Sunday, September 02, 2007
Today, September 2nd, 2007, at approximately 1pm, Sparkey will be dead one year. His body still rests in the earth just beside our house, but his spirit body moves in an entirely different dimension.
Even as we celebrate his life and honor the 12-month anniversary of his passing, we sit vigil here in New Jersey, comforting my beloved step-father as he moves into the final stages of the dying process himself. The details of Sparkey's passage are fresh in my mind, and at this time (10am) on September 2nd of last year, we were enjoying what we knew would be our final morning and afternoon on earth with our wonderful canine companion. It was a day of final events: the last walk, the last meal, the final treats from the mail carrier, loving visits from the neighbors, Sparkey bestowing a final kiss to a small child's face (our neighbors' newborn). And then, before we could catch our breath, the vet came, we administered the medications, and he died, crying a final tear from his left eye as we kissed him and told him how loved and lovely he truly was.
Now, on this very day, we watch as my step-father's breathing becomes erratic, with 5-second periods of apnea (the absence of breathing), followed by a succession of rapid breaths once again. Hints of a minimal rattle in the throat make themselves known from time to time, yet he then breathes normally again. There will be no doctor visiting today to administer a dose of medicine to end his struggle, to assuage his suffering. In our culture, our dogs' and cats' suffering is painlessly ended when it is seen to be the most humane act we can perform; yet our suffering human loved ones, whose quality of life has long since diminished to less than a shadow of its former self, must struggle and gasp until the end. Morphine assists the process and depresses respiration, but Tulane will not experience the sudden and painless release that Sparkey was so blessed to receive.
Speaking of Sparkey and Tulane, Sparkey has now visited Tulane twice over the last few months, the most recent visit being only several days ago. When my mother and my wife and I were finishing a conversation around Tulane's bed early last week, Tulane said, "I didn't want to interrupt your conversation, but Sparkey was just here. He came through the window and stood by my bed, looking at me, smiling and panting, and wagging his tail furiously." (We all noted that there was a chocolate-chip cookie on the bedside table and Sparkey may have been eying it from across the veil.) Tulane seemed very pleased by this visit, as he did by a similar visit several months ago when Sparkey entered through the closed front door and curled around Tulane's legs under the kitchen table. With each visit, Tulane describes being able to smell Sparkey in the air, and to smell him on his hand after petting his head, long after our favorite golden dog had left the scene.
So, we await Tulane's death, midwifing him through the process, even as we recognize and celebrate Sparkey's anniversary. It is a significant day in our lives, and its importance informs our every waking (and sleeping) moment.
Happy un-Birthday Sparkey! May you run and play and rest in a peaceful and wonderful world, and may you welcome Tulane when he is ready to join you there. We love you, Sparkey!