In the previous blog post, I wrote about Jack’s message that he’d like to go home after a long journey.
During Friday night, Jack was restless and I woke up a few times with my heart in my throat. This was not new. I’m a light sleeper and had been waking up for months with any sound he made. Now that I knew the end was near, all his sounds were suddenly extra-significant. He woke us at 5 am to go out to urinate and Andrew fed him a small breakfast of chicken and butternut. He had not been interested in his boring liver-diet kibble for the past few weeks, so we fed him chicken, veggies and rice on the vet’s recommendation.
This early wake-up-plus-breakfast had become a pattern over the past few months. I suspected that he perhaps had an ulcer or stomach discomfort. He simply refused to come back to his bed after an early wake-up, until he’d had something to eat. I was sure that he suffered from stomach discomfort so we obliged even though it meant disrupted sleep. At least he was willing to come back to bed for a few hours after the early breakfast.
Andrew and Jack returned to the bedroom around 5.30 am and we all went back to sleep because it was Saturday and our alarms wouldn’t wake us at 6 am.
At around 8 am, I woke and immediately had a sore heart. Today was the day, was it? I checked on little Jack. He was lying on his side on his bed, seemingly peacefully asleep. This was not usual for him. A few weeks ago he would’ve perked up when he heard me move. Andrew was also still asleep – he’d been working long hours the past few weeks and coupled with disrupted sleep, he was exhausted.
It’s our morning routine to make a delicious coffee, put Jack on the bed with us and sip the coffee slowly with the whole family together. Emma the special cat also joins us for this ritual and usually she lies close to little Jack.
I made the coffee with the two boys still sleeping. Actually, I felt like shaking Andrew and saying “You can’t sleep!! It’s our boy’s last day with us and we need to spend every single possible moment with him!”
Andrew did wake up when the coffee aroma wafted into the bedroom. Jack was still not interested to get up so we didn’t disturb him. Eventually he came to stand next to the bed for the morning lie-in on our bed. We covered him with his soft blanky and he went almost immediately back to that dozing, in-between look.
The previous day was a beautiful spring day with sunshine and colour bursting in the garden. In sharp contrast, Saturday morning it was overcast with heavy grey clouds. It was cold and it started drizzling. I was so glad we took the opportunity in the garden the previous day to enjoy the sunshine together. I procrastinate when I feel lazy and I must admit I DID have the thought on Friday that we could sit on the lawn on Saturday morning instead. Now I was incredibly relieved I took action on my intuition and enjoyed the sunny weather while it was available. (Lesson? Take action when you have a thought!)
Making the Arrangements
With great sadness and discomfort I realized I would have to make a decision about a vet. I asked Yolanda, whose message came on Thursday that our boy was ready to go home, to check in again with little Jack whether we should wait for a home visit. He was clearly not well. I wanted the best for him. No matter how painful it was, we wanted to take action to make his last bit of time on earth as kind as possible.
I knew the answer inside, still wanting confirmation. I was quite relieved when Yolanda replied that Jack was indeed more than ready to go. She added he wanted us to take his favourite blanket with him to the vet so that he can lie on that. He wanted us to buy a bunch of pink roses on our way back home. It would help us through the difficult time. “Thank you Mom for everything. I love you lots.” She said he was already surrounded by brilliant, pure white light.
Oh… the tears, the tears. How our hearts ached.
Our neighbour’s friend is a vet. I asked her about home visits. After a while, she phoned me back with the news that her friend does indeed do home visits, and she was away for the day, only returning on Sunday. Sigh. Another closed door. She recommended I phone another vet in our area. It wasn’t ideal for me to get a vet who didn’t know us, yet I was determined to try anything to make Jack comfortable. I phoned the recommended vet practice – and they, too, had only one vet on duty for the weekend and couldn’t manage a home visit.
It was becoming clear, against all my deepest wishes, that circumstances were simply not in my control and that it would be far more peaceful for me to let go of my need and just let it happen the way God was planning for us.
Scraping my last bit of dignity and courage together, I called our vet (who I couldn’t say another word to the previous night because I was crying so hard) and was able to speak to him calmly this time. It felt like I needed to step up to this challenge with grace, calmness, courage and taking charge to let my boy have a peaceful exit. I explained that all I wanted was a loving and calm experience for my boy, and asked about fetching the tranquilizer. He was very kind and gentle. He knew Jack for 9 years and saw him very often in the past 18 months. He assured me that Jack’s favorite blanky was welcome.
A little peace (almost like resignation) softly landed on me. Well, the decision was made, arrangements were in place. Those were the biggest pieces of stress for me. Now, all that remained was saying goodbye.
“How do we do that?!”, I asked myself.
I’ve never done this before – certainly never with such awareness, and with wanting to savour every last bit of the experience, no matter how hard. My other animals were all taken suddenly through accidents, traumatic incidents or disappearing. I’ve never experienced this agony of knowing that we’d be the ones to take that last trip in the car. It was tough and at the same time, in a very weird way, it felt like a special privilege – a loving and kind service to our loyal pet, who now needed us.
I asked Andrew to fetch the tranquilizer while I stayed with Jack. He’s a kind, loving man, I know now more than ever. He told me afterwards that it was suddenly a big shock for him because his last thoughts on Friday night were that we still had time with Jack till Tuesday, when our favourite home visit vet would return. Suddenly, he had to make a 180 degree mind shift and he wasn’t ready.
He brought some candles to the bedroom from all around the house, lit them and came to sit with Jack and I on the bed. We both put our hands on little Jack, sitting silently, expressing gratitude for 9 years of love, loyalty, laughs. Andrew cried. I cried. Jack slept. Emma lay purring right next to Jack. Painful, special, memorable.
More Gifts in the Present
Every now and again I was able to remind myself to come back to the present and enjoy THIS moment. I noticed how often my tears were triggered when I went zipping into the future – imagining how hard it would be to walk around the house without little Jack on my heels. Or how terrible it would be to return home and not find him there. Every time that I was able to come back into the present and notice that he was indeed, still here, right under my hands, his warm body still alive and with us, the tears subsided and I could just “be” with him, with Andrew and Emma. Being present to every moment, breathing, and concentrating on my senses, was my saving grace.
When I visited my homeopath the previous day for a stomach ulcer, it was most profound that she had experienced this exact challenge, 3 days before. Her loyal Labrador suffered from liver disease and arthritis and her Mom helped her to make that final decision – it was too hard for her. She mentioned that the best thing I can do throughout what’s ahead, was simply to remember to BREATHE. We often hold our breath, or breathe very shallowly, during times of stress and trauma.
Her words kept going through my mind on this rainy Saturday morning. Breathe, Liesel. When waves of sadness overwhelmed and choked me, I brought myself back to the present and took deep breaths. Slow, deep breaths to help my mind and body relax. It worked wonders. Please keep that in mind while going through any trauma, stress or challenge. Simply breathe deeply every few minutes.
Special Last Treats
After our special time on the bed, Andrew went to fetch the tranquilizer. It was now around 10.15 am and the vet’s office was only open till 12. One part of me was getting nervous to “make it in time” as usual, and another part of me was fully aware that this process was not, and has never been, in my hands- and somehow, it would work out perfectly. All the home visits that were not available on this specific weekend could simply not be coincidence. It was not in my hands. It would be all-right.
Andrew returned. The tranquilizer would take 30-45 minutes to start its gentle work so we needed to do whatever was necessary right now. From previous communication with our dear Yolanda, Jack told us “he would never forget the ice cream”. Andrew sometimes let him lick out the ice cream container when it was finished. We wanted to give him his most fun experiences on earth one more time.
We fed him a small meal of pure chicken (yum-yum) to get the tranquilizers in. And then – the ice cream! Vanilla – his favourite! He loved it, licked the bowl clean and asked for more. I gave him a tiny bit more.
Isn’t it strange how habits die hard? For so many, many months we had to be extremely careful with his liver diet – no bad fats, no this, no that…. Now, none of that really mattered any more but a part of me still wanted to be careful for his health. What an odd thought, I kept thinking. It doesn’t matter anymore. Still, we didn’t want to over-feed him in case he got nauseous in the car.
The Mind Does What it Does
Silly, random thoughts like “The Last Supper” kept popping into my mind, tormenting me. It’s weird what the mind comes up with when it has no reference point, no past experiences or helpful guidance. This was a new experience for us. I’ve never done anything remotely like it before. All I knew was that I wanted to be fully present, fully aware of every moment and not “check out” (dissociate) again like I usually do in difficult times.
Time for a quick shower for us, while little Jack could relax and get sleepy. In the shower, my mind ran wild with more random thoughts. I’d have a normal thought like “What shampoo should I use?” and straight after that I’d get teary and think “How is it POSSIBLE to do a normal thing like wash my hair, while I knew that in a few minutes we’d be making that final trip in the car???” My heart nearly came out my chest a few times and fortunately I remembered to breathe through it. The breathing really, really helped.
A quick dry of my hair (“What an unnecessary thing to do?”) and we were ready. Was this really happening? How was this possible? How could I do the next part without falling apart, howling, screaming, collapsing? Andrew was very calm and present which helped me tremendously. I mentioned my fear to him – I’d never be able to go into that office without howling. He said “If that’s what you want or need to do, that would be okay too.”
Somehow, we were going to make it.
To be continued, with The Final Trip in the Car.
Note: If this is bringing up sadness and grief for you, I’m so sorry for your pain. It’s been very healing for me to write. Maybe you want to do the same? And if it’s too painful, please write me in the comments below whether you’d like to participate in a Webinar where we can use EFT to calm the pain and sadness. It would be my gift.
Liesel helps sensitive introverts to see their sensitivity as a superpower, love their work and practice awesome self-care so they can be energized and make a difference in a meaningful and fulfilling way. She helps them to overcome the fear of being visible, avoiding the spotlight and conflict, being ‘too nice’, perfectionism and procrastination.
She’s the author of “No Problem. The Upside of Saying No”, which is a handbook for those who struggle to say no, are overwhelmed and exhausted.
Click here to read about the book.