I’m beginning to think Giles’ final lesson for me—as all our companion animals are our teachers—is for me to act as a hospice caregiver as he passes away naturally. It would be a first such occasion for me with a pet. I wouldn’t hesitate to help him via the wonderful, compassionate in-home euthanasia services of Dr. Rebecca McComas (Minnesota Pets) if he appeared to be suffering. So far, though, he just seems to be winding down and comfortable with handling this himself. Every time I go downstairs to his cubby hole where he’s now spending 24 hours a day, I expect there to be silence. When there’s a quiet, shaky “meow,” I’m both relieved and heartbroken that the uncertainty of the “when” remains.

Giles in his cubby hole

Standing briefly for one more photo

Though he’s tremendously weak and doesn’t want to be held any longer, Giles still stood and posed for his final photos. This reminds me of my mother, Lucy Korpi, who’d been in hospice care, bald from chemo treatments and dying of lung cancer. When she learned that the tuba player with my first husband’s Dixieland jazz band was coming with my husband for a visit, she quickly took out her lipstick and tried to apply it, missing and hitting her dentures a little instead. She and Giles shared that appreciation of looking one’s best at all times.

I thank my mom in advance for gathering Giles in her arms when his time comes and helping him over to the Other Side, where he’ll be reunited with my many former pets who didn’t try to kill him on a daily basis (yes, Oliver, I mean you!).

This vigil is casting quite a pall over the day, when I’d so looked forward to our exclusive screening of “Attack of the Moon Zombies” at the New Hope Cinema Grill. I still do look forward to it and will greatly appreciate the positive distraction, but my eyes remain puffy even after the careful application of Preparation H to reduce the swelling and the hours between now and then way very heavy on my heart.

See? Even the grief “expert” has no magic cure for this pain. The only difference is that I accept death as natural, and as a result I understand Giles is not afraid of passing over. I am satisfied that I am adhering to my cat’s wishes about how and when he wants to leave this realm. I know, too, that he will not cease to exist when he dies. I just won’t be able to see him anymore in a physical sense. I have asked him to send me dreams or other signs that he is well once he goes. Then I can just get down to the serious business of healing this hole in my heart.

I’ll be talking about him and sharing stories of him for some time to come. I’m pretty sure his ego is made happy about that. He was handsome and special and knew it. He lives on already in his story in my book “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss.”—Sid