Mosley, a yellow lab mix, and Billie, a shepard-bassett mix, have been our faithful companions during most of our 17 years together. Mosley died almost two weeks ago. She had congestive heart failure, with a leak in the left atrium. She was so sweet. As I heard in a movie one time, she just reached in and put a string of lights around my heart. She had a face that said I trust you, I love you and I’ll take care of you and I need something right now! Whatever the need, I need it now! I’ll knock on the house front window. I’ll bark when I can’t wait for you to finish your last bite of that food before I get some. Billie took my stick and I need it right now! You know, the kind of dog that will make you get up too early because she wants you to be in the living room with her. It makes you mad, but you can’t help yourself, so you get up, get your coffee and sit with Moey (short for Mosley), that’s pronounced Mo – ee. Sometimes known as Mimo.
We chose to drive her in to the vet one morning and have him help her die. Most people say we had her put to sleep or put down. That’s fine, but it doesn’t really say what you do. You pay someone to kill her painlessly. Her lungs were filling up quicker than she could empty them. We decided that it would be compassionate to help her die quickly and calmly, instead of allowing her to drown in a last, desperate attempt to breathe. We were there with her through the last seconds of her life. Ann and Billie and I. We spoke to her and stroked her as Dr. Dugas injected the barbiturate cocktail into a vein on her front leg. She was put into a sleep that allowed the brain to turn everything off. She died in about three minutes. We stayed with her body for several minutes before they took it away on a stretcher to be put in cold storage and then cremated. I regret not staying longer with her lifeless body.
This society of ours tries to tell us that we mustn’t stay around death. It’s unhealthy. I say, we are too weak to take the pain of watching a loved one die. We are shielded from the raw reality of death. In older days, when your loved one died, you bathed the lifeless body and buried or burned it yourself. You felt dying and death with your own hands. We don’t do that now. Someone dies and in rushes the funeral home to whisk the body away.
Some would say, the loved one is gone from the body, so there’s no reason to hold on to it. I want to hold on to the lifeless body to feel the absence of the loved one. It’s not that I don’t believe that the loved one is gone from the body. I do believe that and I want to feel it intellectually and emotionally. We all need something a little different.
When my sister, Sandy, died at age 22, I mowed my parents lawn for hours, just to be away from visitors. I didn’t go see her lifeless body at the funeral home. I hardly have any memories at all from the funeral. I was her kid sister. My family was in shock. It’s the shock that a family gets when they realize that the awful tragedy that you read about in the news, can actually happen to your family. It’s an amazing experience. You’ve conditioned yourself to believe that people will die in the right order, grandparents first, parents next, etc. You realize that no one, including you, is immune from dying. Your life is altered. You might begin to protect yourself with religious insulation. You might start taking drugs to numb yourself from the pain. Or you might allow yourself to begin questioning and exploring the paths of meaning.
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