1:37 am (1 week ago)

    Every kitty should be so loved, and every human should be able to love a kitty so. Thre is nothing right about her leaving so soon, but approaching with awareness, at least you know you didn’t miss a moment. She was an angel.

    Reply
  5. andrea meyers
    March 19, 2020 at 12:25 pm (1 week ago)

    I have to reply to this.
    It is such a very beautiful post… and I know it can be helpful to MANY.. for many many reasons. I know it helps me.
    I think Ruby did in fact know she was very sic, dying, and had little time with you.
    As much as you needed to spend _very- quality time with her.. she also needed that. She was so fully aware.
    I agree that experience makes us better able to cope.. which helps us.. but also the one/s we are coping about.. or with.
    Still, that said, I also believe that no matter how we handle it.. the -depth- of time spent together in the “loss process” is the ..same. It is different is all. Even if we don’t deal as best we can– and go through the “what if’s” etc.. still… the love is the same… just as “bonds” differ- Loe is what matters. We will always wish we may have done something “better”.. the key is to continue to learn from experience… but, again, how we cope is not the same as how much we love.
    You give and gave so much to each of those you love.. and what you share in and of each experience is so valuable to so many. I know what you share – be it great information or a starting of experience as ..lived and felt (by you and each of your cats) has enabled others to learn from you.. and your cats.
    Thank you for all you do ..for your cats and for all of us who read what you share.

    Reply
  6. Ingrid
    March 19, 2020 at 5:16 am (1 week ago)

    Thank you more than words can say to all of you for your love and support, and for sharing your own stories of love and loss. It means so much to me to hear that Ruby’s journey may help other cats and their humans as they’re facing similar journeys together.

    Reply
  7. Ruth Boggs
    March 18, 2020 at 7:43 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Thank you for letting us share in this final passage, Ingrid. I know how hard it was for you to write this. I think you can answer the question “Did I make the most of loving you?” with an unequivocal “YES.”
    Big hugs, Ruth

    Reply
  8. Catherine J Stout
    March 18, 2020 at 7:38 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Hi Ingrid..I read the 4 parts of Ruby’s very touching journey, to and over the rainbow bridge..I feel your pain and dread when my cats have to leave me..I’ve saved your writings, so I can re-read them when one of those times come..In the meantime, I hope to give them my whole heart, just as you did Ruby..God bless you and Allegra..

    Reply
  9. Brian Frum
    March 18, 2020 at 7:26 pm (2 weeks ago)

    No doubt about it, you had each others hearts and you always will.

    Reply
  10. Richard Weavil
    March 18, 2020 at 6:21 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Ruby is exquisitely beautiful. You and Ruby were so very lucky to have had one another. She was loved and she knew it.

    I’ve walked a similar path in my life, having helped 17 furrkids cross The Bridge. One would think it would get easier in time, but it doesn’t. I hope and pray there is truth to the premise that my Angels and I will again be together forever someday.

    Reply
  11. Gayle Keresey
    March 18, 2020 at 6:15 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Thank you for sharing, Ingrid. It’s never easy, but your story made me think of each kitty I have had to say good-bye, too. Such a beautiful tribute to Ruby…

    Reply
  12. Nancy
    March 18, 2020 at 5:58 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Thank you for sharing Ingrid! Ruby will always be with you. I know you know that.

    Reply
  13. Janis Mullen
    March 18, 2020 at 5:49 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Dearest Ingrid, I haven’t posted on this topic before – every time I saw one of your posts, I got so sad. No doubt I was also remembering when my sweet Timmy passed. Ingrid, you went through it the exact right way. You gave her all your deep love and let yourself feel all the deep pain. I send you my deepest condolences and told Timmy to watch over Ruby til you can be with her again.

    Reply
  14. Ray
    March 18, 2020 at 3:55 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. I recently went through a very similar circumstance. I’ve been so moved by discovering how many people have been blessed with such love from their cat that I wrote a blog post similar to this. I’ll share the link with you in hopes that it can bring you some easing of the pain.
    Such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. I recently went through a very similar circumstance. I’ve been so moved by discovering how many people have been blessed with such love from their cat that I wrote a blog post similar to this. I’ll share the link with you in hopes that it can bring you some easing of the pain.
    https://thetaoofmissycat.com/surviving-the-loss-of-your-pet/

    Reply
    • Ray
      March 18, 2020 at 3:57 pm (2 weeks ago)

      P.S. I did not post this twice and I have no idea why it comes up twice

      Reply
  15. Jane Todaro
    March 18, 2020 at 3:16 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Dear Ingrid,
    Beautiful post; beautiful picture.
    Thank you very much for sharing your journey with Ruby with us.

    Jane

    Reply
  16. Lynda
    March 18, 2020 at 2:58 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Dear Ingrid & Allerga,

    Thank you for sharing your difficult journey.

    It never before occurred to me that home hospice care could be a choice for a pet. It is completely reasonable! and is on the table from now on if it best suits my pet. I’m doing my homework NOW with my vet and I hope she is open to it. If not, I hope I can find a vet who would be. Thank you so much for opening my eyes to it through your experience.

    My Jack decided he wouldn’t be waiting for the appointment I made. I felt honored and privileged (and totally devastated) to be by his side when he passed on. It was so hard for me but it was great for Jack. That’s all that matters in the end, for all of us.

    Reply
  17. Louise Ayers
    March 18, 2020 at 1:59 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Each time one of our felines go through that tough time, and face some of our most challenging efforts to offer hospice, we know in the end we have done our best. It still brings tears knowing that someone else has to face the same situation, but we open our hearts to others and offer all the help we can to carry on. In the last 15 years we have given “hospice care” to 6 of our felines, and we say it never gets any easier. Hang in there , you always have so much more love to give.

    Reply
  18. Denise Spillane
    March 18, 2020 at 1:57 pm (2 weeks ago)

    I love your posts and voice. I have been reading your good bye posts but i keep crying. I cant believe it. Its been many years since i lost mine but still the pain and memories are intense. Just wanted to send love andheart to you

    Reply
  19. Christine
    March 18, 2020 at 1:12 pm (2 weeks ago)

    I pray sharing brings some comfort to you. Grateful you had the time with her. Know sharing does not comfort you but maybe it will me – My Buddie passed about the same time, she had a stroke. I always wish it would have been peaceful and I had more time.

    Reply
  20. Ellie
    March 18, 2020 at 10:05 am (2 weeks ago)

    Thank you again for sharing. I know all too well about the this is the last time moments. I have 3 cats and my oldest is my closet one. She can’t get close enough to me when we sleep. Funny thing she was my worst kitten. Fought with everyone and bullied my Cole who was the love of my life. But she grew up and mellowed some. Now she is my best friend.

    Reply
  21. Linda.
    March 18, 2020 at 9:47 am (2 weeks ago)

    I read all 4 Parts and cried over each one. Thank you for sharing your life with Ruby and the bond you had with her….

    Reply
  22. Ann Seeber
    March 18, 2020 at 8:35 am (2 weeks ago)

    Dear Ingrid, thank you for sharing Ruby’s journey.It left me in tears. Here’s a little quote that I feel fits: “Someone once asked me what the most difficult thing about having cats is. I shook my head, looked down to the floor with my eyes closed and replied, ‘The goodby.’
    Love to you and Allegra <3

    Reply
  23. Elaine Harrington
    March 18, 2020 at 8:23 am (2 weeks ago)

    Thank you. I hope that sharing your pain with all of us has helped your closure. God Bless, there is another door opening for you soon.

    Reply
  24. Nan Faulkner
    March 18, 2020 at 7:45 am (2 weeks ago)

    Ingrid & Allerga,

    Your series on Ruby put tears in my eyes. Brought back memories of all the cats that have passed through my life. And, how each life ended. I believe, that we will see each of our fur kids when we pass. Your Ruby is healthy, young, has her wings & looking out for you & Allerga.

    Sharing your experience has made me feel how close each of us are to each other and connected to our fur kids. Some day, cat veterinarian medicine will have advanced where many ills & diseases will be cured. Or medicine available to have a good prolonged life without suffering.

    Love to you, Allerga & all Conscious Cat members along with fur kids,

    Grayson, Milo, Hamish, Nan

    Reply
  25. Janine
    March 18, 2020 at 7:40 am (2 weeks ago)

    Thank you for sharing Ruby’s last journey with us. I know how hard it was for you to write about it and reliving it through every word. Nani was my velcro cat and part of me died with her. So I know exactly what you went through with Ruby.

    Reply
  26. Lynn
    March 18, 2020 at 7:19 am (2 weeks ago)

    Thank you for sharing Ruby with us. She must have been a wonderful friend and companion. My Bella had a similar story and went to Rainbow Bridge Oct. 31, 2019. I had retired in 2005 and was lucky enough to spend our days together. She was a big Ragdoll shelter girl and my soulmate. Bella was 19+ and we gave each other much love. She was my Ruby. 🙂

    Reply
  27. Lyn
    March 18, 2020 at 4:01 am (2 weeks ago)

    Thank you!
    Ruby’s life might be over, but her spirit lives on (and I believe we will meet our beloved ones in the net life).

    Her life had meaning and it ws important. By talking about this we can all realise that it is ok and normal to be devastated by the loss of our loved ones.

    Thank you for your posts and for sharing the life of the absolutely gorgeous Ruby xxx

    Reply
  28. Summer
    March 18, 2020 at 2:37 am (2 weeks ago)

    Thank you for opening yourself up and letting us in on your life with Ruby during her last weeks with you. Losing Binga happened even faster. In fact, my human didn’t know she would have to be put down until pretty much the very day she called the home vet to come as soon as she could. It’s hard, and we so appreciate these posts.

    Reply
  29. Nancy
    March 18, 2020 at 2:35 am (2 weeks ago)

    I’ve always been a multiple cat home and I’ve had to put 20+ cats to sleep over many years but reading about you and Ruby brings me to tears because it’s all so familiar. It never gets easier but those last days of final bonding are important and can be sweet. I hope you know that many of us cry with you for your Ruby and for our own Rubys.

    Reply
    • Steven Howard
      March 19, 2020 at 1:07 am (1 week ago)

      I’m not going to lie, all four parts made me blubber uncontrollably. Partly because the thought of losing someone so prescious makes me sad and partly because I was touched by how you were able to fill her last few months with so much love. It is something I wish every cat parent could have if they wanted.

      Reply

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