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Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

March 22, 2005

Life Lessons From Humans And Other Animals

On the third or fourth date with Tripp, he informed me I needed to meet his cat and, if the cat didn’t like me, it was over: the cat had good judgment regarding people. So, with trepidation, I met the cat, Mitz. Thankfully, he liked me and settled himself that night on my chest while I was reading on the couch.

Mitz has been a constant in our lives, a continual thread in the ten years we have been together and a fixture in Tripp’s life for seventeen. He has been, without a doubt, an additional personality in the household, quite clever in communicating his needs, wants, pleasures and displeasures to us. Despite advancing age, he has been quite spry if increasingly exhibiting a tendency to choose sleep over other pleasures.

He has traveled with us from D.C. to Oregon, Oregon to California, California to New York, from the city to the upstate cottage.

When he arrived to live in Claverack, we interviewed virtually everyone we knew who had a pet to determine the best vet for geriatric felines.

When we went off recently to New Mexico we left him in the competent care of Don Hoke, who watches our house for us when we are not there. When we returned, he had taken a sudden downward turn, having quickly lost a great deal of body weight while exhibiting an unusual lethargy.

The long and the short of it is that we have found he has a tumor on his lung, about the size of a golf ball, potentially operable though we will not go that route. The image of cracking open the chest of Mitz, now profoundly frail, on the slim chance he could survive such a surgery, does not seem worth the pain it would cause him.

So we find ourselves now in caring for him at the end of his life, suddenly and unexpectedly – the way life is with all its creatures, great and small, human and not. We think we are prepared for someone passing but we’re not. Not really.

A decade ago, I thought I was prepared for my mother to pass away but I was not and found myself submerged in an ocean of unexpected pain.

Lately, with Mitz’s advancing age, we have discussed that he would go one day. But neither of us was prepared for it to be NOW.

Life care and end of life issues are very much in our minds right now, due to the titanic struggle being waged over the removal of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube. It is a struggle which has engaged her family, the President, the Congress, the Courts and the hearts and minds of everyone who watches news or reads a newspaper.

We are, it seems, as a result of one person’s situation, individually and collectively dealing with end of life issues and quality of life at that stage. The New York state website has registered a startling increase in traffic on its health pages, mostly on the ones that deal with the process of creating a living will. It is probably the same all over the country.

With our personal situation, we do not wish to expose Mitz to heroic and perhaps horrific surgery in a desperate attempt to extend his life nor do we want prematurely to “pull the plug” on him and we are absolutely determined to give him the best palliative care we can at this stage. The care with which I want to ease Mitz’s departure mirrors, as best I can, the care with which I would like my departure orchestrated.

At the end of my life, I would want no heroics nor would I want to be maintained physically if my brain were dead. All of which underscores the importance of making sure you/we/us all have our living wills executed and have designated someone to make health decisions for us when we can’t. So that we can be given what we want and not what others might think we want.