Death is perhaps one of the hardest topics for people to really discuss. We know it’s an inevitability, but we really don’t understand it. No one, and I mean absolutely no one, knows precisely what happens after the cessation of the biological process. There are theories abound, but a theory is just a fancier way of saying an idea, a guess. Sure we’ve got some things to base them off of, but in the end anyone’s guess is as good as anyone else. As I said in Casey’s Live With Wonder column I aim to post Sunday nights or Monday mornings, unless something comes up that I feel needs to be addressed, or is at least of some interest. For instance yesterday was Crowleymas, which broke some of the negative funk that I had been dealing with throughout the day up to realizing the date, but while sitting down to watch a movie with my wife she informed me of something that I had completely forgotten. Now this may seem silly putting out a “special” post for this subject to some of you, but this is really meant more for my wife and her family. This article may address death, but it is not dedicated to it. This is dedicated to the memory of, of all things, her Father-in-Law’s dog Oreo.
So let’s get some background before we get into death itself, and why I’ve suddenly decided to write this at 1:00 AM. Oreo is a very old Boarder Collie-Jack Russell’s Terrier mix who is scheduled for euthanasia today. Now please keep in mind that I am opposed to euthanasia except in instances when the animal is clearly suffering in pain. The poor old boy is going blind, has become incontinent, is suffering from seizures, among other medical maladies. Their options, therefore, have become quite limited. It is either euthanize, or wake one morning to find him torn apart by the pack of coyote that roams in their woods.
Now some of you might think this is silly for me to dedicate this entire article on death because of a dog, a lesser creature. To which I reply to you, and what do you think spirits, angels, and other higher beings think of us as? It is my personal belief that because all anything is, including life itself, is just an expression of energy (first law of thermodynamics: Energy can neither be created, nor destroyed, only changed) that no death is trivial. Anyone who has experienced the loss of a family pet will tell you that the mourning and pain they feel is either very little or not at all different than for a fellow human. This is because we form connections with everyone and thing we come into contact with for any length of time.
Personally I’m going to miss him. There are very few dogs that I’ve come into contact with throughout my life that didn’t automatically develop a hate-hate relationship with me. However, for me it will pass as little more than hearing of the death of a casual acquaintance, which is why I said initially that this is for them. They can remember him as a puppy, no bigger than a Pomeranian (he took from the Boarder Collie genes on size), but in the end this isn’t what prompted me to “emergency” post. My Father-in-Law is an aircraft mechanic that works on the other side of the state, and will not be able to be home for his dog’s last days. This is something I feel we can all relate to as long as we’ve experienced the death of a loved one, not being able to say good bye one last time eats at as all. The want to be able to talk to them, or in this case pet, is what prompts the waterworks, knowing that they (in this incarnation) are really gone for good.
So what can we do if we’re so powerless against the Reaper? Well first off we need to realize that even though death is inevitable it doesn’t mean that we’re just supposed to “suck it up.” One of those early things you learn in psychology class are the stages of acceptance, their existence is a common knowledge at this point, but the little dirty secret is that nobody goes through the process the same as anyone else. You can literally bounce around through all the stages like a pinball, coming to acceptance, just to fall away again and again, but in the end you’ll eventually come to terms, which doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t eventually have a relapse of mourning. It could be days, weeks, even months, but time, as the saying goes, heals all wounds, but the scar will always remain. Sure it’s easy to say, but it’s all anyone can really offer.
What are some other things we can do? We can waste exuberant amounts of time hunting down shades in the ether and astral, but something that I’ve been told before (though haven’t personally experienced) is that once someone chooses to enter their concept of the afterlife nothing at all is capable of reaching them. There are the clichés of course, “keep them alive in your heart/mind,” “we’ll see them again someday,” the list goes on, but what these things really are, are ways to help us reach the “acceptance stage” and stay there. Are any of them true? Even if they aren’t entirely, a kernel of truth is hidden within every myth.
As I’ve been writing this for an hour, and still have more to say I’ll post this for now, and return to it before the day is through. If it seems like I have strayed off topic it is because I’m barely conscious at this point, and am writing near totally off stream of consciousness.
We’ll continue again from here for maybe another paragraph or two. One more for death, and then we’ll get back to Oreo himself. As XDS Haunted pointed out we never truly “get over” loss. Acceptance, merely means that we understand the fact that our loved one has passed away, that we can no longer interact with him/her. Likewise pain is our strongest teacher as a species. How many children learned not to play with electricity by introducing a coin to a power outlet? In a sense this pain of loss helps us to remember those who we cared most for, and in this pain we remember them, sometimes we laugh through the tears but they still flow. Here’s an example: Two years ago my friend Padro (yes that is spelled correctly and pronounced as in Pedro) passed away from a heart attack. At his funeral his sister and I were talking, and I said, “Do you know what he must be saying right now?” To which she said, “Yeah… gotcha!” We got a laugh, but that didn’t mean that I was soon out of tissues.
I think it’s about time that we wrap things up. Death has a tendency to linger on the more you talk about it, and will pull you down with it if you don’t escape. Oreo has passed, my brother-in-law held and petted him to the end, and buried him at a respectable depth in their backyard. While driving home a thunderstorm struck, and my mother-in-law immediately turned to the thought of needing to get home, because he was terrified of thunder, before she could even complete the sentence she began to break down (on her admission). On a brighter finish, Oreo had kept a distance from my son (currently three months old) for the whole of his short life, but on the way to the veterinarians office Alex kept reaching out for him, and in the end Oreo held still to let him pet him, meaning he was the first dog he ever petted (when I get a chance to upload the picture my brother-in-law took I will apply it to the end of this). Good bye Oreo, may the simple loves and wants of a dog be far exceed wherever your spirit lays now.