Gretchen Scott, my constant companion and best friend for the last 10 years of her life, passed away with dignity at 9 o’clock last night in my arms. Maggie and I took her to Main St. vet by appointment. Dr. Molesworth administered the drug that stopped her heart after first giving her a sedative injection, which hurt her. Minutes later the lethal injection did not hurt her. She simply stopped living. Her head dropped against my arms, her body slumped. She had a good life; she was a happy girl. My heart is bursting with all the good memories of our time together. She was so gentle and considerate and loving – and fun.
I was torn about what to do, but I woke up yesterday morning with clarity. We had four or five good walks together the last few days. Each day she was slower, duller, less responsive, but enjoying the outings nonetheless. She had not eaten a cup of food- total- over the last week; she’d lost twenty pounds in such a short time. Her breathing was becoming more labored; her lungs were riddled with ever growing cancer nodes. Daily she was becoming more and more distant, moving further away from life, our life, her life. ‘Til the end, wherever I went, she went. If I moved from room to room, floor to floor, she shadowed me. She loved me; she looked to me for comfort, and, I believe, found some. But the look in her eyes quietly pleading with me to do for her what I could not do was torture. What should I do for her that was possible? She needed help going down stairs and into the van and for once did not refuse assistance. When Maggie came the last two nights she was so exuberant; she frolicked.
We played with her and hugged her and loved her, and then it was time to go. We had a half hour’s wait there and walked her and played and talked with her until the girl came to get us. In the room the girl put blankets on the floor. I lay down with Gretchen and stroked her and kept whispering to her doing Reiki constantly over her aura and on her body. It calmed her and she was at peace. All the while I kept telling her I was so sorry and telling her what a pretty girl she was and thanking her for being so good to me. I told her we were going to take the pain away from her, because she couldn’t get away from it.
She winced hard from the first needle’s sting, but the sedative overcame her quickly. I held her head in my arms and kept whispering to her. Then Dr. Molesworth looked at me and asked if I was sure I wanted to go through with this, and I said, yes, please, let her go. It was almost instantaneous. She let go and went limp, heavy, inert, dead. I lay down with her. I kissed her and tried to say goodbye. It’s going to take time to let go of my pain and loss and loneliness. But she’s safe now.
The doctor told me before he started that she had some time yet. I told him I knew that but that I didn’t want her to have to go through the inevitable decline of body and spirit just to let me hold on to her a few days more. She was dying beyond rescue, and that murky awfulness simply had to end. She had to be put to rest. That was the clarity I woke up with that morning. I felt that she agreed. Her last moments were calm, accepting. Maggie and I were with her fully and Gretchen knew it.
She had so many friends exchanging happiness with her over the span of her good life. She got more complements of her beauty than any woman I’ve known. She was so full of love and that drew love to her. She was such a pretty girl. through and through.
I didn’t stay long; I just lay down with her to hug her some more and try to say goodbye. She was so dead, sweet baby.
I shook Dr. Molesworth’s hand on the way out and thanked him. He said that she did have some time left, a few more days. I said, I know.
In the van, Maggie asked me how I felt. I said that I didn’t know, other than feeling sick and shaking, but I had just done what I didn’t have to put off any longer, waiting for the wisdom to know if the time was right. We chose the right time, I think, and the three of us were granted dignity in our pain.
It is done. She is gone from everything but my heart.
Maggie and I didn’t talk on the way back, but about 20 minutes on the road I prayed for Gretchen’s spirit at about the time I thought it was leaving her body. I asked God to care for her gently, and gave her a really good job reference.
Maggie came in and had tea with me. She asked if I wanted her to leave me a joint. I said only if she would smoke it with me. She did. Being an amateur, I got so high and far away so quickly that another life merged with the one at hand and we laughed and talked a lot and shared wonderful memories of Gretchen and everything else on earth and in the heavens. I couldn’t keep a whole sentence in my head at one time and forgot all antecedents every three seconds, so every three seconds or so I had to start up life’s dialog all over again. It was merciful, and fun.
We went up and watched V for Vendetta. I kept getting replays of Gretchen’s death throughout all of this, seamlessly blended in with what was happening on the surface. It was a natural way to come back toward life. I thanked Maggie for being with us, “for everything”. Unsaid was: for giving me the most appropriate medicine for my grief.
I miss Gretchen so much. Our house is so empty now. But her pain is gone. I look at her food bowl, and her pillow beds and everything she touched and used. I see her in her increasing pain and the protective veil of distancing she drew over her. Gretchen was not a complainer, she endured this as she did everything: gracefully. She cooperated with every measure, however painful, that I took first to save, then to prolong her life. She knew I was trying to help her and she was grateful. During her life, after every meal, she would come and rub against me to thank me. After every walk, she expressed her gratitude. Animals are so much better at dying than we are. They just move away from life and narrow the distance between them and death so that when it comes it is not such an abrupt shock. They know how to lay down with death and simply allow it to enfold them. Gretchen didn’t fight or resist; she accepted. But it is not necessary to endure pain and degeneration unnecessarily if it can be abated with love.
Did I do this for her, or me, at this time rather than another? Yes. I carried that smiley-faced shit in my head for so long, half-believing that I should let her die a natural death. Then I came face to face with all that organic pain in it. I couldn’t bear it. Why withhold solace on some pious principle? We shouldn’t know what we are going to do until it comes time to do it. We should ask for guidance and heed it when it comes. How do we know it’s the genuine article? Well that’s what we’re here for, to try with open heart and governed mind to figure it out. It’s up to us. God is only our consultant. “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
Goodbye, sweet Gretchen. I love you with all my heart, and that love will help me live and love a little longer.
®Copyright 2008 Jack Scott. All rights reserved.