Painful though parting be, I bow to you as I see you off to distant clouds. ~Emperor Saga
The other day I was out walking the dog and I bumped into a friend walking her nearly 16-year-old dog; she was debating whether it was “time” to put him down or let him go on his own.
I remember being in the same quandary a few years ago with our 16-1/2-year-old dog, Tupper. I felt guilty seeing her suffer and I felt guilty thinking about euthanasia. I remember my mom saying “Karen, she’s suffering” but still struggling with the decision. We ended up choosing euthanasia; it was hard for our family, but the right decision for Tupper.
Two years later we were faced with the same dilemma with our nearly 18-year old Dachshund. When Winnie showed symptoms of decline – a very sad bark and then keening – she was telling us it was time. Winnie passed naturally and peacefully at home with me by her side stroking her and telling her it was okay to let go.
I shared these two different experiences with my friend and told her she would know what was best for her beloved dog.
As we parted ways, our conversation got me thinking about my mom and the suffering she experienced during the last year of her life.
My family thought my mom would beat cancer. She fought hard and we saw the toll the disease and treatments were having on her body and spirit. It was painful to watch.
I held on to hope that she would survive. I encouraged her to fight, I helped her visualize healing, I researched treatments. Through chemo, radiation, and pain, my mom held on because she knew that my Dad, my brothers, and I didn’t want her to give up.
The month before she passed, my mom told me she was done: done with pain; done with treatment, done fighting. Hearing those words was devastating. I didn’t want to lose her but, in my heart, I knew that honoring what she wanted, not what we wanted, was best for her.
There is never a right time to say “goodbye” to those we love – whether people or pets – but when we have the time to prepare, it provides the chance to have closure: to spend time with them, to share words of love, to be in the moment, and to hold them.
Letting go is never easy but there is some comfort in having the opportunity to be there in those final days.