Food Is a Love Language
By Rebecca Huehls
Over the past week, I had much “Food for Thought,” the theme of this year’s 15th Annual Spirit & Place Festival, as I brought our sick cat Friskies wet food and Pounce tuna treats, often sitting on the floor with her, encouraging her to eat, petting her bony head, cleaning the food and discharge around her nose because she could no longer do it all herself. She mostly wanted to lick her food, not eat it.
On Thursday, we found out she had lymphoma of the GI tract, a common cancer in older cats and not something we could cure. She would be suffering soon, and my husband and I needed to plan for her comfort and final days. We discussed the options and decided it was time to let her go. Her reluctance to eat was making her increasingly frail, and she had enjoyed a nice long life. I just wanted one more weekend with her.
On Saturday, I brought her fresh cat nip; cans of Fancy Feast, which has more gravy than Friskies; juice from a can of tuna; specially formulated cat milk; liquid organic cat nip extract. I brought her these things throughout the day, and she propped herself up to lick it a bit, then laid down next to her little dish.
Food is for the living, not the dying.
I know this. I’d never experienced a pet dying before, but I’ve seen it with people, when my grandparents died their natural deaths. So why was I compelled to feed our cat? I thought I could baby her during her last few days. I wasn’t quite ready to let her go, although I certainly didn’t want her to suffer. I wanted a few more moments of sharing that we were alive together, and for me, sharing food or a meal represents that.
Feeding our cat has been part of my daily routine for years, a reminder that it’s a privilege to care for another and be of service. Similarly, I make a pie or a pork chop for my husband to show him I care, and I feel cared for when he makes dinner for me, when my friends take me out to eat for my birthday, and when my extended family pitches in for a holiday meal. People often bring food when a friend or neighbor experiences a birth or a death in the family. As a community, we feed the hungry, supporting organizations like Interfaith Hunger Initiative, Gleaners Food Bank, Second Helpings, and more; we provide free lunches and breakfast at school to children who need them. Food is basic; food is life-affirming.
On Sunday, our cat was wobbly and no longer interested in tuna juice or cat milk. She was letting go of food and of life, and the most humane thing we could do was stop feeding her and let her go. And we did.