I am not known to shy away from death (not yet, at least). Lest you forget or didn’t know, I am the foster parent (shhh, don’t tell DCF) who, when the cat hid away to die and was found twelve days later, I crawled under the porch, dragged the rotting corpse out, and showed it to the then rather young children to talk about death. Loving every moment. Maggots and all. (I’m pretty sure they weren’t scarred, either.)
Neither do I deny grief’s myriad offerings, which often includes humor. So let me say that this bisexual woman finds great satisfaction in the affirmation that I am more butch than my husband, as evidenced by my grave digging. If you know me, you know that the plentitude of butch that I am is finite, so it is good to have it come to the fore every once in awhile…
I have been digging the grave for our dog, Sonny, who will be put down tomorrow – insh’allah. I had hoped he would stay inside while I began this task, one that my mildly errant son is supposed to join in sometime this afternoon (she writes with a tone of utter equanimity). But Sonny wanted to come outside, to bask in the sun and heat. Quoting from one of my own poems, “Who I am to deny a dying [dog] his last wish? Even if it turns out to be one of a thousand last wishes? Or just the one of one?” So he found a cool place in the corner of the yard, laid down, and watched.
Digging, I felt enormous gratitude to last night’s explosive storm that I slept through (it seems like I am the only one to do so) but which soaked the ground, making this task just a bit easier. This is the prayer (more or less) I found myself saying, two hands crossed on the handle of my favorite shovel, leaning my weight against it:
Dearest earth, who gave me and all creatures birth, I break your ground today to return one of your beloved creatures home.
Thank you for the reminder your resistance offers my muscles: all good grieving requires effort and intention.
May the roots that my shovel shears find new pathways of nourishment.
May the insipid worm-like creatures that turn into vermin and eat my garden die in the light of the sun.
Should my shovel sever an earthworm or three, may it turn them into two or six.
Let me say thank you for the compassionate vet, who has moments of being the epitome of gruff, yet is the gentlest of souls when it comes to this passage, for she has been my company on this journey before.
May the doubt that has been whispering malevolently, raising questions of whether we are right to do this now, whether his suffering is truly enough, find no more abode.
Let the sweat that rolls off my body and the tears that I shed be of some use, though right now I do not know how.
Let Sonny’s passing remind me that I am alive because I feel pain.
Let Sonny’s passing remind me that I am alive because I feel joy.