Friday, September 16, 2016


It seems a strange thing

A very curious and strange thing that I have been privileged to witness the death of quite a few people during my time.

The strange part is the fact that I do feel privileged as opposed to grief, or sadness.   Certainly not happy in any way, and some I would take great pleasure in being able to once again enjoy their company and conversation... even their love.  To once again see their smiles and hear their stories.

But, I mean to say that I am glad, even if only for a moment, to have been touched by their lives.  Whether it was for good or ill.

I think the first death I was aware of was a young boy in my 6th grade class, Berven Chipley.  He and his brother we playing in the woods.  Their activity was finding dead pine trees that were still standing and if they could they'd push against them until they started rocking back and forth and snapped off.  Unfortunately on the last one when it snapped instead of falling away from them it snapped off and fell toward them.  His brother escaped, but a pine limb pierced him through the liver and pinned him to the ground.  

He'd seemed a happy boy with family that loved him.  While I was not close to him, nor attended his funeral, I marveled at the outpouring of grief and love my classmates expressed.  
My first glimpse of mortality.

The next followed soon after when my maternal Grandfather passed from stomach Cancer.  From a tall hale man he'd withered down to a shell of his former self, to the point that my mother could pick him up and turn him in his bed.  My Grandmother had started taking in borders to pay the bills when he got sick and she kept that up until dying many years later at the age of 75.  And I saw love and nurturing, caring, yes and grief, but an enduring spirit that always stuck with me.

A great uncle who died of leukemia not long after I'd married.

Young student pilots engaged in forbidded helicopter antics during flight school in Mineral Wells, Texas

Comrades-in-Arms in Vietnam.  Some by enemy action, many during acts of heroism, a couple by suicide, and two by stupidity.
Some were very close and dear to me and many I only knew because we served together.  All touched me more than I would recognize or admit for long years after.

And there were the enemy.  Quite a few I'm sure by my actions.
I learned to respect them.

So many through the years, for it seems that as the years go faster so to do the number of deaths that impact you pile up faster and faster.  And each one leaves it's mark.

My father in an accident, totally unexpected.  Grandmother, Grandfather, aunts and uncles.  My Mother after a long long struggle.

And along the way there were the animals; dogs, cats, cows, horses, and of course the animals that provided food.

I'd never been afraid of making the hard choice and even committed a few in great anger that it was necessary.  Maybe because in some way I caused it, or contributed to it.

But, now I'm faced with the, not possibility, but the certainty that my old dog, Gracie Mae, that Dalmatian, fur shedding, one blue eye and one brown, almost 19 years of happiness and joy of having me as her human is literally on her (I want to say last legs) but, the front two work fine.  And she gives the first impression of being much younger, as she runs to see me, begs for touching and petting pushing herself up against me, just for the pleasure it gives her seemingly to have me around.

I'm faced with the choice of keeping her around until she one day can't or won't be able to get up, or paying some veterinarian that doesn't know her to give a final injection, or do it myself in a somewhat more brutal, but almost Viking send off.  Which thing I have done many times..

But this time. 

 

6 comments:

Borepatch said...

It's a hard responsibility. And it's a hard decision on when is the time.

Atom Smasher said...

Faced this last month with far less life experience than you've had. From what I see in this post, your choice WILL be the right one.

Brigid said...

Sometimes it is the big things; some times it is the small.

It's a small black puppy in a well-worn photograph. It's another photo, of a red haired woman with that same dog, now old and grey. Between those two pictures, there was much love, so much life.

Sometimes it's the big things, the sun that peeks up over the horizon each morning, millions of people turning to that same spot in which they gaze upon their expectation. A figure nailed upon a cross, all those many eyes, looking in that one direction, saying the same litany of prayer, with the same prostrations. Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen; cleansing us in the fire as worlds away, a wall of rain and wind condense and compound to wash away more than sin.

The heavens contain pieces of satellite that may fall to earth, each of them capable of harm, each capable of simply dropping into the ocean where their presence will not be noticed or missed. What will happen to them as they enter the atmosphere, as they cross the line that separates the unknown from the comprehended? Will we even notice?

I would not notice. For all that fills my view is a diagnosis, the one we did not want to hear, even as it was spoken, with a voice tinged in tears.

In a small bed, lies a beloved dog, weary of battles both large and small, yet refusing to give quarter against a foe just the size of one cell of his body. Each and every cell in return put up its own fight, even as some were sacrificed to the cause, the body on fire from within itself. I watched the struggle to rise from his bed with the pain. I watched him try and hide it, lapping up every bit of joy despite the wellspring of his suffering. I watched him play in the face of that fire and continue the fight that he will lose, still with that invisible captaincy of spirit that is as infinite in capacity as it is in faith.

Everything worth meaning is made up of so many small parts, its moments, its words, its acts, the skin and bone and the nucleus within us that contains its own fire, somewhere deep inside. We're our own walking fate, and we're our own little miracles, the atoms from which we're made, not so different from the atoms of the earth, the air, the water, all of us formed from that blazing nucleus of the stars - Heaven, binding us together.

I will never fully understand the miracle that is our existence, our role in the vast wonder that is earth and space and Heaven. But I can grasp the wonder of my world, in a volcanic rock formed in the earth that holds in place letters from a loved one long ago, in a pressed leaf in a photo frame; the tiny veins within it stilled, a leaf once green, held tight between pages. It died in the loss of a battle between promise and poison, leaving just the shell of what was once a beautiful thing.

I look at my own hands, the web of veins, the flow and beat of my blood, frailer than the scent of copper and louder than the seethe and fury of the ocean. I think of the decision I must make, not tomorrow, but today.

B said...

Best advice anyone ever gave me regarding pets and the time to let them go...

As long as they are happy, and eating, and can wag their tail or show pleasure, then they should be here.

When any of those three things stops, then the time has come.


My veterinarian comes to my home for a small fee. Worth every red cent. You might ask.

Jeff B said...

Years ago, when it was time to put my dog Bandit down, I asked the vet to let me push the syringe. Held his head in one hand, slowly pushed the medication with the other.

Cried like a baby, but I'd do it again in a moment. It was the very least I could do for him, considering all he did for me.

kdzu said...

Thank you kind readers. I can hardly believe anyone would stop by this mostly abandoned website anymore.
And thank you for the lovingly offered advice. For now Gracie seems full of life except that she has trained me to hold her feed pan while she eats. It strains her hips to have to bend to floor level to eat, and I have to keep encourgaging her to eat it all. Left to herself she'll only eat a handful. Sometimes she'll take a little break to just turn in a circle working the rear end to make it more comfortable.