04 August 2008

Some recommended reading on dying

I'm continuing to hang in there with Cricket -- I clean her, change her bedding, carry her outside and back in when she needs to pee, feed her by hand when she feels like eating (which is not very often anymore), etc. She has alternating good days and bad days. She can sometimes still stand and walk (or crawl) on her own. I've found her at various places out of her bed when I didn't carry her there.

She hasn't yet communicated to me that she's fed up with living. Dogs seem to have a different view of suffering than we humans do. It's something to endure, unpleasant as it is. It's not excruciating for her. She's at peace actually, most of the time. She is alert, looks endearingly into my eyes and still wags on occasion. She still lies out on the lawn and enjoys the simple pleasures of breathing in the fresh air and watching people go by. She is teaching me the inestimable value of life in itself, just for the sake of being alive. I will cherish these days for as long as I live, no matter what happens at this point.

Although anticipation of death is crummy, the extended period of time of waiting has given me the opportunity to slow down, get all my ducks in a row as far as practical preparations, and also to do some profound reading which I might not have found time for at other stages in my life, for example Marva Dawn's Being Well When We're Ill: Wholeness and Hope in Spite of Infirmity, Henri Nouwen's Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring, Richard John Neuhaus's As I Lay Dying, and Ray Simpson's Before We Say Goodbye: Preparing for a Good Death. All excellent books. Still on the "to read" shelf: Gerald Sittser's A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss, and a reread of both C.S. Lewis's A Grief Observed and Walter Wangerin's Mourning into Dancing.

Tonight I started reading Johann Christoph Arnold's Be Not Afraid: Overcoming the Fear of Death aloud to Cricket, in the hopes that maybe it'll help her figure out that it's OK to let go. Not sure she gets it, but it can't hurt. She likes having me beside her anyway, and it's a way for us to spend some time together (I snuggle up close to her so I can hear and feel her breathing and heartbeat, and she mine). I've heard of children reading to dogs, and apparently they like it. So why not?

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