Last Updated on: July 23, 2022 by Ingrid King

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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