Death is something that most of us understand on an intellectual level. We get the concept, you live and eventually you die. And not just you but friends, relatives, pets, animals, insects. Most of us can keep death at a distance. I was able to do that for years. People in my life died, which meant that one day there were here and then they were gone. It was sad. There was an empty space in my life. But I missed the death part, the actual end. I became intimate with death, when Lucy died.
It’s been a little over a year since our girl left us. Jim and I always imagined that she would be around for quite some time. We had plans of Lucy being our road dog when we finally got around to building our van.
I knew something was wrong with Lucy, but I had no idea what. There were vet visits and changes to her diet to encourage her to eat more. The last visit to the vet was a few days before she died. I told the vet she was dying and I really wanted to make sure she was comfortable. We didn’t discuss dying or even the possibility of that. Instead the focus was on fixing. The vet gave Lucy a follow up appointment on Monday. She didn’t make it to Monday.
Jim and I both knew Sunday that the end was very near. We spent the day with Lucy, taking her to the park, sitting by the ocean. She was too weak to walk so we carried her everywhere.
Early Sunday morning, Lucy’s heart stopped and she stopped breathing. Jim and I were lying by her side. It wasn’t pretty and there was no moment of awe.
This summer on a trip to visit family in Colorado my aunt recommended reading “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande. (Actually it was less of a recommendation and it was more like assigned reading for the whole family.) The book helped me to put some perspective on Lucy’s death. I realize that no matter the discipline (vet or people doctor) death is not an easy subject, especially when you are charged with fixing and making things better. Yes vets do deal with death more frequently because they put animals down. But that is in a controlled environment, there is planning, there is a process.
Reading the book and being so close to death with Lucy, made me think about not only how I want to live, but how I want to die. There are still a lot of questions to be answered on that and, fingers crossed, still a lot of time.