Where Lashes Go in the End

Daddy, where do they put the lashes?

Where do they put what?

The lashes. Sarah’s lashes. Where do they put them?

You mean the ashes? Sarah’s ashes?

Yeah. The ashes. How do they get them and where do they put them?

Well, after they put Sarah to sleep, they put her body with the bodies of other dogs and kitties who had to be put to sleep too. Then they uh, they burn them, with fire, to get the ashes. And they take the ashes and put them somewhere, so they can go back into the ground.

Why back into the ground?

Mmwell, so they can help the earth grow new things, I think.

Like what? Like flowers?

Yes, I think so. Like flowers.

And so went a serious and kind conversation with my six year old, before our bedtime prayers. I like the mental image of the flowers. I like it quite a lot.

I only cried for about an hour and a half when all was said and done today, when the gentle old dog Sarah and I had spent our final time on earth together, and she went to sleep for the very last time. And she went to sleep gently, with not so much as a jerk from the needle or even a whimper. She died in my arms, and it seemed right and it seemed complete. But it seemed oh so very odd, at the moment my mind played grainy images of a young dog running and playing with life abundant, to feel that life come to an end, and all go away. I understand very well that the magnificent beauty of life is inseparable from its final act; the act of dying. I even understand that in this way death is meaningful. But I do not like it. I do not like it at all.

The form of killing that is contextualized and assigned the symbol “euthanasia” is uniquely problematic; not that it is clearly wrong or right, but in that it involves an intimate foreknowledge I am unconvinced mortal creatures are intended to possess. Last night I sat outside on the grass with Sarah and I talked to her and I petted her, knowing she would never see another night. Today I held her tight and I talked to her knowing that in an hour she would never see day again. Is it not so very odd, so beyond being a contingent being, that I should know such a grave and final thing that she could not? That the moon and the sun would never shine down their light upon her coat again? That while I watched her sleep last night that she would never dream again? It may well be that I am supposed to learn something in that foreknowledge, and it may well be that I will think about it in the days to come, but I did not like it and I questioned it with an aching somewhere deep inside of me, in a place deeper than my heart. It seemed wrong to me; wrong in an ontological sense of cosmic proportions. I did not like it. I did not like it at all.

I am troubled tonight by the idea that it may be true that every sentient being deserves every possible day of life; that there is value in breath and blood and warmth and it should never be ended on purpose. I can see where this may well be true, and if so I ask solemnly for the forgiveness of a kind old dog and the God who created her. But I do believe it was time that good days were to end very soon for her, and I am comforted that she did not have a day of suffering. She would have suffered in patient silence, for it was her way. And today, while I was still trying to decide for certain, she refused her old favorite bits of meet with gravy and peas, and would not so much as take a drink of water. That meant enough to me. I think we cut the line as close as we could, my old friend. I love you, and I will miss you, and I will thank the Heavens for you. I promise you that I will remember you, until my line, too, is someday drawn and cut.

Sarah, may your great and gentle spirit mix joyously with the four winds of the Earth, forever and ever. I will pause more often now, old girl, to gaze upon the beauty of flowers.

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