The Final Taxi
(Around 2:10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, my wife Jala and I experienced a death in our family. This is an account of that experience from my personal journal in an entry written Sunday morning, Oct. 21, 2007. Except for some editing for clarity, the entry is reproduced here verbatim.)
Myrrha in her chair, Christmas, 2006
One day after, the grief is subsiding, even if the hole left in our household is still very much an open wound. Strange how absence can be such a strong presence.
Here’s how it went.
As I said (in my journal Friday morning), on Thursday Myrrha seemed to rally, ate three small helpings of her beef stew puree with some pizza crusts in it that Jala had saved for her. She also took some of her treats. I had the feeling, upon waking that day, that her fasting over the couple days previously may have been like a detox, and maybe she didn’t even have kidney disease but some sort of poisoning that she might be able to rid herself of. We felt hopeful.
We hydrated her Thursday night with a full bag of fluids, since she hadn’t had any but half a bag Wednesday eve. She took a walk all the way down to Grove St. and back, slow but steady, cutting through the lot at the corner, which was a bit different, and, as I say, she seemed to be rallying somewhat from the days before.
But Thursday night she began to wheeze heavily, having trouble breathing, and Friday morning the poor thing got sick again, heaving deeply into a corner of the bedroom. I was still in bed, Jala was out on her morning visit to the beach, so I got up and cleaned up the puke, which wasn’t much, really—a couple of puddles of yellow sticky bile. But that was when I thought, This is hopeless, she’s not getting better.
And here we were headed into the weekend, me with this damn show to perform in, and our vet closed Saturday afternoon to Monday morning.
The puking seemed to exhaust her, and she didn’t get up to go out for a pee until after we got back from work around 1 p.m. I looked at her then, her poor body nothing but skin and bones, and it broke my heart.
In the late afternoon, with Jala again out for a quick plunge in the bay, Myrrha got sick again. I cleaned it up. She clearly was wearing out, and she had no interest in food, of course, though she still drank water once in awhile.
So we had to go out to the show but headed home right after and decided to watch our latest Spiritual Cinema, which included the feature Deja Vu.
Myrrha came out from under my desk, then, where she hung out a lot, both before and after her illness, and lay down beside me on the floor, where I scratched and massaged her, as I’ve been doing, as it seems to be one of the few things that truly soothes her.
So we got to a certain point in Deja Vu—which is a wonderful movie by the way, as captivating to us as Before Sunrise/Sunset, which is saying a lot—and decided to take a break. I went out for a smoke while Jala took over the massage. Then, when I came back in, Myrrha suddenly was on her feet and wanting a walk. We leashed her up and went out, and she peed at once, then wanted to walk up the lane, unsteady as she was, so we started up that way. Next she took a small shit—yesterday’s tiny meals—and we continued a little ways, and then she wandered onto the yard between Jackie’s place and our neighbor’s son’s, and puked once...and then...another time, and then she lay down on the grass and looked at us as if to say, “I can’t do it anymore, I can’t go on.” And she wouldn’t, either. She refused to walk back to the house or anything, she just lay there.
I thought maybe if I went to get the car, we could at least drive her back to the house, get her off the lawn there. She’s always up for a ride in the car. So Jala said to her, “Wanna go for a ride in the car-car?” And sure enough she gets up. So we go back down the lane to the house, very slowly, thinking maybe she’ll go inside now, but no, she stops by the car and expects to be let in, as promised. We can’t see betraying that, so we let her in. I’m thinking, well, maybe just take her for a ride and bring her back. But Jala says, “Shall we take her to the emergency clinic?” It’s a place on Virginia Beach Blvd. that’s open 24 hours. We’ve been there before, with her when she ate all that sand and also with our cat Chi. So I say to Jala, “What for?” And Jala says, “Put her to sleep.” Because it seems clear that’s what she was telling us up there when she lay down on the grass. And I have to agree with Jala, but where is that place again? Jala goes inside but can’t find the address, so we set out anyway with a vague memory of how to get there—down Military Hwy. to Virginia Beach Blvd. and left for a little ways until you see it on the right.
And the final taxi pulled out.
It was a warm night after intermittent showers in spots. I was just in a tank top, shorts, and sandals. Jala at least had a bit of a wrap. Myrrha lay across the back seat, played out, though she did sit up once or twice, stared blearily out the window. It was about 1:45 a.m. and traffic was light as we sped down the familiar commercial highway, noting the road back to the city animal shelter as we passed by, where we took all the cats to be spayed—and could go looking for our next dog, if we couldn’t stand to be without one.
We found the clinic about where we thought it was, no problem. Jala went in to make arrangements while I stayed with Myrrha, lying on the back seat. I sang to her and stroked her head and ears. Then they came out. Myrrha didn’t want to get out of the car, and I wasn’t going to drag her out, but one of the attendants was experienced with that and did it for me. And we took her in.
The rest is nothing but heartbreak. They took her into a back room for an exam while we waited, and paid—around $350 for everything, including a “special cremation,” which means we get her ashes back. We wanted that.
The next time we saw her she lay stretched out on her belly on a nice blanket on an exam table, sedated but still awake, with the IV attached under a red band to her right front paw. They left us there to say our farewells. Jala was very much into this, but I managed to get a few hugs and kisses in and performed the important ritual of removing her goddamn leash that she always had to be on, and then her collar, to free her at last.
After a little while a doctor came in, a very nice young woman who said she’d lost a dog to renal failure herself. Had we ever seen a euthanasia before? she asked, and of course we had, but she explained it anyway, and then she did the shots—two of them, one after the other, and it was over before you knew it. Myrr twitched a little in her hindquarters but otherwise you never saw it end. But she was dead, all right. She was gone. Yet she did seem to catch a breath once or twice, which might have made us think she was still alive, but the doctor, who by then had left us with her, said it might happen this way as her muscles let go.
I’m writing this through my tears, believe me. But I’ve got to get it down and done, and then hopefully move on.
We had some time with her afterwards, so strange. She was a pretty big girl, and solid even still. You could thump her chest and hear the echoes in her strong lungs. And still warm, of course. Eyes just open a little, no sign yet of glazing. As if she was just asleep there, and very peaceful. O thank God’ess for that, at last! Though she did sleep peacefully through a lot of her illness. It was only the last 24 hours or so, really, when I thought she’d really begun to suffer, as it seemed her body was filling up with fluids and I noticed a smell of urine about her, as if backing up through her system, maybe even into her lungs. There was no doubt it was time.
But can you give me a little more pain in this fucking world? I felt that almost exquisite despair again that this world just isn’t made for what we try to make of it. Whatever it’s for, it’s not for us to get what we want and keep it, though that’s what we’re all trying to do and encouraged to do. Yet only at times like what I’ve just described can you see that clearly, and then, as I’ve done, you vow to let go of materiality and live the simplest of lives in some kind of pure relationship to impermanence.
Yet even as I say that I realize that I’ve already forgotten enough of the raw edge of that realization to have returned to some of my old patterns of thinking, making plans, calculating how much money I’ll have next month, etc. No, no! Better to be a Trappist monk and sleep in my coffin than to forget our Myrrha lying dead on that table in the latest round of heartbreaking endings!!!
Anyway, they came in after awhile and wrapped her in a blanket to take her to the crematorium in the morning, and we eventually left the clinic. The crematorium called us around noon yesterday saying they had her and we could pick up her ashes Monday, which is tomorrow. I’m not sure what we’ll do with them yet, maybe take them out in the sea like my mother’s. That might be appropriate. After all, I scattered her ashes right after we started this cycle, with Shibbie (our dog before Myrrha, who also died of kidney failure and who Myrrha uncannily resembled in many ways). Maybe this is a ritual to bring it to an end.
Jala thinks Myrrha really was Shibbie, and she’s working on that angle of the cycle. I don’t know what I think, or rather I’m thinking many things that may or may not come together in a coherent narrative. It hurts so much!—yet nothing new in that, it’s Shibbie all over again there except I don’t want Myrrha back as she was in her bi-polar condition. I think of how difficult it was and the limitations our having her put on us and on her, and even though her absence seizes my emotions in an almost wailing, keening grief I don’t want to repeat anything like that ever again.
Yet I feel such pity and anguish, almost, and I can’t even explain why to myself. I can only hand her over to Life and pray that she’s taken care of as devotedly as we, and Jala especially, took care of her up to and right through the end and even beyond. That’s what I wish for with all my heart. I wish for her to be healed in her soul and to be finally well and whole, not split like the Tarot Moon dogs, between domesticated, a true dear heart, and wild and dangerously fierce and aggressive. She had two grand crosses in her astrological chart! If her birth time was remotely accurate, which we were assured it was, her midheaven and ascendant crossed with Saturn and Uranus, while Jupiter, Neptune, Mercury, and Mars formed the other one. She was a soul under great stress, and I can only pray that she met those challenges and passed through them, which, to be honest, I think she was trying to do and we helped her and here’s Jala’s point, that she is bonded to us in love and gratitude forever, and for whatever reason, in whatever way, the same is true for us.