The Last Passage

by Liz Caskey on August 29, 2012

If somebody had told me that six weeks ago my life would have been turned upside down, I wouldn’t have believed them. It was not a trip abroad, or even within Chile. No, no, no. It was a journey in my own home, my own being, deep into my soul.

Vika was my first cat and I choose her as a two month old kitten. She was a fuzzy white ball of fur. Snow white with intense green eyes and a petit nose, paws and ears that were rosy pink. She looked like a little bunny, or perhaps a feline angel. From her first step through the door, she filled our home with happiness. So playful, a natural “Singer”, she became my regalona, a Chilean saying for “baby”. She was picky about many things, just like her owner, and accompanied me everywhere. I always thought she was dog that had been accidently reincarnated into a cat’s body. When I arrived from the Vega, she investigated each bag, stopping to chew on the chives or nibble celery leaves, her favorite vegetables. During my cooking projects, that would overtake the kitchen for a whole afternoon (or weekend!), she would santer in at intervals to, literally, inquire about my progress. Often, she found a spot in the corner to observe, nap, and just be good company. In the mornings during my daily meditation, she would come find me to give me cariñitos, affection, of her own accord. At times, I almost forgot she was a cat. Her presence was like a person. She was a daughter, best friend, yunta (team), partner.  She loved me unconditionally, same as I loved her.

One weekend in late May, between business trips to Peru, she seemed strange to me. She didn’t eat, seemed depressed, and even as fussy as she had been in the past, this time something wasn’t right. I followed my intuition and Monday, took her to the vet to do some exams. That night, the vet called us with the kind of news you hope you never have to hear: “Vika has CRI, renal failure. It is chronic.” I didn’t grasp the full implications of what this disease meant so in my infinite wisdom, I decided to start googling. Bad, bad idea. The more I read, the more I digested how serious this condition was…and that Vika would die from it. I simply couldn’t process that she would not be here. My mind jumped to the worst case scenario that it would be very soon. That night, I cried for hours, sleeping only a wink or too. I couldn’t believe this was happening now, when everything was going so well in my life. There had to be a reason.

The next day, my husband and I went to the vet to officially receive the news that Vika’s kidneys were not working. It wasn’t possible to know the amount of damage, but typically when cats showed symptoms, it was around 75%. That only thing that was certain was that she would die from this disease, eventually. We started a homeopathic treatment to help her compensate for the slow intoxication she suffered. We used Chinese herbs to help detoxify her blood and boost her kidney functioning. We gave her Bach flowers, special food, subcutaneous liquid treatments to keep her hydrated, and a lot of reiki (which I gave her at home). All of a sudden, my priorities were turned upside down. My total energy was redirected towards being present and accompanying her through this sickness. I felt incredibly guilty for having taken her for granted this whole time. I always supposed she would live for many, many years–not five! I imagined her anxiety with my constant travel this year, the sensation of being abandoned, and not understanding anything. I couldn’t go back in time to change that, but I could do everything in my power now to help her, and be 100% present for the rest of her life. Be loyal to her like she had been to me.

The following weeks were an emotional roller coaster of great intensity. It was also a deeply spiritual time for me.  One day she would get better, another day she would fall back. I spent hours and hours with her on my lap giving her reiki to relieve her physically, emotionally, spiritually—and for me too. Our bond and love grew. I cried constantly. I tried to think positive but in my heart, I knew she was going to die soon.

In the middle of this, we had to travel to Peru with a group. I asked her to please wait for me to return. Her “grandparents” traveled from the countryside to take care of her at home. When we returned, she didn’t come to say hello as usual. I found her on her favorite chair with a different look. Her eyes had changed. They were unfocused, distant, angular. I knew her time was coming. I spent that week prior to her death in a sort of long good-bye and mourning, together. I put aside all my work and personal commitments to privilege this last time together.  I profoundly relished every moment, every caress with her. I think I have never lived so much in the present moment. I knew our time together was coming to an end, and it broke my heart. I felt an aching sensation in the middle of my chest, as if my soul was splitting in two. Many of reading this could say, “She’s just a cat”. She wasn’t just a cat for me. I don’t have any family in Chile other than my husband and parents-in-law. Vika was my family. This “trip” was emotionally like loosing a child.

Friday, July 6, in the afternoon, she lay placid, barely moving. At 4pm, she made a quick, jerky, instinctual movement, desperate to be alone. Her passing was imminent. I put her on the floor of our bathroom with her white shawl that her grandma Cecilia had knit for her to keep her warm. I gave her reiki and softly spoke to her, “Suelta, suelta, suelta”. Let go, let go, let go. Suddenly, she looked at me with big, round intense eyes, completely focused, as if to say, “goodbye”. I left in her peace a couple minutes and when I returned, she had embarked on the next phase of her soul’s journey.

Everything was surreal. I felt relieved in many ways because she was no longer suffering and she had passed at home naturally, in complete love and peace. I also felt a heaviness in my heart and profound sadness that she was no longer here on the physical plane with me. The house felt empty and silent. My yunta was gone. I truly believe that both of us had to go through this dying process together. I confronted my fear of what it means to die, the deattachment from the physical body, and then something so beautiful happened…I understood on a soul level, not with my head!, that we truly don’t die. Our souls are eternal. They go “home” to this place of light and love. As the days have passed, it has gotten easier. I still feel her very close to me, but in a different plane. I constantly give thanks for having had her in my life, and for all the gifts she bestowed, many in this last month together. I grew so much from this experience. She helped me to remember and reconnect to what’s most important in life. To live in the present, to never take anyone nor anything for granted, and to love inconditionally with my whole heart. Love. That what life is truly about.

And after my “journey” with Vika and her transition concluded, it was my turn to embark on a grand trip abroad that my husband and I had been planning for nearly a year. A near round-the-world trip with 7 parts covering three continents. My first time in Asia. It wasn’t a coincidence the timing of this trip. I vitally needed the fresh air and distance to return to my new world—at home.

This post was originally published in Spanish for the August 2012 issue of Placeres Magazine in Chile.

{ 2 comments }

Denise August 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Liz – What a beautiful, but heart-wrenching tribute to Vika. Unfortunately, I went through the same agony with our 13.5 year old Newfoundland in June. Thankfully, I was also able to be at his side to say goodbye. They are not just cats or dogs – they are cherished companions who bring so much love to our lives.

A from Australia October 20, 2012 at 2:44 am

I didn’t think I would end up with tears in my eyes reading a food blog but alas sweet Vika’s story touched me. I lost one of my beautiful dogs to renal failure but was thankfully given longer than expected with fluids and proper vet care. The uplifting thing for me reading this story is knowing that there are people like you who appreciate and cherish their animals and are there for them in their time of need. You truly are a well-deserving pet owner and Vika was certainly one of the lucky ones.

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