Cody: A Story of Love and Healing
by Kathryn Cameron, Katonah, New York
I made the decision to euthanize my beloved cat Cody. It was a hard decision and one that I felt conflicted about. He suffered from many maladies, including kidney failure and cancer. He had just begun to show signs of pain but was still eating and interacting with my other two cats and me. Cody did not appear to be in any hurry to pass on, and yet it was clear that he was uncomfortable and entering the terminal phase of his illness.
I was visited by memories of a former cat Dude who had gone to the vet for a biopsy. When I got to the hospital, he was in acute distress from severe internal bleeding. The "benign" tumor had turned out to be cancerous and was hemorrhaging uncontrollably. I had to euthanize him right then and there. It was traumatic for both Dude and me; I was tormented by the experience for months to come. I vowed then that I would never allow anything like this to happen again.
Facing the decision to end Cody’s life brought up many emotional issues for me. We loved each other so deeply and so completely that the impending separation felt almost unbearable. He had gone to sleep in my arms practically every night since he had become part of my family 12 years ago. I had never had a cat that bonded with me so intimately. He was also very bonded and affectionate with my other two cats. They all bathed each other and often slept together in a huddle. Since he had entered the final phase of his illness, the other cats had become especially caring with him. This would be a difficult loss for us all.
My prior experience with Dude contributed to my decision to euthanize Cody before he was in acute crisis. It felt very strange to make such a calculated decision to end the life of my beloved cat. I wanted his final moments to unfold in a familiar, stress free environment. This decision also afforded me the opportunity to remain conscious in a very painful process. I was able to do this because I had Joanna’s invaluable support.
During our sessions, Joanna helped Cody and me stay in reality about his failing health. Once Cody understood this, he decided that he did not want to stick around for a prolonged and painful death. Nor did he want me to remember him this way. He wanted me to remember him for his true essence: loving kindness. He conveyed to Joanna that he perceived himself as "the King of Hearts" who had come into my life because I needed his special kind of unconditional and devotional love. This was true. Cody had been an abused stray, and he wanted me to know how grateful he was that I had given him such a loving and healing home. He did not want to leave his home and his family, but he didn’t want to suffer. Although I already knew these things about Cody in my heart, the sessions provided a way for us to communicate in the present moment about what mattered and what needed to be understood for us to let go.
Joanna spent part of each session doing a healing with Cody. As the result of these sessions, Cody and I both relaxed into our grieving process instead of resisting it. Our last night together, I felt our hearts meld together for always, even as my tears soaked us both. Cody became very calm and appeared to be in a deep meditative space, like a little Buddha. The shroud of his personality and his illness gradually fell away until he fully embodied his essential nobility, a victory for him.
While Cody slept that last morning, I did a healing meditation with him. As I finished the meditation, something felt very complete, and I was calm. When the vet arrived, I woke Cody and explained that it was time. He got up, went into the kitchen and ate a bowl of his favorite food. He seemed to take pleasure in every bite. I brought him into the other room, and the vet performed the procedure. Cody died very quickly, peacefully and with no pain.
I lay his body to rest in a box decorated with pine branches. I placed him on a makeshift altar and lit candles placed inside his empty favorite food cans. My home was filled with calm and peace, and I had the sense that Cody was fine. I was fine too which surprised me because I had expected to dissolve into a puddle the moment the vet left. This is not what happened. Instead, I felt full with Cody and, perhaps for the first time in my life, understood what it means to have someone become a permanent part of your heart.
For the most part, I feel complete, with no regrets, remorse or unfinished business. I made a compassionate and humane decision to help Cody transition in a gentle, pain-free way. In the end, we both had an extraordinary healing. I am full of gratitude to Joanna for her wisdom, kindness and compassion.