Friday, September 18, 2009

Saying goodbye...

As I age, become ever more conscious of my own mortality, and am affected by the mortality of others, little things begin to mean a great deal to me. I notice significances more, spend more time thinking about those significances, and go deeper into their larger meaning.

It's probably a good year for us to be engaging theological issues in our worship time at UUCWI because I'm thinking more about meaning. And meaning is what theology is all about. My own mental meanderings start with "someone I care about is very ill and I feel compassion for her", move on to "what will it be like for me if and when she dies?", and wind up in "what does it mean that I will die, that we all will die, that these deaths are a natural outcome of human life, and where is the Sacred in this natural occurrence?"

Recently an email from an acquaintance reached my inbox. The sender was someone I'd met when I performed her wedding ceremony a couple of years ago, whose first message to me included the line that she wanted to wear her wedding dress before she had to go in for her next round of chemo.

This time it was a plea to be with her and her husband as they put their beloved dog to rest. Mac, who had been a member of the wedding party, was declining fast; his illness too was cancer and it had struck hard, taking him downhill almost overnight. Would I say a few words over his little grave? Of course I would.

It came at the end of a pleasant day with my sister across the water. Sitting in the ferry line, I got the call. Could I come to the house as soon as I got off the boat? The vet would be there and we would be together during these moments of goodbye, the little grave would be dug, and we would bury Mac with his toys and collar, wrapped in his favorite blanket. And I would pray.

It happened just that way, with many tears and stories of Mac's bravery and protectiveness toward his family and other animal friends. We wrapped him and carried him to the grave, where he was laid. And my words went something like this:

"Spirit of Life and Love, God in our midst, we are grateful for the unconditional love of our animal friends. They give it so unstintingly and we give our care and devotion in return. But our lives are longer than their lives and there sometimes comes a time when we must repay their love and friendship by giving them a peaceful, painfree death. We are grateful for the bright spirit of little Mac, who gave so freely to his humans of his companionship, his protection, his playfulness, his loyalty. May his spirit be always with his humans and may he rest here in peace. Amen and Blessed Be."

And we threw clods of dirt upon the small packet in the bottom of the grave and said goodbye.


Laura said...

Thank you for this today; we laid our beloved Boots-kitty to rest last night in the garden and couldn't think of any appropriate words at the time. These are what I needed to hear today.

Laying that little girl - that tiny package - in the dirt - with a picture of her three brothers and one sister, and buried beside her big brother... well, it was such a hard thing. And to do it without being able to say goodbye coming home still sick from the hospital yesterday...


Thank you. I love you.


ms. kitty said...

Dear Laura,
I'm so sorry to hear that you have lost Boots-kitty. I know you loved her dearly and will miss her deeply. It's so hard to lose such a sweet friend.

Do take care of yourself while you grieve. Your life is ever so valuable too.


Robin Edgar said...

"we would bury Mac with his toys and collar, wrapped in his favorite blanket."

Just like an ancient pharoah aka king!

I am glad that you were able to do that. When my cat Zeuss died in my arms in a vet's waiting room he was pretty much confiscated. I had wanted to bury him near the riverside but the veterinarian who confirmed his death said that it was against the law to bury pets and that ALL animals that died in the veterinary had to be sent out for cremation. At least in Montreal it is best to avoid veterinarians if your pet is on its last legs and you would like to give it a decent send off. . .

John A Arkansawyer said...

When my cat died, years back, I had two very decent people make it easier for me.

My discrete math prof, Dr. Bakke, accepted with only a moment of questioning my excuse that I'd missed our third exam because I'd been sitting with a terribly sick cat who'd died later that day.

My veterinarian, Doctor Bop (her nickname, which was on her card, was "Boppie"), came to my house after five and gave her the shot right there on the porch, and went with me in the back to bury her.

Such decent people. I remember them fondly.

ms. kitty said...

Such great kindness on the part of the people involved, John. Thanks for your story.

Mile High Pixie said...

How truly wonderful of you to value the life of this creature as much as any two-legged one. While my Maddy has survived an entire year with small-cell lymphoma in her stomach, I know the time will come much sooner than I'd hoped to release her back to the Universe and send her on her way over the Rainbow Bridge. Thank you so much for being with this family in their time of loss and rememberance.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Pixie. Give that Maddy-cat a little pet from me, okay?

Miss Kitty said...

Ohhh, Ms. K...thank you for posting this. Mom and I laid my 13-year-old Noel to rest a few weeks ago; even when you see the end fast approaching (for both human and animal friends), it's never easy, is it?

Bless you for being there for that family, and for their beloved four-legged companion. (((hugs)))

ms. kitty said...

It is always so very hard, isn't it, Miss K? And you give love and care to so many animals----I admire that in you. Hugs right back to you---I hope we meet someday!

Elz said...

/Beautiful prayer. Thank you.