Death Observed

Death arrived closer to midnight than dawn. Friday morning 19th January 2024. (Warning: this post is raw, truthful an graphic and may trigger difficult feelings for the reader).

Cold, reminding me of deep waters, her body hardens, stiffens, reminding me of dense earth. From where her body came, so shall it return. Her tongue hangs out a little, her bladder has emptied itself where she lay. My tears flow, I sob and whale. We sob and whale. She has passed around 2am.

Chloe dog, our family pet has left us at the age of 13. She died in the night, in our bed, while we slept either side of her. I woke to her warm stillness. We sobbed unashamedly, as we held her close for a last few hours, cradling a warm, soft and floppy body, which slowly grew cold, hard and stiff. Our Chloe dog, our beautiful, loyal companion and friend.

I know, I know, dog in bed doesn’t work for everyone! But it is how our family operates. For many pet owners, their animal friends are truly part of the family and grief is deeply, deeply significant and gutting.

5am – We carried her to the loungeroom, tenderly lay her down on a blanket, encircling her body with greenery from the garden and the glow of candles. Words, tears and emotions flow.

8am – Sadness is far from me in this moment. Gladdened by thoughts of a lighter burden, now I am free from the caring for her. I observe my inner voice firing sharp criticisms, accusing me “I am a heartless bitch.”

9am – Adult children and grandchildren (aged 2-4 yrs) arrive and we continue to adorn her body with feathers, shells, flowers. There is space for everyone to have some time alone with our beautiful Chloe. Fresh tears flow from grow up children as the reality sets in, cold and hard like the earth. Grandchildren play within the space of ceremony, making wings out of feathers and placing them on Chloe dog’s back. We celebrated her time with us as we share breakfast, observing her stillness. There is crying, small talk and the scrolling of phones. There is also, patting, playing, imagining. There is the putting out of candles.

Days have passed. My emotions are mixed. I observe my heart opening and shutting like an accordion. Soft, light for a time, then armored and hard, shifting back to open again and so it goes. The river of emotion that rushes through me is not still; neither are my thoughts. There is a part of me, that is not my body and not my mind; this other part observes all that passes through me from within. Without judgement or criticism, my conscious awareness is compassionately observing, just noticing what is, acknowledging my truth in the moment. Noticing that the moment is all there is. Everything else passes through.

A few weeks have passed and I walk down streets we used to share. I lay on the couch without her. Memories and flashes come and go. Yes, it was her time. Her body had worn out and she was truly ready to go. While a big part of me is so very glad she has gone, another part arrives now and then, accompanied by noisy crying and immense heart break. Yet there is also a part of me calmly observing all this coming and going, curious and without judgement, experiencing what is.

Tuesday – I take her ashes to the rivulet we walked along, together, often. I become deeply aware that I don’t want to let her go. The finality of it all. Tears ripple down my face and I am glad I am alone and secluded. Bit by bit, the ash goes from my palm, my finger tips into the cold flowing water. I watch it sink, float and swirl.

Native hens gather and I become aware they will drink from this stream. The trees and grass that bed the river bank will drink in the water too. The water itself, moving down towards the ocean. The sense of oneness with all things overwhelms me. My body shakes and tears flow. I feel tears streaming over my skin and the rawness within my body brings with it a sense of fragility. I begin my walk home.

Grandchildren. Two weeks have passed. They play games that include Chloe. Their imaginations rich and fertile. Sometimes they become Chloe and lay on my lap quietly resting, like the last time they saw her, as I scratch behind their ear. Slowly and naturally, in their own way they are making some sense, integrating this experience into their existence.

Reflections. I am 200% so very glad we kept her body near to us for the six or so hours after she took her last breath. I know it is helping us all along the road of accepting this new reality. I treasure the opportunity I facilitated for my family to witness death, creating something tender and sacred using ceremony as a tool. To be in the presence of death can be a sacred privilege, and a healing balm for the soul. I am reminded over and over, that we all grieve in our own way, at our own pace, integrating a new reality bit by bit.

Dipping in and out of grief. Opening and closing the heart along the way, I am reminded that life shifts and changes outside of our control. Life is now, while it is.

Gratitude. Chloe my beautiful friend and companion. Thank you.

Death Observed Chloe Dog

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