Of course I realize that the world does not revolve around me and that Life and Death do not take a holiday when I do. But, there is a small part of me that wants everything back home to freeze. I want no new babies to be born that I can’t help glide into the world, no girls nights out that I can’t attend, no kids growing up, or friends moving away. No people I love getting hurt or getting married, no life’s beginning, changing or ending….and yes I am completely aware of how selfish that is but it’s hard sometimes to admit that our friends and family will move on with their lives, they will grow older, get sick, have babies, move away, we will lose touch with some and grow closer to others…
When you lose those you love while your away it’s a strange thing. I can live in the fantasy that they are still back home living and breathing for oh so long and then out of no where the truth is too big to hide from. The reality hits hard. They are gone. We are far away. We will not see their smiling eyes, wagging tails or be embraced in a loving bear hug from them when we return.
The first death came unexpected our little dog Gizmo died. I felt guilty. He was the only one of the three dogs we had moved from the farm to a new place when we left. Was it fair to just up and leave the people and animals we loved….
Shortly after that I learned that a close friends husband was at the end of his battle against cancer and was dying quickly.
J called me one Friday in October and said it was time, she needed me. On Tuesday Arlo and I left. I should explain when I refer to J as my friend I really mean my family… my sister…not by blood but by fate…by divine intervention, by accident? I don’t know what to call it but I do know she’s my family. I have several woman I would consider “better” friends, woman who don’t drive me crazy, push all of my buttons, do things I can’t comprehend, but I love her and owe her so much. She has been my mentor, my advocate, my big sister she has saved me from myself countless times and always has by back even when we disagree. So for this person I knew I would fly 6000 miles. I had too.
Two days after leaving Bali I was home. As I drove up her road past the red and yellow patches of color that dotted the hillside I was over come with fear. What was I thinking? How could I help? I don’t know death. As a midwife I have felt deaths unwanted presence creep up behind me but it’s always been hidden in the shadows blown away with babies first breath…. I am aware at each birth that the doors to both life and death are open. The scales could tip and the long hand of death could pull at the tiny soul before us. Because of my “experience” I assumed I could handle this I would know what to do and how to do it… I would take charge. Was I being naïve, egotistical, stupid? I mean really how can you “take charge” of death?
But, there I was face to face with it staring it down in those big beautiful eyes, smelling it fill the room with its strong stench, hearing it rattle through his body with each breath…creeping closer everyday. I was scared but in that vulnerable state I was able to find a rhythm. For a week we laughed and cried, washed and watched, waited and prayed. He was clear for two days he tried to speak, look into our eyes, even smile. He was so brave, so ready, so strong. As were J and their son M. What grace they carried as they marched toward death together hand in hand.
In the beginning I would feel his presence. You knew when he was “in” his body but, other times you could feel his spirit hovering around the room tethered to his body like a helium balloon tied to the arm of a toddler. Bobbing up and down, floating back and forth. As the Autumn days grew shorter so did his life. Death grew impatient. D was leaving us for many hours at a time now. He floated far away…..
It’s funny because sometimes as J and I cooked and cleaned, chatted and listened, checking in on D it felt like we were at one of many births we attended together….waiting for a new life. Yet here we were watching for death. The thought of losing one of my family sends a rush of panic through my body, tears fill my eyes I push it back I pray I will not know such suffering. I watch J and M and know that they will.
I can’t sleep one night I get up and check on J and D. I’m startled by the look in D’s eyes… It scares me. J is fuzzy, I tell her to sleep, I leave the room. I see M is restless. I go back to bed it’s cold. I pull Arlo close to me. I’m shaking, I lie in the darkness for what seems like hours but the clock has only moved 15 minutes. I know the time has come, my heart races, I hold Arlo tight, I have to remind myself of who D was. He would not harm us, death has only come for one, we are safe. I go into J’s room she is standing there. Lost, waiting, confused…. Time begins to move forward again. D is dead the tether has snap, there is no “feeling” of him anywhere now. His body his empty he is gone. We wake M and together we wash and wrap D. It is quite beautiful to see him wrapped in muslin laid upon evergreens and rose petals in the pine box his son made.
There is a gathering of friends and family. A party breaks out. Stories of D, songs and cheers over the fire float up into the stars I smile as I look around D would be so pleased.
Coming back to Bali has been hard I don’t know how to process or compartmentalized what I witnessed…I’m over taken with sadness at unexpected times.. I have been in states of panic waiting for “the other shoe to drop” silly as it may sound I am somewhat superstitious and my grandma always told me death comes in threes… I can’t shake that old adage it has stayed with me these years…
As the second door closed the third one opened. Today we lost a member of our family. Our beloved dog Taco. He has been with us for 13 years. Through three moves, a winter in Idaho. Where he met the love of his life Etta, 9 months of living in a VW van, lost and found in Utah, Oregon and California, the births of Zeb and Arlo, a rattlesnake bite, full blood transfusion and many happy days romping through the woods with the boys and Montana. We will miss his waging tail, is beautiful face and his happy to be with you attitude. He was really and truly a great dog. Our best friend.
We are so grateful he and Montana were able to stay on the farm with the wonderful family renting our house. Taco died a happy old guy 105 in people years! Going home won’t be the same without him there to greet us. This is a hard lesson for the boys. Life and death go on without us. Do we go home and be back with the people we love keeping them close, just in case? Or do we stay knowing we have loved them and will continue to love them from afar. Growing and sharing our experiences with them no matter what? It feels selfish either way……