A Mother's Pain...
In my heart, I knew it was going to be soon. I knew. At 13 years, her youth was all but completely spent. As time wore on, so did her body. Pain wracked her bones. She could barely stand. Could barely eat or drink. She slept all the time. I knew. But knowing is only have the battle ... I thought I had prepared myself for the inevitable. I thought that when the time came, I will have already said my good-byes. And be ready to let her go without the burden of sorrow. Never in my life have I been so wrong. You can never prepare yourself for death...
It happened just this last Friday. The weather was worsening--there was no other day of the weak I would be able to take her before the storms struck. Her hind legs could barely even lift her haunches off the floor and she was in constant pain--panting heavily. There was no longer any point in delaying her release. When I went to pick her up so we could take her to the vet, her entire lower body was soaked in urine. She couldn't even get up to do that anymore. We rinsed her off best we could to make it to the appointment on time and I wrapped her up in a towel. The whole way there, she whimpered and panted and I cried. And even as I cried, she would reach up to my face and try her best to kiss away my tears. I looked at her and saw my very first companion and friend to me in this world--but she was far more to me than that. She was my daughter. You couldn't have been more my child even if I can given birth to her myself. And in my arms was my ailing child. Suffering. And I knew what would have to happen to end it. There was nothing else I could do to help her than to let her go.
The logical mind knew the course of action that had to be taken, but the breaking heart could not accept it. So many memories and good times ... things and places that make me think about her--would ALWAYS make me think about her ... I didn't want those memories to turn bitter within me. To have them spoil with the touch of loss. I knew that after this day I could never again think back on those memories without feeling pain at the same time. And it would be unescapable ... I have never been religious a single day in my life since I was born. But I prayed to everything there was--God, fate, karma, destiny, angels, whatever there was out there to guide us--for the strength to perform the final and ultimate act of kindness.
It was only a 15 minute drive to the vet clinic, but they were the longest 15 minutes of my life ... They seemed to longer for hours ... I couldn't stop crying ... The closer we got, the more I realized that my daughter was going to die. That the next time I brought her home, she would be limp and lifeless. I wasn't going to feel her breathing and her heart beating anymore the way she was now. She wouldn't be warm anymore. She would be dead. And these thoughts plagued me. She was going to die. My first child was going to die ... We arrived and had about another 5 minutes or so to wait for the doctor ... I held her close to me. Loved her, kissed her, reassured her as best I could. I told her that she was finally going to be at peace. She would rest. And she would never be in pain again...
We were finally called in. And I knew it was time ... They weighed her and evaluated her, nodding grimly as they knew what I knew ... She was too far gone for us to save her now. Her only cure now was sleep. Never to wake. They took her to sedate her and insert the cathiter for the injections. By the time the nurse and doctor brought her back, she was barely conscious, already limp. And I knew that this would be mercifully quick ... I kissed her and told her that it was okay. She needed to go rest now. And be with the rest of her deceased relatives in the next life. I told her that this wasn't goodbye. We would be together again when my time came. I held her face in my hands as she administered the final injection ... Less than a minute later she was gone--I felt her go. The presence of the doctor was the only thing that kept me from sinking to the floor in grief. Never had I been so relieved when she stepped out to give me a few moments...
I swaddled her in the clean towel they had provided and craddled her body in my arms. Her eyes were already glazed over as I looked at her and it was them that I realized I was alone. It would be a very, very long time until I saw her again. I held her in my arms, but I knew she wasn't really there anymore. Already her body was getting cold. Any semblance of life was gone from her ... I don't think I ever cried so hard in my entire life. The child I had raised since I, myself, was only a child ... was gone. The doctor came back to do her best to console me and to remove the cathiter so that I could take her home to be buried. Without her kndness and reassurance of the fact that I had done the right thing, I don't know what I would have done...
The gravesite had been ready since before we left. Her coffin was there and her grave was dug. But I would not bury her yet. Not like this ... I brought her into my house and bathed her. Made her beautiful and clean. I closed her eyes. I wanted her to leave this world as perfect as she had come ... It was the only right thing to do ... I then fashioned her a spirit totem out of bones, feathers, and fur, set with a small purple quartz peddle. On it was carved a paw enfolded by two hands. I put it between her front paws and even in my sorrow, I smiled to myself as she seemed to be clutching the small trinket to herself. A part of me was going to stay with her, even far below the cold earth and into the spirit world beyond ... I gently wrapped her up completely in the towel and placed her inside the coffin. I watched my grandfather nail the lid over the coffin as the small lifeless bundle that was my child disappeared from sight. I stayed there until the last shovel-full of soil had ben patted down over the grave. I even layed the stones down that marked her grave ... Later that day, my mother and I bought flowers to place at her tomb ... And my mother, who had not been able to go with me, had her chance to say her goodbyes ... The ache and the emptiness was still there in my heart, but with it also came a fragile sense of peace ... My daughter was no longer in pain. And she was free...
Even now, the emptiness and the pain is still there. It will NEVER leave me. There is a void there that will never again be filled. It is her sacred place within my heart that no one else will ever occupy. But even so, I know that I could not have survived this tragedy if not for my last survuving offspring. I have lived to see every single one of my children put into the ground, but I am not alone. I am still needed. And that will continue to drive me. I have an obligation to my son and daughter to carry on and grow. They depend upon me and I can't fail them. Queenie would have wanted it this way. That I should continue to love those who need love and care for those who cannot care for themselves. Never would she want me to to throw my hands up in surrender and fade away. And even now, I can feel her presence everywhere. And it is finally now that I see that she has passed on, but she has not left. She is still with me. Guiding me. Comforting me. And yes, the memories are not and sweet as they used to be. They have taken on a somber twinge ... but even that bitterness makes them sweeter. The pain makes me treasure them more, because she isn't here anymore. Those memories are all I have left. And as such, they are sacred.
At this moment, I feel unusually inspired to compose a poem freehand--
I have fallen today
But that's alright
A new sun will rise and an old moon fall
The new day will find me standing
There is no pain that can last forever
The sting gives way to the ache
Wounds seal into scars
And we wear them with pride
Because they make us stronger
I have fallen today
And I'm still alright
I am bruised but never broken
Because I can still say,
"I have fallen ... but I will get up."
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