In the two-plus years I have lived in Thailand, there is one woman I have marveled at continuously — for her strength; for her passion; for her never-ending love; for how gently she lives; and, for her ability to gracefully let go of things not meant for her, for us, for this world.
Despite all of the things she has seen, how much she has experienced, there are few moments I have ever seen those instances eclipse the smile on her face.
She is a person I strive to be like, a person who I admire with all of my being.
For the first time in two years, I did something I didn’t think I would ever be able to do because of her: I sat with an abused cat, Belle, as she was released from this world. It was one of the hardest, most uncomfortable things I have ever done. That ache in my heart, that spread to my stomach and made it tense. The tears that flowed without apology, without regard for being in a culture which does not encourage the showing of emotions (even though I desperately tried to reign it in).
All my life, when animals I have loved have reached the end to their time in this world, I cried. I sobbed. I bawled. I said my thanks, whispered love into their ears, hugged them for the last time, and then stepped away. I could never bring myself to go with them to be put down. I could never let the thought even replay in my mind more than a few minutes without becoming paralyzed with emotion for my loss.
But, yesterday was different. Something inside of me has changed. Maybe it is this project. Maybe it is this job. Maybe it is this life. Or, maybe it is just being grown up.
I knew it was coming with Belle. The poor girl, who had been brought in to the vets and was the team’s treatment for a month while she was rehabilitated from a brain injury and back fracture from her owner, had shown promising signs. So much so that she was released from the vets and taken to my office where I quickly fell in love with her clumsy, timid steps as she learned how to put paw-to-ground and walk again. Late last week, she started to become stiff and lost her ability to stand. And then, she began to have seizures. Multiple seizures which destroyed all of the hard work she had accomplished in the month she was being cared for.
Saturday when I went to the vet to see her (she had to be readmitted because of her seizures and to try to control the attacks), she could not walk. She was not eating. Then, yesterday morning, the vet called me to tell me she had another one and that I should come in.
I went immediately and what I saw broke my heart. The little cat I had been with the week before was gone. Her eyes were empty. She laid in her cage, not being able to move anything but her head. I sat with her and the vet and tried to wipe the tears from my eyes as I gently stroked her face.
I thought of Lek and how she would handle this. With grace. With love. With compassion.
“If you have to put her down today, please call me,” I said to the vet. “I would like to be with her when the time comes.”
She agreed and said I would get a phone call later in the evening.
The call came earlier than I expected. Belle had suffered another attack and was suffering.
“You need to come right now if you want to be with her,” the vet explained to me on the phone.
“OK, ok,” I said through the tears I could feel, that choking of my throat, “I am on my way.”
I stood over her as her spirit left her body and moved on. I stroked her face, apologized to her for the life she was given here, and told her she was loved and that I could only hope her next life was better. I hated being there. I hated having to put this memory in my head. But, she deserved it. She deserved to have that love bestowed upon her after all of the pain she suffered. It was the least I could do.
How gracefully you let go of things not meant for you …
Yeah, I cried. Hell, you should see the tears spewing from my eyes right now, but I want to feel this. I don’t want to forget her. Her story, her life, deserved better and who am I to not honor her because I simply don’t want to feel pain?
It wasn’t about what I wanted, or what I didn’t want; it was all about her and giving her the respect and love she deserved. I finally got it. I finally understood why it is important to be with animals at the end of their lives. Because it is about them.
In loving memory of Belle.