My cat was diagnosed last week with a long laundry list of ailments including stage 2 renal failure. This is a common cause of death in senior male cats. He is heading toward his 15th birthday which makes him about 90 in human terms. Beyond the unbelievable amount of money shelled out last week for blood tests and various medications I did a lot of thinking about how I should proceed and why with this situation. I had to do the thinking because the vets constantly inquired if I wanted further consultations with internists, further diagnostics including in his case, due to a long-standing heart murmur, a cardio ultra scan and whatever else the specialists might recommend. I resist most of this though the cardio scan may become necessary as they have trouble treating the hyperthyroid without it. To honour the vets I may have to go there.
On Saturday, while yet again, the list of possible responses was given to me I informed the vet that I did not believe in such heroics to preserve an animal’s life, especially if it ended up feeling like torture to the animal. In fact, I told her, I don’t even believe in that for humans. She was a bit taken aback but it meant we moved on to another type of discussion.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the cat. But I did need to figure out why I was responding this way. So here’s a stab at a bit of theology. You all can jump in and disagree or tell me I’m nuts.
On what am I basing my response? I think the question comes down to a belief that death is survivable or not. I really liked Martin’s videos on eschatology and the environment as he stated that Jesus’ work on the cross was for all nations and creation (I hope I got that right Martin). I don’t know what that means for the final disposition of a wee kitty but it makes me think that as Jesus made death survivable for me, he might have done the same for all of creation. If death is not survivable then no price is too high to pay for medical intervention in terms of money, time, energy, and discomfort to the patient. After all, death itself becomes too high a price to pay. But if death is survivable as Jesus paid the price for it, then I can consider other options. Specifically, I prayed in December before my return from Italy and God told me that Aaron did not have long to live. Okay. He is going, exact date yet unknown (1 month, 3 months, 1 year? God is always so imprecise with these terms). Since the exact date is unknown I still have to make treatment decisions as my prayer and intent is that Aaron will have a high quality of life until it is time to go. And because Aaron belongs to God those decisions have to be made prayerfully. It is not a matter of what I want done with Aaron but what his owner, God, wants done. But I don’t have to worry about heroic measures as death does not cost anything any longer. Oh death where is thy sting? It is removed.
Yes, I know there will be an emotional cost to me, I’m not saying that disappears. When we love someone (even an animal) there are chemical reactions in our brains. Losing that someone is like having to break an addiction, we are strongly attached and the break is painful. But that does not change the reality of death and life after death if the gospel is true.
I realize for some of you who have walked through this kind of struggle with a human loved one this might be the antithesis of what you think. You might be committed to any kind of medical intervention possible if it promises to prolong life as, especially if there are children involved, the cost of death is beyond all else. So I recognize that my thinking may be off or offensive to some. I’m just trying to figure out if Jesus’ actions mean something and if so what do they mean in light of this kind of situation. In the meanwhile I am learning to split pills, hide medications in food (no, he will not eat them) and give shots of B12.