This year Aunt Rose died. I have meant to write about it – to write about death, how uncomfortable people in Western cultures generally are and we don’t talk about it and its rituals – I’m still formulating my thoughts on that but right now in my home, my fur friend
met death to come since I first started writing this. Her body is giving gave way and I knew when taking her off the street back in 2008 that, that’s the contract we make. We know that dogs (in most cases) will die before we do. Although, I often was worried for my dogs, that my death would come first only because that meant the possibility existed that they would be separated from one another or worse yet that they would become homeless again – alone and afraid.
A couple of summers ago it seemed like she might meet death. She stopped performing her happy dance as we neared home each day at the end of our walk – It was a daily ritual. I wasn’t prepared. She wasn’t ready, and I don’t think Kiki her dog sister was ready to lose a beloved friend and comrade – at least I didn’t think so. Maybe death fell in love with life through
Death Meets Life in The Life of Death
Recently she stopped doing her happy dance again and it has been hot so I blamed it on the weather. Then her mouth was hurting, her teeth were functional but she’s elderly and lately her mouth was bothering her. There were other signs too, she started sleeping in the kitchen on the rug there – she scarcely entered the kitchen unless I expressly called her in there.
Then she stopped eating and drinking and suddenly she could no longer walk and if she tried only took a few steps before crashing to the ground. It was scary for me, for Kiki and especially frightening for
I don’t know how old she
is was with certainty but one area resident thought she was is 16. I know that at the very least she was is 14.5. Fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen is a rich full life for a larger dog. Whatever her age, yesterday she met death with grace and dignity.
She died at home with Kiki and me by her side with all of us fully present, fully aware and accepting of the reality of death. We hope that we’ll all meet again at one time or another in whatever form our essence takes. It was an experience that won’t ever be forgotten.
Death Comes and Ritual
When she experienced moments of deep rest in-between the struggle of letting go, I prepared some of her favorite things for her burial – an old worn out rubber fish she liked to play with and one of her bones. I composed a note to be buried with her – an epitaph since her grave is only marked by wildflowers and grass. This to say she would never be forgotten, how much I appreciated her love and to let her know she will always be loved no matter what.
Nothing lasts forever and that sense of impermanence is the thing we fear, maybe even dread but it the very thing that we wish for too. It creates space for hope and faith too.
Part of her last two days of life included gentle sounds played and singing- a singing bowl reverberated sound, her favorite music was played, and Tibetan bells rung all to comfort her. Um…Yes, she did have a favorite song that was played and I have sung it to her too – innumerable times as I brushed her thick fur and massaged her body.
For her ritual I also brought plants that were given to me by Erika our friend and sometime caretaker of the yin/yang sisters – Kiki and Nerica – when I was away. Lavender and sage were cut and tied with a string from the balcony garden that she enjoyed to laze in daily.
I called upon the ancestors, angels and other dogs who have gone before her to hold her and help guide her through her passage as she left the earth and to accompany her on her journey to the void, the other dimension, the unknown, a dog’s paradise – wherever she may now roam.
Her body cleaned and wrapped in white linens, she is buried in a field surrounded by nature in a deep hole dug by our friend Stefan. Planted nearby are the plants from our friend and scattered on her grave is a packet of seeds of the plant – Forget Me Nots. This was essential to me since she grew up on the street and in the end, it was important to me that she wasn’t merely transferred to the Veterinary University to be cremated en masse with other animals.
I decided to write about this experience for a few reasons but, mostly because we don’t talk about death that often and, like everything else in this life, everything changes. Nothing lasts forever and that sense of impermanence is the thing we fear, maybe even dread but it the very thing that we wish for too. It creates space for hope and faith too.
My deepest gratitude is to
Thank you, Erika, for helping me lift
Thank you Cristina for calling me the last few days to help me through, and James for checking up on me. Thank you Ruxandra for loving Neri Beri, supporting me through this time and making me salad. Thank you to the compassionate doctors at Karavet who cared for Nerica throughout her life and in her last days – your office was last on the list of places she wanted to visit but she knew deep down that she always felt better after a visit.
Finally, thank you to everyone for all the beautiful comments. Kiki and I feel all the love. Your love and support means a lot to us.