Forget the Hokey-Pokey. Death: THAT’S what it’s all about.
Mo and I are in conversations about when is the “Right Time” to euthanize Bob, whose health is declining. My guideline has been that when he’s having more bad days than good, consistently, that is the right time. Now I’m wondering if we should do it while he still has good days, so he can die peacefully, with no suffering.
I’ve been engaged (with myself) in big philosophical end-of-life thinkings for a while now, rejecting the societal need to keep people alive no matter what. I have no religious beliefs that would deny a quick end, for pets or people, in the case of suffering. Here is the gist of my angsty thinking:
Each moment is a universe, an eternity, complete and whole. In a being’s final moment, the past doesn’t matter. I think this is especially true for non-human animal, who doesn’t have our thinking processes and probably can’t remember all the good things that have happened in its life. An animal lives completely engaged in each moment.
I once spent ten hours utterly engaged in the moment. I was in active labor, and nothing mattered but exactly what was happening at that moment. I was profoundly engaged with the universe/myself/my baby. I didn’t feel fear or anger or anything, just pain. I wasn’t thinking about the future or the past. I was exactly where I was, and that’s what allowed me to give birth naturally, in my home.
When I think on the deaths I’ve witnessed, and even the deaths I made happen (several animals that were mortally sick and suffering), I am convinced that each one of them was completely engaged in the moment, with no thought of anything but the moment. It’s a very basic primal experience. So if there’s no past to think about, no good memories to cling to, and your entire existence is encapsulated in that one, final moment: if you’re suffering, that just sucks.
The fact that suffering is normal and natural, especially in dying, helps me grapple with that a little, but really, it still just sucks. Maybe there’s another moment we living can’t see, in between the suffering of death and the cessation of existence, when there is peace. That’s what I’ve heard, and I maybe witnessed that flash of a moment pass through my grandfather after his breathing stopped. It could be Lies We Tell Ourselves to Help Us Cope. But maybe it’s there.
In any case, I’m not so afraid of death that I can’t think about these things, and consider planning a death for my Bob that takes him in a moment of contentment. On my lap, purring.