Loss. It’s part of the cycle of life, and it’s rarely easy. It’s not meant to be easy, anyway. There are two types of loss: sudden loss and prepared loss.
You can never “prepare” for loss, per se, but you can expect it. When your parent has a terminal cancer and is sick for months or years, you have time to sit with it. You have time to digest it.
With sudden loss, like your dog being diagnosed with an illness you didn’t know he had and it’s too late to save him, you don’t have time to prepare. He’s gone and you don’t even get to say goodbye to him.
I’ve experienced a lot of loss in my life. My dad died from lung cancer when I was four. He had been sick for a long time, though. At the time, I was too young to understand death even was. It was my first touch with death. Four years old is too young to touch death.
My father wanted to die at home, so during the last days of his life a hospital bed was brought into our living room in which he spent his final moments, which allowed him to receive the care he needed to die at home, as he wished. His death was not sudden, though. Those around him knew it was coming sooner rather than later. While I didn’t understand it fully, I understand that nothing about my father’s death was sudden. My strongest memory is waking up on the day he was going to die and my parents telling me that Daddy was going on a long journey. In my four-year-old mind, I thought that meant he was better, that he was going to go on a hunting trip with some friends.
He’s just on a long hunting trip, right?
I got to say goodbye to my father. Right before he was about to go, he asked for me, and I remember sitting on his lap one last time telling him goodbye. I went with my aunt to get Chinese food. When we returned home later, I saw my mother standing outside and I just knew. My father was dead.
Over the years, I’ve experienced several other prepared deaths. The only grandfather I knew, even if he wasn’t my biological grandfather, died when I was nine years old. He’d been sick with esophageal cancer for many months. My dog, Trixie, and my cat, Buttons, were both old and could barely stand up when they died.
I’ve only had a few touches of sudden death. My step-uncle and Grandma Hazel both died within a year of each other, both were people so full of life and I never thought they could die. I didn’t get to say goodbye to either of them, and in a way, I’m glad that I never saw them sick. They were both people so full of life. They were the type of people you didn’t think could die. But they did so suddenly.
This year alone I’ve had two sudden pet deaths. My bird, Sparky, and my dog, Buddy, both died out of the blue. We don’t know exactly how old Sparky was, since we’d purchased him from another family. We’d had him almost ten years, though, so he was getting up there in age for a cockatiel. Buddy, on the other hand, was only nine years old. The average age for a small dog is twelve years. I was sure I’d have more time with him.
Though, I think about it, and I try to picture Buddy as an old dog, a dog who couldn’t play. Buddy was always so playful. He loved to play fetch. During the last days of his life, his blood count was so low and he was so weak that he couldn’t play with his squeaky toys, and that saddens me. The thought of him growing old and going months and months where he’s too sore and weak to play with his toys is too unbearable. I’m glad he didn’t have to suffer long.
Loss sucks. No matter the loss, it’s never easy. Personally, I hate goodbyes, and I hate watching people suffer.
Suddenly is the best way to go.