17 April 1992 24 August 06
I guess I am one who always looks at the glass as half full, always the eternal optimist. I don't know how else to comprehend all of the missed signs. I love Contessa so deeply, that I couldn't see that she was dying. Contessa loves me very deeply and didn't want to part from me either. She understood the power of our connection . . . maybe she was shielding me until the very end to protect my heart as much as possible and to complete what she was here to do.
For the past couple of months, Contessa had spiraled from one ailment to the next. We would fix one, and move on to another. On Wednesday, August 23rd, she woke up in a lot of pain . . . much more than she had been experiencing in the past several weeks. I had just finished up all of my course work the night before and this was my first real day of my semester break. We had planned to hang out in the garden all day and play. Little did I know.
After several hours at the vet's office, I understood that she was very seriously ill. I asked the vet if she could make it to Christmas. She said it would take a miracle. I went home to think about my alternatives. I was in such a state of shock, that I was vomiting, had diarrhea and convulsed with tremors until 3:00 a.m. Maybe it was shock, and maybe I was feeling the depth of Contessa's pain. She was whimpering and could not get comfortable all night. At this point, I wondered if she could make it to the end of September, as this would have been the end of my fall break. I started giving her permission to go and be free. By the next morning, the pain continued to escalate. Now, I was wondering if she would make it to the end of the weekend. It broke my heart to see her in such pain.
I called the pet communicator that I had been working with throughout the summer to check in on this current situation. She chatted with Contessa at 9:00 a.m. Thirty minutes later, I got the news. Contessa had completed her work with me and she was ready to go. She was in tremendous pain, and wanted to be euthanized. I was broken hearted. I also could not bare the pain that she was in. She confirmed that Contessa would not make it through the weekend, and that she would be in tremendous pain that would worsen with time. We gave her the option of managing the pain and dying naturally, or being euthanized. She chose euthanization, and she wanted to go that day.
I talked with my holistic vet at noon to see what she thought. She knew the day before that Contessa did not want to fight this, and that she was done. After hearing about Contessa's escalated discomfort, she concurred that Contessa would not make it through the weekend. We agreed that she should come over at 3:00 p.m. to my home and put Contessa to sleep. I had three hours left, and had no idea how I could go through with this.
Contessa knew it was time. I talked it over with her, and she was ready. We had a beautiful last day. My dear friend Carmen came over to help me. What a blessing. We took a beautiful wooden oval box called a sweetheart box and lined it with part of her blanket. In the box, I put feathers that Contessa and I had found on our walks together. These included blue jay and woodpecker feathers, as well as others. This was for the air element. I sprinkled juniper that I had gotten at a monastery in Mongolia, as well as incense from the Potala Palace. This was for the fire element. I added shells for water. I picked fresh lavender and impatiens from my garden for the earth element. When I was at another Buddhist monastery in Mongolia, I found two perfectly shaped heart stones that have been sitting on my alter for over a year. I did a ritual with them to connect her heart to mine. When I was studying with the shamans down in Ecuador, I learned a Quechua word that means from my heart to yours. . . . Shungo. This was part of my ritual. I cremated her with one. . . I carry the other. For her journey, I placed a few of her favorite treats. My sister Carey came over with red roses, so we put petals in the bottom of the sweetheart box as well. It was really beautiful.
Contessa had three bowls of Organic Ben and Jerry's vanilla ice cream, and a whole bag of treats. When all of the tasks had been completed for her final journey, I started the practice of living very presently with her and exchanging all the love that each of us shared. It was really special.
She consoled me at every turn. It was clear this decision was just as hard on her. She licked away my tears and cradled me with her energy. We sat outside in the sun, and lay together with her heart to my heart in her favorite spots. About an hour before the end, I massaged her body and anointed her with essential Joy oil. She started to relax and take in my love even more deeply. I sang to her the following song . . .
How could anyone ever tell you
You were anything less than beautiful?
How could anyone ever tell you
You were less than whole?
How could anyone fail to notice
That your loving is a miracle?
How deeply I'm connected to your soul.
We went outside to lounge in the sun one final time. The vet arrived. Contessa loves this vet, and got up to go greet her. I gently picked her up and we went over to the bench in my garden. I held her lovingly in my arms. My sister, Carey and my friend, Carmen were there to witness this beautiful event. I told her goodbye, that I loved her so much, and that she was free. The vet injected her in her arm. I had her heart next to my heart, with one hand on her heart underneath and felt the beats gently fade away. I could feel her little spirit above my body. I was overcome with the greatest sense of peace. I knew in my heart I had done the right thing. I have never questioned it. Even so, my heart is deeply sad.
I didn't want to stop holding her and loving her physically. Eventually, I gently laid her in the sweetheart box. She fit perfectly all curled up. I laid three red roses in the box with her. Taking her life was my final and greatest act of love.
My sister Carey went into motion and helped clear out her bowls, food, medicine and toys. This was really a blessing for me, as I didn't know if I could do this. The vet took her little body in her sweetheart box, as I wanted her k-9 teeth. For some reason, this was very important to me. Contessa was fine with me taking them, as we discussed it. In the shamanic realm, teeth from animals give you their power and energy. I wanted that physical manifestation from Contessa, and I'm very glad that I did this.
Friday morning, I went by the vet's office to pick up her body. My mother accompanied me on this final journey. We took her little body in the sweetheart box to the humane society where we had her cremated. The spot where this took place was very peaceful and lovely. It had been raining really hard all morning. The four hours that we spent at the crematorium were breezy, with partial sun. After we completed the process, it started to rain again and has continued ever since.
I stood in front of the furnace where she was going to be placed. I sang my song to her again three times, told her I loved her and that she was free. I was so happy to have my mother there to witness this event with me. I placed her in the furnace, box and all. We sat patiently waiting for the process to unfold. We walked around the cemetery, bearing witness to her journey of going back to ashes and the earth. She was completely burned in 2.5 hours. After one hour of cooling, I witnessed her remains being swept out of the furnace. We then went into the processing room where they grind all bones down to dust. After this, her remains were placed in a plastic zip lock bag, and finally in a velvet bag. I knew that Contessa was pleased that I had watched over her through this process, not willing to turn away.
I have felt her many times around me since her passing. She is playful, joyful and happy. I know her leaving was hard for her as well, but it is the circle of life. I sleep with her blanket, lay on her side of the bed, sit in her favorite spots, and am reluctant to change my sheets or get the carpets cleaned. There will be a right moment for all of that. The tears that I shed are for me. My grief is deep and profoundly real. I'm trying to stay present and feel it, breathe it, and enjoy the deep connection that I have with her spirit. I feel sure that she will accompany me through my life for quite some time. I have been so deeply touched and have felt so preciously loved by my family and friends. What a blessing to feel my heart so full from all dimensions.
I saw a hummingbird while she was burning at the crematorium. The message of the hummingbird is a symbol for accomplishing that which seems impossible. That is exactly the path that I seem to be walking with this journey. I feared this happening and dreaded the day she would leave me. She is my child and my dearest friend.
Hummingbird also sends a message of how to find the miracle of joyful living from our own life circumstances. This will be the journey for me as I move forward in my life, connected to her spirit.