Thursday, September 9, 2010

Toby


Love and loss -- I didn't know the pain of grief would unfurl petals of love in me. I have opened -- time means nothing -- I pick Toby up and carry her up the steps once her back legs are too weak to function. I help brace her foot against me so she can lick herself clean....anything that I can do to help...to make myself feel like I am helping in some way.

There is a strength deep, deep within this much pain and sadness. It is right in the very centre of the unfurling flower....a strength coupled with a profound sense of joy. These feelings are so powerful and yet at the far reaches of rational, logical explanation that I can hardly describe them. They are truly from the realm of the heart....

Where letting go and surrendering confer an exquisite beauty on death. When your world shrinks to the celebration of watching your pet eat a tiny bit of chicken breast -- when this same small world of such deceptively simple triumphs opens up an entire other world of immense love. Unconditional love -- the kind of love that left my hands filthy with poop and infection, and I didn't care for a moment. The kind of patience that I never knew I could possess -- the kind that could confer dignity on the most terrible of illnesses. The kind of joy that co-exists with a heavy heart -- like a weight consistently pressing in the middle of my chest that leaves me exhausted...but at the same time I could pet Toby and look into her eyes and smile and feel so much love.

Control is an illusion -- the only thing we can give is ourselves. That is the only reality -- the only thing I am certain of. Loss is teaching me to be a kinder, more accepting person. Life is so short -- too short for judgments and gossip -- you never know what a person's story is. I see other people as extensions of myself -- I thought at first that what I am learning is tolerance -- but that is the wrong word. It is acceptance.

I read somewhere a long time ago (I have an inkling that it may have been in a Joseph Campbell book....) about the Wheel of Life. And that the further away from the hub you are, the more ups and downs you experience. The closer you are to the centre of the hub -- the less movement there is. At the very centre of the hub there is stillness.

Compassion is borne from the sorrow -- A deep calm. Depth.

Strength -- not selfishness. Strength is not about me - it is about what I can give. Putting myself aside; not focusing on myself, turning my ego aside and looking outward --- away. Letting go of myself -- what I think of as myself. Opening up to the outside -- staying open and not closing around a particular interpretation of reality that suits my own narrow point of view. Let go completely.

In the very centre of myself all these emotions co-exist together -- Stillness does not mean emptiness -- I think it means a release of some sorts...At least the glimpses I've had of this place makes me think so.

Am I stronger? I don't know. Am I more prepared? Maybe. I know that love is a very powerful force -- powerful enough to overcome disgust at the ravages of cancer and replace it with patience, gentleness, kindness. There is a liberation as well. A freedom -- like a long deep sigh -- leaving myself behind. Grief is changing me.

My vet came over to my house at 4:45pm this afternoon.

My Mom, Dad, Mike and I were all with Toby at the end.

It was the most terrible thing. It doesn't matter that it was the right thing to do -- I cried so hard I almost puked with the effort -- the tears have stopped for now. I know they'll come again. Mike followed through to the very end and carried her little body to our vet's vehicle. It was at this point I had to turn away. When her spirit was gone -- she was gone. There was no mistaking it. I couldn't bear to look at her little body.

It is now only a few hours later and her absence is tangible. It is a complete emptiness -- she is gone! I've been worrying about her for these past weeks -- and the worry is now gone.

I can only move forward. One small step at a time. That is all I know I can do!

9 comments:

Suzanne said...

Oh Julie. You are brave and you were there for your beloved Toby right until the end. I'm sorry and so sad for you but also glad to know your dog is now at peace.

Kelly B. said...

Oh dear.
I have been thinking about you this week. Sending much love and hugs...

Jenna said...

I sent you an email, hope you got it. Very moving post - Toby knows all that love and had taken it with her. What a gift you all were to eachother!

Amber Dawn said...

I don't even have the words. I love you Jules, and I can almost comprehend what you are going through but I can't let myself even go there.
Your post is a beautiful tribute and Toby was a very loved and fortunate dog to have you!
Take care...

Sarah said...

I am so sorry Julie to hear of your sad loss. It brings back so many memories of last September when I had to go through the same journey with my boy 'George'. I don't think that you will ever be prepared for something like this and I don't think that you ever see life the same again. Hold on to the happy memories of the times you spent with Toby to get you through. Words don't ease the pain, the physical pain that you feel( i know) and it will take time to heal. No more pain, no more suffering. Just peace.You will meet again on 'Rainbow Bridge'. Thinking of you.

John Prince said...

I know what you are going through having been there. My heart goes out to you and Mike...

"The one, absolute, unselfish friend
That man can have in this selfish world.
The one that never deserts him,
The one that never proves ungrateful
or treacherous, is his dog."

Sarah said...

Julie, I am so sorry. I know what you are going through, I lost my little Collie just shy of a year ago. Nothing can prepare you. Take comfort in the fact that you loved her with every bit of your being and she had quite the life with you guys. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, and sending big hugs your way.

Graham, Prince & Tilly said...

I'm so sorry. There's really nothing I can say that will make things any better. Just sending lots of love...

Lisa G said...

Julie, I am so saddened to hear the terrible news about poor Toby, and have tears in my eyes reading your words. I can't even imagine going through that right now... You are so strong and brave. Make sure to always keep all of the wonderful memories you have of your lovely Toby close to your heart.