“365 Days of Mindfulness” [Day 29] Holding On, Part 2…

The difference a day makes at times like these can be downright startling. But so it is with humans as well as animals when the endtimes are approaching.

In February 2005 my mother was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, told that she should go home and put her affairs in order, in fact might have as short as 3 months to live. She died December 2009 nearly 5 years past the initial diagnosis. My grandmother, whom I loved dearly, was in and out of the nursing home — my mother took care of her and did not want her to go into the nursing home at all — when she truly needed hospital care, but she mainly lived her final years as she had most of the time before at my mother’s house. There were so many times we thought “This is it.” that by the time grandma finally did pass away we’d pretty well come to think she would live forever. After a very long illness when Daddy was at “death’s door” too many times to count he went into the hospital yet again. I was in New York doing research for a screenplay I was writing. My husband called me, told me the end was near, and he arranged a plane ticket for me to fly straight back to my parents home and he and the children drove there and met me. We all sat at the hospital for a week and Daddy was barely conscious. On the 7th day Daddy got up, had a bath, and was sitting up in the chair in the hospital room laughing and talking. “Seriously?” We were sure it was one more false alarm, you know, the dying never die. He died the next day.

Death is a mysterious thing and we mere humans will never figure it out. One thing is for certain, Sam’s days, at 15 1/2, are numbered. He had a better day today. There will be the harder ones that will follow rapid fire mixed in with the good ones, until finally there are fewer of the good ones at which point I will have to make the hard decision, or, as I hope and pray, one night my baby boy will go to sleep snuggled beside me and will cross over as we all sleep snuggled together. It would be a real shock and quite unnerving and upsetting to wake up to, but it is how I pray he will go.

Yesterday he slept most of the day in my lap which he doesn’t like to do. He is very independent and he likes to snuggle up to me, not have me pick him up. Here on the couch where we are now he is nestled into my side as he was in the picture last night. In the picture at the top he was just stepping out of his bed under my desk this afternoon which is really a very long, very old farmer’s table that serves as my desk. He is right by my foot while I work and when I move so does he.

Yesterday he didn’t want his vitamins or meds in peanut butter which he loves. He didn’t want to go off of the deck. Today he was out the door onto the deck first thing, down the stairs and into the yard, and several times today he not only went out with me but on his own through the doggie door right next to where I work. I was baffled, relieved, worried, grateful, I didn’t trust it, I wanted to trust it, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. The shoe stayed on.

Today Sammy ate all of his food, took all of his meds and vitamins and supplements and treats, went in and out, and was pretty much his old boy self as he had been 2 days before. I kept watching him nervously in disbelief. I sat up with him last night until somewhere past 3 a.m. when finally the 4 pugs were so sound asleep I slipped down in the covers with them and went to sleep. About 6 a.m. I woke up with a funny feeling. I sat up and looked over at Sam, snuggled in the corner where he likes to lay and he looked so still my stomach went all in knots. I leaned over gingerly and put my hand on him. He felt still and solid, and — maybe it was just my imagination — cold. I gasped, teared up, and thought, “Oh my God he’s DEAD!” at which point he proceeded to let out some puggerly snuffles, shifted around a bit, and snored himself back to sleep. I sat here frozen to the spot not knowing whether to laugh or cry. After a bit I finally was able to stop rubbing his little boy self — he never woke up — and I curled back up and went to sleep. When everyone got up Sam was one of the first ones moving and out we all went. Across the deck, down the stairs, and out into the yard. I was absolutely mystified. I followed tiny Delilah out and watched Sam warily as if a dead person had come back to life or someone was playing tricks on me. But no, Sam was moving about under his own steam, if very slowly, with a hind end that weaves a bit out of sync with his front half, he slowly walked along with us, up the stairs, and into the house.

He is still afraid, and I’m certain rightfully so, to eat in the kitchen so I will continue on feeding him in my studio, putting the other three pugs food bowls down and then down the three steps where Sammy is waiting for me. But he ate all of his breakfast and then kind of mosied around. I just kept staring at him like a looney person waiting for him to drop over dead, but apparently he had other plans.

All day I kind of held my breath. If he was asleep in his bed under my desk I would bend over and stare at him certain that he was just gone under there. He sleeps so much and so deeply — and as he is now also deaf he doesn’t hear things and bolt up like he once did at noises the other dogs will go crashing out the doggie door to investigate — that it would be easy to look at him when everyone else was making such a racket and think that his time must have come. I spent half of the day hanging upside down staring at him under my desk and as sure as I was about to climb down there and check on him he’d open one eye and look at me like I was being rude. Just because an old boy has had a bad day, and yes the end is likely very much closer than I want to imagine, doesn’t mean you have to stare at him every single second like you’re sure he’s one paw away from six feet under (Or 2 or 3 in the garden, sigh…). At some juncture I kind of started to breathe half way normally with quick peeks down at him and finally decided he wasn’t going to die today, in fact I am still completely mystified by what happened yesterday and how he was so much better today. Mind, he wasn’t frolicking about, but nor was he the day before the really bad day yesterday.

The thing is we are on a journey together, and if I spend all of the time I do have with him worrying about the time I won’t have with him anymore I will lose all of the precious days or hours we have left. That’s what I decided today. Like my mom, and grandma, and daddy he is going to die, but it will not be on any neat schedule, the last moment cannot be predicted, and like everything else in life being mindful and living in the present moment is not just all we have it is a gift. We spend so much of our lives blundering mindlessly through life, missing so many things. Now I know that any hour with Sam may be our last, and the same could be true for me, so I am going to cherish every single solitary second I have with him and the other babies and my children and grandchildren and everybody and everything I love. What else is there? Nothing.

This weekend has taken my breath away, I have been jolted awake in a way I believe I never have been in my life. When you are nigh on 60 and your beloved companions are coming into the endzone of their lives there is simply no time to waste mindlessly meandering through the days not paying attention. Paying attention is now my business, here on this blog, here in the cottage, and with the wee pug snuggled up beside me.

This weekend has been a time of coming close to death, and while realizing it is still near knowing that I have no idea how near. As always all we have is this moment, this very moment, and it is where I intend to park myself and stay. I’m going to be right here, every single solitary second, right here, right now, forever. And I’m going to be spending a lot of these moments kissing wee pug noses along the way…

 

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Comments

  1. Barb/Lliann says:

    At some point, we learn and accept that the price of love is loss. And for me, it became a fair trade.
    For whatever reason,, death has asked me to be present many times. Several animals, a friends mother, my mother. By the time my father was going, I had learned there is a language of the dying. As well as a hearing of the dying. That even dying is a process that can be shared and shared with love. I believe this lesson is the single most thing that has changed me.

    I miss Mouse, my cat. Because of the love he gave me. Because of the gentle alpha that he was. But I know we did not miss one minute. When he drifted away, I was with him every step until there were no more steps for me.

  2. Barb honey, thank you so much for coming and making a comment. It meant the world to me. And I loved seeing “Lliann” again, oh how it brought back all those wonderful times years ago when I would light up to see a post come through from you and how you helped countless people with your gentle wisdom. I have missed you…

    And I am so sorry for the hard loss of your precious Mouse. We have so many animal companions that we dearly love but then there are the ones that are so so special they become soul mates, and those are particularly hard losses. I have loved and lost so many but as with your Mouse when Sam’s day come it will be soul-shattering. But for now I just love him and the other babies with all my heart. There is still so much love to give and receive.

    You know I loved reading your thoughts about death and it made me think of a book that was so profound and gave me a whole new perspective on death. I read it years ago but now that I’m older I’d like to read it again. Sadly when you get to our age, even though we are still young in my mind, 60ish is really young these days, we have gotten to the age when we will begin to see our friends pass and that is very hard. I remember my mother saying, in her 70’s, that it was so awful because all of her friends were dying around her. As I was 3 decades younger than her then I sympathized but couldn’t really take in then what she meant.

    But the book is “A Reckoning” by May Sarton and it is about a woman who is dying and how her relationship to the world and the people around her, even those close to her that she dearly loved, changed more and more and more toward the end when she didn’t want to see people or do things because she was turning toward her relationship with death and the dying process. I am not saying that well now because it’s been a long time since I read it but it is just an incredible book. It is here: http://www.amazon.com/A-Reckoning-Novel-May-Sarton/dp/0393316211

    I am sending you so much love honey and a big warm hug…

    Maitri

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