We had to put one of our cats to sleep Sunday. He was seventeen years old - been with us for almost all of our married life. It hurt. We treat our cats like family, and to lose one is painful.
Xan was with us at the vet's when it happened, in the room with us. Babysitting isn't really an option, and I think he wanted to be there to say his goodbyes in his own way. He gave Casper a little pet, and showing some empathy unusual in autistics, kissed mommy when she cried. He did the same thing when our first cat died too - he understood she was hurting and wanted to help her.
Don't think I wasn't crying, either, but as we all know, he prefers mommy and wants to make her happy.
It's hard to know how autistic people understood death. They see someone isn't there anymore, but do understand the sadness and the loss?
If you're more than casually interested in autism, you've probably heard the name Carly Fleischmann. If not, she's an autistic girl (teenager, I think) who was uncommunicative, but then started to type out thoughts and feelings in a deep and meaningful way. In addition to the inspiration of her even being able to communicate, her writing is light-years above many adults making a living doing the same. She is also able to relate how she feels and reacts to things that help other autistics and parents of autistics to perhaps get an idea of what they go through.
(Perhaps - the saying is, if you've met one autistic person - you've met one autistic person)
By a sad coincidence, she recently did a post on Facebook detailing how she's dealing with the death of a friend, and she said what we all feel when a loved one dies - she's sad, and it's not fair when some die. A universal constant. I've posted before of how Xan reacted at my mom's funeral, where he definitely showed his anguish.
Loss is change. It goes from having someone around to them being gone. But loss is also part of love - you have to care about someone to hurt when they hurt, or when you have to say goodbye. And another part of love is strength to lose someone.
We had to decide that Casper was suffering, and be strong enough to let him go instead of keeping him here so we didn't have to say goodbye. It isn't fair, but it is.
But loss doesn't have to be that drastic. Xander is, little by little, getting more independent. We still don't know if he could handle being by himself, but he is able to be more trusted to do some things now. It isn't always easy but we try to make him do more - which always means we're losing him, little by little, with its benefits and sadness.
It would be easier, sometimes, to just go along. Do it for him, take the responsibility out of his hands. Sometimes we do. But more often than not, we have the strength to make him do something, to make him lose that dependency and get him stronger and pay for that change in yells, fits. arguments, complaints, stress and troubles.
Parents are used to this, making their child their own person and able to handle themselves so they can go out in the world and make their own way. They suffer and have to be strong, all for the ultimate goal of losing their children from their home. We're no different in that goal, but our particular trials and methods are much different.
Saying goodbye, in all its forms, takes strength. It hurts, and a lot of times all you can say, like Ms Carly did, is it isn't fair to have to suffer that way, either from being the target of anger for making someone do something on his own to letting a beloved cat going to its final sleep rest its head on your hand as he slips away.
Loss is part of love, and the final payment for all those smiles and laughs you get from time spent with a loved one.