Let light perpetual shine upon him

We said good bye to Thomas Merton this afternoon. It was a difficult decision but the correct one. For the last several days, he had been eating less and less. It was obvious that it was hard for him to chew and swallow, and especially sad when he came downstairs and banged his dish around the kitchen to try to wake us up or get our attention. That was something he learned early on and was a very effective method to get humans to respond to his needs. Unfortunately, last night and this morning when we tried to give him something after he had banged for our attention, he refused pretty much everything we offered.

A visit to the vet this morning confirmed that the tumor had grown considerably. In addition to making eating difficult, it’s likely Merton was in considerable pain because the cancer had entered the bone. But there was little sign of suffering. He was still jumping around,watching chipmunks and squirrels from our back porch, and even playing ball–catching it with his feet and batting it around.

So the vet and a vet tech (who had stayed with our cats in the past) came by the house this afternoon and ended his suffering. He died on my lap.

I’ve written about Merton’s final journey here and here. He’s been a good friend for almost fourteen and an amazing cat. He was very smart, very stubborn, and regal. We will miss him keenly.

Again, my favorite photo of him, relaxing with Augustine’s City of God:

162829_1565031438172_3235424_nThanks again to Dr. Tom Bach and all the good folk of Lakeview Veterinary Clinic.

Cat-blogging: Thomas Merton

We received the terrible news that Thomas Merton, our fourteen-year old, has a tumor in his jaw and will likely die within a few weeks. He’d been drooling for the past several weeks and Corrie took him to the vet in our cat stroller. We’re shocked because other than that, he’s showed no symptoms of illness. And we attributed his mouth issues to the fact that he had two or three teeth removed in January and had something of a grimace ever since.

The vet asked Corrie if his tongue had been sticking out, but that had been the case for years. Apparently there’s nothing that can be done with this particular sort of tumor except to try to control the pain, and when he is no longer able to eat, that will be a sign that we need to let him die.

Merton came to us in the winter of 2000. Corrie had the bright idea, after we’d moved to Spartanburg, that Margery needed a friend. He had been found with his siblings in a box in an abandoned mill. A rescue organization found a foster home for him. He was about nine months old when he joined our family. The adoption process was quite rigorous. They made a home visit before placing him with us, and then after he’d been living with us for several weeks, they came back. This time, the foster family came along, including the little children, pre-schoolers. When we told them that we had named him Thomas Merton (our other cats were Maggie Pie and Margery, so we were going with “M”s), the little boy asked if that was a “Christian name” (they had called him “Lazarus”). The family were fundamentalists, and I suppose the boy worried that a name change might mean that Merton would burn in hell for eternity.

The idea of having a playmate for Margery never worked out. Merton was an alpha male and bonded with Corrie immediately. He is vocal, and playful. For years, he would play “ballie ball” with us. As soon as we got into bed at night to read, he would jump in the bed with one of his balls (spongie things the size of golf balls). He would drop it and start to meow until we tossed it across the room. He would run and catch it, bring it back. This would continue until we turned the lights out. He’ll still occasionally find one of these balls and bring it to us, but at fourteen, he’s content to watch us throw it.

Bodhi arrived as a tiny little kitten in 2003 and the two of them were fast friends (Merton always annoyed the two older cats, occasionally jumping them when they emerged from the litter box, or otherwise just terrorizing them). But when Pilgrim arrived at Thanksgiving 2004, Merton’s took to her. They could play for hours, often rough-housing throughout the house.

He’s slowed down considerably over the last few years but one thing hasn’t changed. He is incredibly affectionate and deeply attached to Corrie. He wants to be on her, or near almost all of the time. He usually sleeps between our pillows in the bed, depending on the mood he’ll lean on one or the other of us.

Oh, and like so many males, he’s never met an 18-year old girl he didn’t like. When Corrie was teaching at a women’s college and often had students over, he would be in the middle of the group, accepting their praise and their caresses as were his due.

My favorite picture of him is this one, where he seems to have just completed reading Augustine’s City of God, and has decided it wasn’t worth the effort (probably somewhere between 2002 and 2004):


Here is in his prime, somewhere between 2006 and 2009, proving that although he weighed 20 pounds, he could still act like a kitten.

4422_1092553226512_5665392_nAnd here he is tonight:

photo(1)I blogged about Margery’s last days and death last December, and linked to Anne Lamott’s description of her cat’s death here.

Andrew Sullivan lost one of his beloved pet dogs over the weekend, and in the past few weeks has been blogging about what we learn as we watch our pets die.