Thoughts on Death

It is approximately the eleventh anniversary of the day I began writing my big bad book. It currently stands at 103,741 words. I might have finished it by now, but I haven’t written anything since Foxy died.

On Friday, October 16th, I was writing a scene by hand, writing down for the first time some knowledge I’d been holding in my head for months, and I cried. The scene just hit me in the right way, and it was about that point in the story. That had never happened to me before. In eleven years, I’d never written anything that made me cry. It’s rare enough for any other book to make me cry, maybe only a handful out of all the books I’ve ever read in my life, much less my own writing where I know what’s coming. It took me by surprise, and I was in a way proud of myself for it. When I went to type it up I tried to fix a few things, which changed some other things, and I think some of the impact of the scene was lost. I went back to the original scene and typed it word for word. And then, on Sunday the 18th, Foxy died.

My experience with loss is limited; Foxy was the worst loss I’ve ever felt. One of my grandpas died when I was three, the other died while I was in England and as awful as that was, a language barrier and the fact that I was only one of many grandkids meant we weren’t extremely close. Even though we only had her six out of her fourteen years, Foxy was immediate family.

I knew she was sick, and I knew if it was bad we’d have to put her down, but I didn’t actually think it would happen until we were on the phone with the vet while she gave us a five-minute long list of all the problems Foxy was having. I remember my heart sinking farther and farther with every new problem she listed. We thought she had a kidney infection or maybe a UTI. Turned out she was in multiple organ failure, had a bunch of diseases, and suspected cancer. They couldn’t treat her for a couple of days because the animal hospital was full, and there was a decent chance she wouldn’t have made it that long, and she might’ve died alone and scared in a foreign environment. So my dad made the call. We said goodbye and she died peacefully in her (drugged) sleep, safe and warm, getting pets from her humans. Not a bad way to go, I suppose.

The transition between life and death was smooth, only her eyes betrayed the exact moment it happened. It was a reminder; death is easy, it’s life that’s hard. So it was in this case. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it before, but I suppose this brought everything to the forefront. Loss. Grief. Death. The inevitability of an end to everyone and everything we know.

At the moment, there are currently two people in the world whose loss I don’t know I could ever handle. But loss is one of those things, it comes no matter what, and you just have to survive it. It’s like being hit by a crashing wave and drowning for a minute, struggling for breath, not knowing whether you’ll ever surface, not thinking, just blindly paddling because you don’t know what else to do. And then you surface, and you’re fine, and you remember it but it’s separate and you’re still sad but you can breathe. Then the next wave comes, and it all happens again, over and over. Gradually you’re under water for shorter periods and above water for longer periods. Hopefully. Sometimes the grief is too much and people don’t surface.

I had a job interview first thing in the morning the day after Foxy died. I didn’t get it. I don’t think they could tell how puffy my eyes were over Zoom, though, so it probably wasn’t that.

What caught me off guard was the bit of time between going to bed and falling asleep. I could distract myself all day with dog videos on YouTube and bingeing tv shows, but as soon as the screens turned off and I was left in the dark and quiet, I couldn’t stop crying. It went on for hours, I just couldn’t stop and couldn’t sleep from it and all I could think of to make it better was to have Foxy with me, but that was, of course, the problem. Instead, I fixed it by keeping my distractions going until long into the night, when I could fall asleep within a couple of minutes of putting the screens away. It screwed up my sleep schedule even more than usual, and I’m lucky I had no work shifts because of the pandemic, but that’s how I survived the first week and a half.

What scares me about dying is how I’ll go. Quick, painless, and surrounded by loved ones like Foxy would be ideal, but I have no control over it and like loss, it comes whether I’m ready or not. But I do have to admit, I’d like to have finished my book by then.

I feel like I ought to shut up for having lost a dog in a year so many have lost close—human—loved ones. I have friends who’ve lost their grandpa, their dad, their sister. But loss is loss and I can’t speak to anyone else’s. As always, writing out my thoughts has helped make sense of them. If you’ve taken the time to read this, thank you. I hope you’re doing well, considering everything.

Feature photo by Silas Baisch on Unsplash

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