A room once used for giving birth to new life, is now converted to a place for dying. I’ve packed up the whelping box, and converted the space to be Kylie’s private quarters for her final days, perhaps weeks. Do not weep for me. I can only weep for the many times I’ve been imperfect for her. But I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to give her the best that we can ask for in life. That is, to give her a good death. It is such Grace to know when the time is near. Sudden death is so much more difficult to understand, so much harder on the soul, and harder on those left behind.
When I first began to write this post in April, it was to express a perspective about being, one I’ve witnessed within myself numerous times. I think I first experienced this “fragility” when I flew over Southern California for the first time. The rainy season in Southern California is suggestive, at times, of an Indian monsoon. But the rest of the year, it is a desert, dryer than Beirut. Living in a desert like that, if you have any sense about you, you get a look at the fragility of life… and how an act of terrorism, an act of God, an accident of catastrophic proportions could extinguish that existence by rendering the area devoid of water… and leaving it also as a place with no escape route. It is a place so easily gridlocked, with only a couple roads North, and a few going East. Truly if you consider this, it exists for any desert community – Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Los Angeles. Without these massive networks of water movement, there is only the ocean. I thought on this as I reviewed this article: Water Supply in Southern California.
So this was the brainchild for this post. But since then, many things have happened. One friend lost her dog after he sustained just a small cut on his foot. It became infected – staph… and died. And later she lost two of her elderly dogs, one not so very old, the other a respectable age. So each time these things occurred, I thought again of this post, and wanted to write.
Three weeks ago I lost a dear friend. I had not known him long in this lifetime, a year perhaps. He was a healer. I visited him about once per month over the last year, Dr. James MacKimmie, author of Presence of Angels. Dr. MacKimmie and his wife Andrea had become, for me, family, healer and adviser. I had just seen him and he was telling me about his pending knee surgery. The man could probably count on one hand, the number of times he’d visited an allopathic practitioner. But his knees were giving out, and causing him grief. So he was to have a replacement. I did feel that perhaps I would not see him again during that treatment. But it was more because I’d had some serious discussions with a potential new employer. He and I were both excited about the energy of the new location for me, and how he felt it resonated with the fulfillment of potential in me. It would match my vibration. It would hold so much promise. It seemed so exact and perfect. The knee surgery met with complication, perhaps a clot. Days after, he had a heart attack, and just a few days more and he had left the earth.
He woke Andrea in the night sometime before he left us. Told her there would be a celebration of his life on July 29th. Odd date really – so far from his departure. Part of me weeps. I’m used to this dying thing with the farm animals. Perhaps I’m even numb. But this human thing seems to grow more difficult with time. In 2010, I had two tragic losses. A dear friend from an MMO game I play shared her final months with us via the game. She was dying of cancer, and there was no saving her. She was only in her 20s. She clung to life with all she had. She was angry. But she told jokes up until her final days. Her last few days, she’d sleep. At one point she slept more than 24 hours straight. The doctors were not sure she’d wake. But she did. In the end, she felt very alone. There was so much blood, she said. No amount of closeness could make her feel she was not alone. I know her as an angel – and so I cannot believe anything other than she met with the Divine as she departed. So young and so dear a woman. She was fierce. She did not dwell in silliness. If she was angry, her anger moved through like a storm. Then it was gone.
Most tragic of these losses in 2010 was my Grandpa. As a child, I visited him every Summer. He’d fly from Maryland, to his home in South Carolina. Back then, having an airplane was not so much a luxury as it is today. Once I was an adult, and had work, I couldn’t afford such visits. But Grandaddy was such a larger than life figure for me. What saddened me most was the timing. I was unemployed, nearing eviction, and I learned on Facebook when some family friends told me they were sorry to hear. I exploded. I’d gotten a prepaid cell phone just days before, no longer able to maintain my Blackberry bliss with Verizon. But I got no email from family. No phone call from family friends that had the new number. Just Facebook. No voice mail. Just Facebook. I planned how I could fly there…but if I did so, I would have no money for food. And so I remained home, feeling more disconnected from society than ever before. I was angry. I was sad for my Grandmother, who also felt jolted from the life she’d known.
Only a short time before, she and her husband had been moved to a care facility. In her mind, this was much against her wishes. And so there I was contemplating the great fragility of being. We are born so fragile. We understand this. But we grow, and are vibrant. And so many things threaten this existence. Consider this very primal instinct for survival. It shapes and molds some of our most basic emotions. Being excluded from a group of people – it puts us outside – from the most primal level, this is a threat to our very survival. There was a time when being forced outside the community meant death. So when we are forced outside a group, there is upset, in its varying expressions. Underlying that is the very primal fear – a threat to our very survival.
Alison Hershbell at Delaware Park
When I was a jockey, I had a roommate and fellow rider, Alison Hershbell
. I loved Ali. She was unique. She was a free spirit. She had no problem being different. I remember the time she agreed to come with me to Gurumayi’s Ashram in South Fallsburg, New York
. Not something we’d ever talk about on the racetrack, but Ali wanted to come. I was driving her Saab I believe… it had heated seats, a feature we both enjoyed with our frequently sore backs. We were on an exit ramp in New York. There was a van stopped in the middle of the road, so we had to stop. Then the van moved…but now in our path was a possom, which ambled towards us, then climbed onto the driver’s side front tire. We got out of the vehicle and wondered what to do. Finally, a highway patrol officer came and dispensed of the creature, using one of Ali’s commonly-worn tie-die crinkle skirts as a glove. Off we went, up to the ashram. Ali went right up in the Darshan line with me, and I introduced her to Gurumayi. I will never know what kind of experience Ali might have had with Gurumayi. But I feel better about her early departure from this earth, knowing she was blessed by the Guru. Last time I saw her, I visited her in Southern California. She was riding an Arab race at Los Alamitos, and so I went to her hotel for a very brief visit. Later, I was thinking of Ali. It was some time after I had left racing, and had lost touch with her. It was perhaps her choice to lose touch. She was having a fair amount of success with racing. I generally was not, and had frequent broken bones. I looked her up on the internet and was stunned to find, instead of success stories, an obituary.
I remember my gratitude that she’d survived an abusive boyfriend. She told me of a time he’d choked her. I remember the gratitude I felt that she survived every spill. But now she was gone at 30 years of age. And I wasn’t there to wish her spirit a good journey. I remember her artwork. I bet most people didn’t have the privelege of seeing her sketches. Or meeting her dear schoolfriend Haley. To me, Ali was like a younger sister – but one I looked up to. She was so unencumbered by emotion. And I so trapped by them. Perhaps that is why she departed early. She was more free to go.
Being does not seem so fragile when we witness aging. But being is fragile. The aging process, while it can be slow and painful, is a way of separating the soul from the body. I must consider that the more we identify with the physical self, the more difficult and prolonged this process. Perhaps this makes me surprised to have this journey for Kylie to have taken so long. For it was 2007 that she was first really ill. I suspect she was growing ill for some years before that, but in July of 2007, I took her to the vet, as she was failing sometimes in her training. He phoned me on a Sunday morning to inform me that she was in danger of bleeding out, with dangerously low platelet and WBC count. Several people who had lost dogs to anemia contacted me to inform me that there was no cure and that she would most certainly die. First off, she didn’t have anemia. But second – what a horrible thing to say. Was this a bitterness that people felt from their own loss? Was it some attempt to prepare me? We must focus on the living, if this is the moment at hand.
I trusted my instincts with Kylie’s health. I put her on a vigorous herbal regime for blood building and fighting cancer. Here we are, five years later. And I have just felt it for certain tonight. It is the time to prepare her room for dying. She is dying. The temple that has carried her for more than 12 years is failing. Do not weep for me. Only weep that I have not been perfect for her. Sometimes cruel, sometimes thankless, sometimes too demanding. If she leaves me with anything, it is a sense of not having learned enough from her. But also knowing that for most of her life, I understood that she was a spirit trapped in a body that didn’t suit her. I told her she should return as a bird of prey. Because she loves to hunt and kill. This was the source of most of our disagreement. This and her refusal to accept my home and property as my domain. For her, it was hers to decide who could visit and where they could sit. She guarded my own mother as though she were a felon. She’d follow my mother around the house with an accusatory glare. Generally, Kylie was in a crate if there was company. And if there were cats around… this was her specialty. Though I dare say, Kylie was an expert rodent killer. So if she would return as a bird of prey, she could manifest that fragility of being, showing that in dying there is the sustenance of life. She can do so as a bird of prey, without repercussion.
Fragility is also about our state of being, the fabric that we are at a given point in time. In just a moment, we are changed. Wether we die, or become forever changed – what once was, is no more. Perhaps I will write a book about living and dying. I have so much more to say. But for now, I have the night to reflect on the many who have gone, and the many that remain. And the fragility of being.
©2012 Tracy Wessel