Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Truth About Love: Calvin Graychase, 1994-2007

On June 5th, 2007, Calvin Graychase, my stalwart and affectionate companion for the last twelve years and eleven months, suffered a severe and disturbing attack on his central nervous system. I rushed him to our wonderful vet, where, after several hours of testing and waiting, he was diagnosed with a form of acute onset cancer. His body was riddled with it. And there was no chance that he would survive.

His nose was bleeding, blood was also pooling behind his right eye, his limbs would not obey his commands, and yet he purred through every second of our visit to the vet. He purred through X-rays, needles, and a rectal thermometer. He purred through several tests that I can't remember the names of. He purred so loudly that the vet couldn't hear his heartbeat; she had to face him away from me and turn on the running water to quiet his purring enough for her to get a good listen.

This is who Calvin was. He was indomitable and loving, even to the end. He refused to acknowledge barriers to his desire. Not fences, not doors, not containers for food, and certainly not a physical malady.

When my friend Amanda, who used to be a vet tech, heard the news, she said, "He was was one of the coolest cats I ever met, and I have met a lot. He broke into my bag of food. I think it was candy."

When Peter, an emergency veterinarian, who loved, lived with, and cared for us in San Francisco, and who was Calvin and Norman's foster dad for six months when I first moved back east, heard the news, he called to express his sympathies. His most distinct memory of Calvin was how much trouble we had keeping him out of the fresh soil in our garden, which Calvin thought had been dug up expressly for him to poop and pee and roll around in. Why else could it be there?

To know Calvin was to know the battle to contain him--and to know that you would never win. His passion and determination to access what is sweet--freedom, affection, doughnuts, candy--was so formidable and so relentless that I never found anything that could detain him. Even on his last day on earth, I returned from a walk to discover that he had somehow, with lungs full of tumors and limbs that shouldn't have worked, climbed an entire flight of stairs AND climbed up into my bed--one of the places, of course, he was forbidden to go.

He spent his last hours on earth curled up there, in a shady spot near a sunbeam, sleeping and purring in the place he most desired to be, a space that belonged to me.

At 4pm on June 6th, I put on a beautiful dress, scooped him up, wrapped him in a towel, and held him in my arms while a dear friend drove us to our vet. I held him in my arms, while he looked at me and purred...until he was gone.

Letting go of Calvin was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I don't know where I found the strength to pick him up and take him away. He has been the one constant bit of goodness in my life since I graduated from college thirteen years ago. He was there with me in every home, through every up and down, every lover, every illness, every loss and triumph. He was my Little Bug. He was My Guy.
The size of my joy at having known him is the size of my grief at having said goodbye; it is tremendous.

When I told my ex-boyfriend, Jon, what was happening, he said, "Wow, the universe must be so excited to have Calvin's spirit return back into the folds of its fabric. It must be rejoicing."

And this has given me great comfort. Calvin's spirit was so bright and terrific. I do believe that the universe was joyful to welcome him back into its light. I got through the euthanasia by focusing on that spirit of rejoicing. I focused on the clear and distinct beauty of who he was. My love for him sustained me in the time when I needed it most.

Calvin's last meal was his favorite, tuna fish. His last night was spent curled up in his favorite chair and then in his favorite basket with Norman. His last day was spent in my lap and in my bed. It was clear that his light was dimming that day, but he did not suffer any of the terrible seizures he went through the day before. His last day was peaceful and full of love and as much comfort as could be possible for someone so sick.

Last Wednesday, I laid his body to rest in a beautiful spot where I can watch over him. He was blessed, treasured, and set free. His remains were sprinkled with catnip. Over his grave I have planted Forget-me-nots, lillies, impatiens, and roses, almost all of which were gifts from people who care for us.

I was going to suggest that if anyone wanted to do something to honor Calvin's memory, that they make a donation of time or money to their local animal shelter. But, then I realized: while that would be a good and lovely thing to do, the best way you could honor Calvin would be to do something aggressively self-loving today (and every day). Ignore the rules and barriers between you and what you desire. Break into a bag of candy. Demand that someone give you love. Now. Fearlessly indulge your urge to lie on your back with your legs splayed open and your chin in the air and soak up the sunshine. Learn to purr. Foster a feeling of being entitled to goodness and satisfaction in every moment of every day, no matter what. Ignore the word, "no," and insist that someone feed you your favorite food and hold you in their arms for hours. Nuzzle the people who love you. Do whatever satisfies you most, and Calvin's spirit will join you.

For photographs of Calvin, including his last day and his Memorial Garden (coming soon) go here:

Thank you to everyone who ever cared for, lived with, fed, loved, and indulged Calvin (and me). We appreciate you all.

With love and a heart full of grief,

Naomi (and Norman)

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