I suppose it may be strange starting this blog talking about “the end”?
My father, my dog, and one of my cats passed away all within 16 months of each other. Some people might think it odd for me to put my pets in the same category as my father, but they are all family. My cat Spidey and I lived together longer than I had with any other living being including my parents and my husband.
When my father had a heart attack several years ago at work, he technically died, but then was revived. He had always been a philosophical guy. For my 10th birthday he gave me a copy of Pascal’s “Pensées”. When he came out of an induced coma, I asked him what it was like for him to die. He said, at least from what he remembers of his experience, that even though he may have looked like he was in pain, that he hadn’t felt any pain and that he felt like an electrical appliance, like an old TV whose chord had been unplugged and the screen that had been bright just a moment ago, shrank to a little point… and then poof, vanished. While I’m sure some of his personal beliefs prior to that informed his experience and what he remembers of it, and others certainly must go through something different at their time of death, the talk I had had with him was really important to me when he passed away. He may have struggled with his existence living on this earth towards the end, but I choose to believe he was not afraid to die.
With my pets, I have always known, usually months ahead unless they died because of an accident, that the clock was running out, even if they seemed relatively healthy. We call that intuition but what exactly are the details that I’m tuning in to? With my dog Coleman, almost a decade ago, I switched from working full-time at an animal shelter to part-time about 9 months before his death. I knew I wanted to spend lots of time enjoying the summer with him, hiking, swimming, and doing all the things he loved most. I just…. knew. I could feel it in my bones. With my dog Derek who passed away last year, I also knew about a year before he ended up being diagnosed with cancer, that I might not have that much time left and I frequently verbalized that when making future plans. “I’m not sure how much longer he has so…” and I think some people were surprised because he was so incredibly fit and energetic for his age. Even with my cat Spidey who passed away most recently, a few months before she started really going down hill I said to my husband that I wasn’t sure how many more times I was going to be able to snap her back from her chronic ailments. She was 19 when she passed away. I suppose intuition could merely mean having exceptionally good observational skills. I’m a dog trainer, I’ve been honing that, but is there anything more to it than just that?
The connections and understanding with others that we build sometimes through verbal communication, other times, many times, and with other beings through shared experiences is what I feel makes up “life” and are creations in and of themselves. Those are things that don’t get erased at death and continue to exist after death. I think that is one of the reasons I have long felt that life is art and that art is life. We create invisible, often beautiful realities, and magical tendrils of connections by living with others and building relationships with them. Each deep conversation or thoughtful interaction is like a splash of color on an airy canvas and we keep adding more on top and adjacent. When we lose the ones we love, we can still look at those pieces of art and admire how unique they are and how we made them together.