Scarlet was born to the song “Hello, Goodbye” by The Beatles. I had made four birth mix cds for our hospital room. There were certainly some songs on these mixes that we didn’t want Scarlet born to and others that seemed fitting. At one point, “Once in a Lifetime” came on while I was pushing and the nurse and Cassidy were singing and dancing and moving my legs. It was awesome. I didn’t realize until after she was born that “Hello, Goodbye” had been the song she came to the world to. It was a song between my mom and my birth father. To me it was a song about Scarlet saying hello to the world and goodbye to the womb. It’s in my head today as I think about life and death.
I always thought scheduled c-sections were a very strange experience, not that I’ve ever experienced one. It’s the predictability about it that gets me. The control. You can walk through your daily life and know, “A week from today, I’ll be holding my baby.” You know your child’s future birthday. You can somewhat control the time of day you will first hold your baby in your arms. You can schedule your last meal. Me? I was afraid to eat during those last few days. I didn’t know what would be my last meal before labor. I wanted it to be good because I knew I’d probably go a day or two without eating. I ate a hot dog on July 4th and was terrified afterward. I thought, “Oh no – if I go into labor tonight, will this hot dog come right back up?” (I didn’t and it didn’t.) You can also schedule the little things – what underwear you will be wearing. You probably have your bags packed in advance. And lists. Baby’s first outfit, comfort items, comfy slippers – all packed neatly in a bag ready to take with you when you somewhat calmly get into your car and drive to meet your baby. There probably aren’t any contractions or screaming at the driver to drive faster. You go to sleep the night before the surgery and you know you’re meeting your baby the next day. You may not sleep well, but you know. It’s so strange. You’re scheduling life.
I had never thought before about the opposite – scheduling death. How the hell do you prepare for such a thing? There are no bags to pack but there are arrangements to make. The few days before the looming date of death are the strangest days. I sit and I think about plans for a week from today. And then I remember – a week from today I won’t have a dog. I won’t have a dog. She’s lying next to me right now. How can it be that she won’t exist anymore? Cassidy went and bought her all of these fatty and yummy treats. I remembered her old favorite – Beggin’ Strips – and I rushed to get her those too. It doesn’t matter how bad they are for her. All that matters is that her last few days are filled with comfort and joy. Some of these dog treats are so hard I think they’re breaking her teeth. And then I remember – it doesn’t matter. Where she’s going, no one needs teeth.
I’ve never experienced anything like this. My early childhood dog was put down without me knowing or understanding where she’d gone. My childhood dog, Chelsea, died on the operating table during an expensive and life-threatening surgery that we knew had a slim chance of saving her. We decided to take that risk and we said goodbye, but we believed in the chance of survival. It wasn’t a scheduled death. It was horrible and painful and confusing, but we didn’t know it was coming.
Tomorrow, we say goodbye to Stormy. Friends have told me that it goes fast. Tonight we go to sleep and she’s very much alive and looking at us and eating and experiencing the world. And tomorrow – she doesn’t exist? I can’t wrap my head around it. We’ll go on and we’ll look at her rope toy and her bowl and we’ll pack them away and sob. Next week we’ll take her ashes to San Francisco and spread them in the places she most lived. Her old street, the Golden Gate Bridge, and anywhere else Cassidy feels they belong. She’s here right now and she won’t be tomorrow. I don’t understand the insanity that is life, love and death. The last few days I’ve given her many hugs, and thought so much about how each meal she’s eating and walks around the yard she’s taking – are her last. I’m much more sad for Cassidy than I am for myself. It’s truly the end of an era. Anyone who has met him in the last 16 years probably pictures a beautiful wolf dog at his side. I don’t know life with Cassidy without Stormy. It’s like Peter Pan and his shadow.
Often people say that if they had known they only had one last day with a loved one, they’d have done things differently. They’d have lived that day to their highest love capacity. Well we know we only have one more day with Stormy. Are we living it fully enough? So often in the last few days I’ve wondered if I should even be going out or if I should be by her side 100% of the time. It’s the most morbid thing – watching someone breathe and knowing they won’t be breathing very soon. On the other hand – it’s a gift. We know when it’s time. We know too late won’t get here. We have the chance to say goodbye.
Here today, gone tomorrow. Goodbye, friend.