Love, Compassion and Loss–Sweet Goodbye On This Valentine’s Day
I know this is a food blog and although my life is made of many parts, they are also symbiotic and do not act separately from one another. I lost a very important part of my life yesterday and I thought I would share it here with my readers. But I can promise you that out of my pain always comes something in the kitchen. Cooking helps me grieve, it helps me to be happy and it helps me to feel alive. Creativity comes in mysterious ways. Today is Valentine’s Day and I think of this short story as one of Love.
Goodbye To My Friend
I had to make a grueling decision and send my sweet love, my loyal friend and the gentlest of dogs to the other side yesterday. Russ was fourteen years old and had been with me through the happiest of times and through the saddest when in 2006 I lost both my partner at the time to a heart attack and my grandmother who raised me to brain tumors. Death as I have experienced it from those close to me has made me change and learn that love and compassion are innate in all of us and that they can be intricately linked with pain. Yesterday, as my husband and I waited for four o’clock in the afternoon, the time the veterinarian would arrive to euthanize Russ, I had so many thoughts running through my brain and explosions of emotions, both little ones and grand finale ones making bright painful colors in my heart. I specifically remembered and deeply felt the time when my grandmother was dying and suffering from the pain of the cancer that had overtaken her. I watched this incredibly bright, intellectual and compassionate woman’s brain deteriorate to mush while her body followed. There were moments when I could see that she was still my grandmother but most of the time it was someone else, a scary personality change and an anguish trapped in a body I could only recognize from its physical form. To her credit, she had planned ahead of time and given me power of attorney to make the tough decisions over health, which even at the strong protest of my family I still made.
Yesterday, as I held Russ when the narcotics and sedative made their way into his blood stream, I could feel his breathing slow down and his muscles twitch letting me know that he was on his way to crossing over. There was no turning back. In my sobbing, I searched for answers from the veterinarian about what was happening and praying that Russ was unconscious and unaware of what was happening. The veterinarian assured me that this was indeed the case. Russ’ eyes were open and I could see the same glazed look that I saw in my grandmother’s eyes when she was dying. The night before I spent wakeless hours praying to my creator (universal life force) for a sign, a concrete and unmistakable sign, that this was the right decision and it was Russ’ time to go to a place where he could run again freely without his legs failing or his heart slowing him down. I had prayed the same way when I was making decisions for my grandmother but there was usually no outward answer. No immediate sign ever came during the time she was dying or just before Russ went to his better place. Instead, my heart sat heavy in my stomach as the hours passed with the only smiles coming from my lips unable to turn downward at the innocence and joy of my toddler’s eyes.
Having lost momentary faith in my creator and feeling that I was on my own, again, Russ finally took his last breath and everything changed. I bent forward to for the last time kiss and smell the sweet musty canine scent of his fur that only an owner could love. I pushed my tears away and reached my lips toward his beautiful large black nose and I was caught by the look of his eyes; they were definitely different. Although Russ’ heart had now stopped, his eyes were still alive and this time happier than I had seen them in the last year. In that moment I felt deep pain but also compassion and love for what I had done for him, and also for me. I had that same feeling after my grandmother passed on too but I had forgotten with time. There was no more questioning or guilt on whether what I was doing was right or premature. The creator had been with me all along and I just had to be reminded of this great wisdom that lives within me. Russ was now at peace and he looked like a puppy again. All the life, the love, the jumping on the bed, the racing around splashing in the fall leaves and the making round unplanned angels in the winter snow all flashed in my memory as I imagine it flashed in Russ’ as his soul drifted to that very special place. I can imagine his tail wagging now. Namaste.