Yes, my beloved Murphy is dying.
I have to say, it’s weird.
I am no stranger to death. I lost my brother when I was only 9, and he was 14. The losses cascaded over the years: friends, family, animals.
Each death affects us differently. Of course, there’s the manner of death. Sudden unexpected death just happens to you. Obviously, the dead person doesn’t have a choice, but you always do—you have a choice of how to deal with it.
Shock, grief, anger, disbelief … these are the usual things. First things. The ones that are okay to talk about, because they are socially acceptable, respectable, respectful.
Don’t have to mention those things. You’ve most likely said them at one time or another.
It’s the things we don’t mention that define us and, perhaps, our true relationship with the deceased. Those things range from, “I never liked her that much anyway,” to “Thank goodness it isn’t me,” to “Driving drunk will kill you, what was he thinking?”
These are the things we just have to let go of. They mean we’re human. That we understand death happens and we’re glad we avoided it—for now. The things we’re expected to shut up about, because they don’t matter anyway and just make us look bad.
Yes, they’re normal and they may make us look bad, but they may also make us feel bad. Still, we have to let them go. Are they petty things? Mean? Sentimental? Acknowledge them and move on.
It’s when death is prolonged that the things we’re thinking add up. That’s when the crazies can occur.
I remember when my dad was dying. He had been miserable for two years, crippled by rheumatoid arthritis and severe heart disease. He wanted to die and yet ‘want’ wasn’t enough, because his soul just couldn’t let go of his body.
I cherished the time I had with him, even though I, too, wanted him out as quickly and painlessly as possible.
I came home from Scotland with a bottle of Scotch, something my dad taught me to appreciate. By then he was in a hospital bed at home. We opened the bottle and I poured a shot for both of us. Yes, he was on morphine. Yes, we knew what we were doing. We toasted each other and drank.
My mom walked into the room, saw the Scotch, and said, “Are you trying to kill him?”
Dad and I looked at each other, at her, and back at each other. We smiled. Mom stomped out. Yep, we were hoping. For us, it would have been perfect. Of course, it wasn’t that easy.
Those are the days I thought a lot about euthanasia. About helping out somebody who wanted to die. I didn’t, mostly because I didn’t know how to, and because I knew society would call me a murderer and put me in jail. But I thought about it. They danced around giving him enough morphine to dull the pain. They let him linger. And when it got bad enough that he was in hospice, and into his last days, then I could help him.
I honored his wishes and turned away services. It was hard, but it was what he wanted. A long-time pharmacist with a strong medical background (he would have been a doctor except he went off to serve in World War II and came home damaged), he knew exactly what he was doing when he signed the form that allowed him to die. I knew what I was doing when I honored it.
Do I miss him? Every day.
Did I do the right thing? Absolutely, because it was his choice.
It was the last loving thing I could do for him.
Now my beloved dog is dying, and I think strange thoughts.
How much food do I buy to cook for her? If I get another can of sardines will it make her laugh and gobble it up?
What business events do I cancel to be home with her? How long is this going to last?
If I hold her tight in my lap will she live?
How does she want to die? Is this really necessary, the whole death and dying thing? Why can’t we just skip that part?
Sure, she’s having breathing issues and sleeps a lot, but does that mean I should kill her?
Can spring come early so we can sit out on the deck together and just enjoy ourselves?
Can I get her to play with her ragged dinosaur toy?
Do Alki and Grace the Cat care? Does anybody care?
Should I be hysterical or just sad? Should I be happy she’s comfortable, even though I’m not so much?
Can I be there when she needs me?
As all these thoughts drift through my weary brain, I know that some of them make no sense, because death doesn’t make sense. Endings don’t make sense.
We live through it anyway. Weird whimsical sad thoughts pop in. We acknowledge them and let them go. They remind us that someone we love is facing their last choice, and that we care.
That sometimes we wish we didn’t care.
Well, no, not true. If I didn’t care I would never have loved this magnificent being in a dog body. The beautiful girl I’m losing.
Never would have happened.
There is one thing worse than death: the ‘never would have happened.’ At the end of it all I can say that I understand my true relationship with this wonderful dog.
We love each other.
That isn’t weird at all.
© 2012 Robyn M Fritz