Requiem for the dead

memorial pictureWhat do you do with your Facebook dead? Do you make them their own list? A gruesome one almost nobody wants to join. Do you yeet them off your page entirely? Out of sight, out of mind. Or do they stay there in your list of dozens… hundreds… thousands… casually ignored unless they pop up in an autosuggest box? I’ve been doing the latter but I’m up to five lost friends now. They’re weighing heavy on my heart and I don’t know where to put them.

I joined Facebook back in 2007 (along with about 60% of North America). That was 15 years ago and the year I turned 37 years old. I got busy connecting with my friends and reconnecting with people I’d lost contact with. And some of those people I ended up disconnecting with, finding out we had less in contact than I’d thought. And some of those people really hurt. People I’d talked to for hours on messenger. People I truly thought were friends. And yet…

Lisa Staley was sarcastic enough for four but would do anything for her friends. If she saw that a friend was being treated badly she was right there, keyboard aflame. She stood up for me several times. She’d be right there in person too except she was sick and mostly at home. She told her doctor that something was wrong, but he’d tell her she just needed to lose some weight. Then she suddenly died, in her 30’s. I’m sure she would have felt vindicated. I’m also sure she’d have much rather been alive.

I first met Shelley McPherson through my ex-husband. She was outgoing, funny, and always wearing a thick coat of pancake foundation. She had psoriasis, my ex informed me. Psoriatic arthritis, she informed me, the worst kind you could get. On top of that her psoriasis was forming on her internal organs as well. But she still loved going to the doughnut store then sitting in the parking lot listening to her CB radio with friends. I reconnected with her years later and, well, we meant to get together but she didn’t like to go out anymore now that her face was disfigured from psoriasis. I offered to pick up food and take it to her place, which we’d do once her foot healed. Then a temporary PSW put the wrong bandage on her foot and it burned away her skin right down to the bone. Meanwhile, as it healed, she posted pictures of the sunset (which she took from her bedroom window) and of her cat, who she adored. Then she was at her parents’ house and then she was gone, far too soon. Like still in her 30’s too soon. I wish she had the chance to actually go on vacation and watch the sunset over the ocean. To go hand gliding. My god she would have loved hand gliding. She deserved so much more.

And Mark. Mark Stacy was a retired nurse who loved dachshunds and puttering around. He was who’s referred to as a “people person” and was generally wise. If you had a question to ask, especially about people, Mark was the one to ask. Of course he also had an offbeat sense of humour, anyone I met off the Regretsy* site did. He kept quiet about being sick, with only a few brief mentions of “treatments”, and he was dead shortly afterward. His calm, caring, and compassionate nature led him to have quite a few people who looked up to him and counted on him for support. His loss was deeply felt.

The past 3/4’s of a year has been a double blow to me. First came Topher. He too was in the medical field, but as a psw. He deeply loved helping people, physically or online. He’d had a rough life in many ways. He contracted both HIV and hepatitis as a young adult. Then he managed to track down his father, who was extremely wealthy. Then when his father discovered his son was not only gay but had HIV it went along the lines of “could you please take the servant’s exit so no one sees you”. And he met his boyfriend K and they moved in together and were together for years until Topher escaped and admitted he was being abused. But he had travelled when he was younger (he loved to travel) and he was in the process of converting to Judaism. He loved his new faith and it brought him great comfort. He was in a lot of pain and went in and out of the hospital (and back in again). A hip replacement was scheduled, which would relieve much of his pain and it was a success, at least until the infection set in. Topher always posted before sunset on Friday to say goodnight to his friends then again when he returned. Except this time there was no return message. Then I saw a message in a group he’d set up that started with “Topher” and my first thought was, “No, no… not him! There was so much more living he wanted to do.” One of his very last posts was asking what Oregon was like because he was thinking of living there and thought moving might be like travelling. I don’t believe in heaven but if it exists I hope Topher’s searching rock pools, watching the night sky for shooting stars, and exploring abandoned castles, all with an old fashioned pub nearby for friendly conversation and live music.

I just found out about the last one yesterday. Like Topher, Mark, and Lisa, Robert was from Regretsy. He was sarcastic as hell, cynical, and a total freaking marshmallow. He opened his home to his sister and niece and they’d lived there for pretty much the niece’s whole life. She had him wrapped around her little finger and he loved it. As a gay man**, I don’t think he figured he’d have children of his own and realized helping to raise his niece was the next best option. Whatever the case may be, it worked well for them and his little niece loved him as much as he loved her. He helped me too. Years ago my daughter had an online boyfriend then got concerned that he might not be who he was. I looked at the tiny amount of information she had and knew I was over my head, so I messaged Robert, who dealt with all things computer at his work. He told me he’d love to help and, within an hour, had tracked the man down to a specific address and knew he was 35 years old, married, and had a toddler. Kait was heartbroken that she’d put time into that relationship, furious that she’d been duped, and relieved that she finally had proof and could move on. I was simply grateful to Robert for finding information I had no idea how to search for. His help made a huge difference. Last night I realized I hadn’t seen one of his posts in a while and I missed him. I grumbled to myself about Facebook hiding over half my newsfeed from me then clicked on his page and a drunk driver had got him. There’s a little girl out there who must be devastated.

You know, after looking at all the options, I think I’ll leave things as they are. My friends can continue to rest in my heart. I don’t think I’m ready to let go.

* Regretsy started out as a site to make fun of and/or showcase some of the weirder things on Etsy. So many people were chatting in the comments, April started up forums which were also called Regretsy (I’m referring to these). The “making fun” was mild enough that quite a few of the recipients actually joined the site.

** I just want to reassure people that I’m not outing anyone, even if it’s from beyond the grave. Both Topher and Robert were openly and proudly gay and neither would give a rat’s arse about being referred to as such.

The long goodbye…

A Blackie update
We had an appointment scheduled for Blackie to be euthanized on Friday the 2nd but cancelled it when she started eating Temptations cat treats. It was a hard call at the time because cat treats aren’t exactly sustainable but she seemed a bit perkier and I wondered if it was a step towards eating. I went out on Saturday to look for something more substantial for her to eat. I’d had a suggestion of Temptations cat food but Pet Valu didn’t have them. What they did have were oh my god expensive BFF pouches, all tuna with another meat added. The cashier assured me the pouches contained tiny morsels of meat, small enough to be lapped up, and she was right. Blackie lapped up about half a pouch then sprawled out on my bed to nap. That was the first time in a week that she’d sprawled, until then she’d stayed crouching in a loaf shape, paws tucked underneath her. And, this morning, when it was time for her morning pouch of food, Blackie marched proudly ahead of all the other kitties, her tail high in the air. She’s not eating an awful lot right now but she’s content and comfortable and that’s what matters.
An update on Blackie
She didn’t eat at all yesterday or this morning so I went to the vet to see what our options are. I got a pill that increases appetite and a can of wet cat food that’s supposed to encourage cats to eat. We also talked about euthanasia, which is $212 and way out of our budget. Apparently the Humane Society does compassionate euthanasia so, if it comes to that, I have a place to call.
I went to Pet Valu after that and picked up cat milk as a treat. I got a tin of wet cat food too called Havana BBQ. Apparently it was just chopped tuna, which is a relief. I don’t think any of our cats need anything barbecued.
The pill went down on the first try and Blackie was very unimpressed with me. I waited two hours, like I’d been told, then got her some of the mushy vet food while Angel got the tin of BBQ. Angel immediately glommed onto the mushy food, which Blackie had sniffed then turned away so I switched plates. Blackie immediately dove in and started eating. I was so excited! But then she stopped after about four bites and went to the bathroom door to be let out. I feed them in the bathroom so the hordes don’t overwhelm them.
So we’re still waiting and seeing. Blackie’s still content to rest. She went onto our balcony today and napped on the bench (despite the cold). She’s wanders around the apartment on occasion and loves being petted. But I’ve got a sinking feeling the end is near. She just can’t go without food for that long.
I’ll update more as things happen.
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It was October 2007. I’d taken two weeks off work so I could go to my sister Sue’s wedding and attend my grandfather’s memorial service and interment. All the family came from around the world. We were surrounded by family for two weeks as we viewed waterfalls, walked on the suspension bridge, and just chatted.

I’d already known something was up before our trip. Our cat Pumpkin was six years old and the internet sites claimed he was senior. I clung to that as an answer to what was wrong. He’d wet outside the litter box a few times. Which was something that was fixed by buying him a litter box with a low entrance. And he just seemed off kilter. Then we came home from our vacation and discovered Pumpkin, who had earned the nickname Plumpkin, was nothing but skin and bones. He’d been his usual weight when we left and was skin and bones when we got home. We took a picture right before we left and another when we got home and he didn’t even look like the same cat. I’d had no idea cats could lose weight that fast. The girl who’d been watching the cats was so upset. I assured her it had nothing to do with her and it hadn’t.

We took Pumpkin to the vet, who instantly diagnosed him with fatty liver disease. He could be admitted and tube and IV fed until he gained enough weight but that was expensive and failed more than it succeeded.

I was waiting at the bus stop across the street from work when my cell phone rang. It was the vet office with bad news. The test results showed cancer, likely liver cancer, and there was nothing they could do, he was too far gone. We took him in to get euthanized the next day. We weren’t supposed to go on the bus without a carrier but the driver took one look at our emaciated cat and our tear streaked faces and let us on board without a word.

A month later we all wanted a new cat. Our searching led us to Pet Smart’s adoption centre. I’d told the woman that we were looking for an older cat and she showed us a couple, hiding at the back of their cages. Then Kait cried out, “Look at this cat!”

The lady’s first response was, “That’s not an older cat, those are kittens” and then she saw which kitten it was and her tone changed.

“Oh you want one of our black kitties,” she exclaimed. “Let me get the catch open.”

She nearly tripped herself in her haste to get over there. Then she opened the cage and Blackie fell into our hearts.

Blackie is our snuggler and the licker of noses. When she wanted food she’d march down the hall, turning regularly to make sure I was still following and giving a scolding meow if I wasn’t following quickly enough for her tastes.

Anyone who has ever worn black knows it can hide a multitude of “sins”, plus she still has her round little belly that sways as she walks. It wasn’t until I ran my hand down her back that I realized how much weight she’d lost. She’s a head scratching cat, not a cat that wants long, stroking pets. I have no real idea of how long she’s been losing weight. I’m leaning towards very quickly though. And, if that wasn’t enough, she started sneezing.

BlackieColin and I took her to the vet last week where she got weighed and checked out. She had a cold and the beginnings of fatty liver syndrome. The vet could do more tests but, since she’s 11, it would cost $260 for a senior’s bloodwork… on top of the check up fees. That was about $260 more than we had. So we got antibiotics and a brief mention of euthanizing. The antibiotics are done but the wheeze continues. Thankfully it’s in her nose and not her lungs. Her nose means a cold, while her lungs are so much more serious. But this cold is kicking her butt.

She’s currently curled up on my bed and she looks peculiar lying there, like half of her is missing. Which it is, she’s gone from 20lbs down to nine. She’s so tiny now, with bird thin bones. I can even feel her collar bones.

One of my Facebook friends suggested heating her food, which I tried with her leftovers last night. I was so hopeful that this would be the solution she needed. I heated her wet cat food this morning in hopes she’d scarf it down again. She followed me to the bathroom then refused to eat. She threw up green foamy bile instead, which, according to Google means her tummy is empty.

I’m hoping she’ll live longer. Long enough to lie in the sunshine on our balcony, while the air wafts delightful smells around her nose. Long enough to gain back some weight, enough to cover her collar bones and spine. Long enough to, once again, lead the parade to the food bowls. But I’m realistic enough to know that’s likely not going to happen.

We’ve had her for ten and a half years so far and that’s not nearly long enough. She’ll be sorely missed when she’s gone. And, as for now, I plan on making the remainder of her life warm, safe, and comfortable.