Monday, April 29, 2013


I believe in diversity. In difference. In yin and yang. Look at those faces - the friendly, loyal, loving companion on the left and the assertive, ever so slightly feral hunter on the right. They both fill(ed) a need in me. The one who's gone filled my need for effortless, unconditional love. The one left behind fills me need for a challenge. I like to be kept on my toes, but I also love balance. Balance is stability.
Some differences are obvious. On the left we have future eggs. And on the right? Future chicken dinner. Pretty apparent who's who if you ask me. They both hatched on the same day, but it's pretty obvious which role each will play around here in the future. Not every difference is as obvious. We moved the meat birds into their official chicken house this weekend. They'd been living in my recycled pond form that Gene got at the dump. I kind of wanted to put my pond in, and they kind of outgrew it faster than I had anticipated.

As a nurse my favorite roles were at births and at deaths. It sounds to some ears very strange to hear me say that attending a death was a favorite role. The truth is we all get born, we all live for a while, and then we all die. None of us should make such a big transition alone, and it is an honor for me to be present at either. 

I am still stinging from Boo's death, and will be for a while. I reflect a lot when my denial slips. Today my thoughts run a bit like this: As painful as losing him may be for me, having him in my life was a gift without price. I knew it the minute I first saw his face in the Delta cargo area at Bradley. One look and it was all over. I saw him, he saw me, and that was that. He was Boo, and I was Momma. Watching him grow, loving him, him loving us, the obstacles we crossed, trips to the emergency vet for ingested foreign objects ranging from rocks and hairballs to large quantities of butcher paper, playing in the snow (because trust me when I say no one played in the snow like Boo!); every second of it was a matchless gift.

For a while now I had worked to separate myself emotionally from him, just a little. I was still here, still momma, still petting that head and loving those ears, but on the inside a little wall was building up to shield the depth of me from the depth of him. I knew what was coming and I knew what my role would be in his end. I needed to get some space emotionally, I needed to get ready to do my job. I did the same thing with my mother. I've done the same thing with anyone I knew was dying, human or animal, makes no difference. Maybe I don't love enough or maybe I love too hard, either way I know what I need to do to get through. A little comfortable distance, a little self-protection against what comes next. After, when it's all over, you can come out of the shell you made for yourself, and you can bleed and cry and hurt like nobody's business. But Boo needed his Momma, and Momma doesn't get scared, or cry, or bleed.

So I held his paws and rubbed his head and cooed lovingly and comforted him until the last moment of his life. I did it competently and comfortingly. I used every ounce of strength inside of me to support him and ensure that he was not afraid; he left the world unsuspecting, unarmed, and welcoming of the peace he was about to receive. "I am safe, because Momma is here." I breathed it, he knew it, and we made the transition together. He moved on and I stayed here - but a part of me went, too. I know, because there's a piece of him where that bit of me used to be.

And then, when he was gone, I collapsed on his head and left a puddle that felt more like a torrent when it poured out of me. I lifted my head, kissed the top of his, and left him behind. 

Gone forever, but never, ever gone. There's a difference.

One last difference - I love dirt, and always have. Stick me outside in a pile of dirt, add some water, and I am lost and joyful for hours. At 4 years old, mud puddles are small, untidy affairs. They disappear almost as soon as you've made them, washed away by the hose or the rain or the tide. 

But at 46? Mud puddles get BIG! They are solid, stable things with strong sides and a base filled with sand and rock. If you'll excuse me, I need to go play in my mud. Hear it calling? I can!


Angela Jenkins said...

You have put into words exactly what I did 9 1/2 years ago when my first furbaby reached the point of a difficult decision. I had felt myself detaching, slowly. I also was there with her. I loved her until the end and beyond. The only price I paid for loving her was losing her.

Melissa Morgan-Oakes said...

That is the price we pay! The "investment" is irrelevant. Money is nothing. The price is your heart breaking, but knowing you'd do it all over again in a heartbeat anyway.