I am leading a discussion group on "Living for a Good Death" in which we consider the concept of death, our own deaths, and listen to one another about our feelings about death. We are using poetry, scripture, and the Bill Moyer's video series on death and dying. (this is not my original idea. Thank you Claire, for sharing what you did at your church so that I could cobble this together!)
We have had some fruitful conversation, and it is interesting what bubbles up. I think that people are comfortable in talking about loved ones who have died, or the questions of death, but we are still working towards expressing our own feelings about our own deaths. It is something we all do, and yet we never talk about it. It's important, I think. There are some choices we can make...even if we die suddenly.
It is ironic to me that since starting this series, I have been faced with two very different situations of "death" in our little community of animals that live with us. Venus, is possibly facing a diagnosis of terminal cancer. I am thinking positively, but I am also being realistic. We know that our treatment choices will only be palliative, rather than trying to "save" her life. She has a great life.
This morning, however, the shock of sudden death slammed fully into my life. I was upstairs, reading the paper, drinking coffee, relaxing on my day off, when the doorbell rang. It was only a little after 7, so I knew it was my neighbor, Marie. When I got to the door, she wasn't there, but her car was parked kind of funny...and then she came out of her door with a blanket, and shouted to me, "Buster, your Buster, I think he's been hit by a car."
I couldn't believe it would be Buster, because he never leaves our block to go to the busy street.
I was wrong.
My dear Buster was laying in the middle of Riverside Ave, dead. He had been hit by a car, and there was blood everywhere...(I will spare the details) and I just fell on top of him and started screaming like a crazed person. Marie, bless her golden heart, wrapped him up in a blanket, and urged me back over to my house. I was crying, I was hysterically talking, my whole body was shaking, and I just kept cradling our kitty in my arms, rocking...while Marie just stayed and hugged me, even though she was late for work. She took Bussy away from me, and told me to rest and not go anywhere. She put him in her fridge (now that is neighborly!) and said one of her volunteers would take him to the vet to be cremated.
(I will write more about Bussy when I can...)
[Important note, perhaps out of guilt or fear that you might criticize the fact that he was outside at all. Buster was the one cat we could not keep inside all the time when we moved to New England. We tried, very hard. But he voiced his serious displeasure by spraying everywhere. After a couple of months, we realized that he would be happier in and out, even though it was more risky for his life. Again, a "good life" question. Bussy was a horse farm cat, an outdoor cat, who mostly preferred sleeping on the porch than inside. We brought him in every night, and when we left during the day. Although I am sick to my stomach that he got hit by a car, I still feel we made the choice for Bussy's sake. We would have preferred him inside--well, without the spraying.]
As I sat alone (dear beloved was at the airport, boarding a plane for Texas) in the house, I just let complete and total feeling wash over and through me. I didn't move, I didn't think, I just felt Bussy. I don't know how to explain it.
After awhile, I knew that there was no way I was going to let a stranger take my Bus to a strange vet to be cremated. So, I got dressed, went across the street, found Bus in the fridge, and placed him in the car. His body was so limp, still, almost warm, still, so, so, sweet...and yet dead.
I got to my vet, with him wrapped in the blanket, and they let me be alone in the room. I held him, cried, apologized, told him what a great spirit he was, told him why beloved was not there.....I opened the blanket, to touch his furry paws...and just to make sure he was really, really gone.
The physicality of being with his dead body was important.
I said, good bye, dear one. Thank you, you sweetest cat ever.
I was able to let him go.
Even though I am incredibly saturated with sadness.
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