The final chapter...

Final moments with my girl....

First, I want to say, thank you so so much for all your support. Thank you for the calls, texts, comments here and on FB...for all the ways you all have reached out to us in such a dark moment. Knowing our people are out there sending healing vibes, praying, lighting candles for us and Sunshine is very comforting.
I need to tell the end of her story. This blog has become such a record of our life, and I want to make sure I tell the whole story.
I think I mentioned a few weeks back that Sunshine had ear and lung infections and she was on an antibiotic. She never 100% was able to recover from that. She had been still walking very unsteadily and falling a lot, and getting her to eat was a challenge. She has pretty much been on table food for weeks now and she would still regularly refuse meals. Her spirit picked up over Christmas and she would check in on everybody and hunt for dropped treats in between long naps. We had hoped she was on the mend.
Then on Tuesday morning Sunshine wakes up with a super gross eye infection. I tried to clean it up the best I could, but it was concerning. My dear friend, Katie, stopped by the house to meet Alexis before she left and I think she actually gasped when she saw Sunshine. She is a huge animal lover and she found the eye infection really concerning too, but her weight loss even more so. She had just seen Sunshine a week early and felt like there had been drastic weight loss in the meantime. I am so thankful that Katie was soooo brave to just speak the truth to me, truth that I couldn't/wouldn't see at that point. She also asked me what I was planning to do with Sunshine, afterwards, you know. I had said I was going to have to cremate her because I did not have a place to bury her (my preferred option). Right away she volunteered her farm. It was an amazing moment, a big need with a big answer.
BUT, at that point I was still really feeling like this was just another little illness, and Sunshine would be well again soon. I called the vet and Bruce and we were able to get her into an appointment late Tuesday afternoon. Bruce took her so I could spend the last couple hours I had with Alexis doing something fun with the kids. The vet told Bruce that Sunshine was now full of infection and had lost another 5 pounds since her last appointment but the most concerning thing was her alarmingly low blood pressure. He gave Bruce another stronger dose of antibiotics, heart medicine and pain killers and some hope that there could be some kind of recovery. When Bruce brought her back home though, she looked weaker than ever.
Alexis left early Wednesday morning. I spent the day cuddling with Sunshine, carrying her in and out of the house to go potty, and trying to convince her to eat something...anything. Finally by that evening she had lost all ability to stand and we had to resort to adult diapers for her. She was drinking lots of water and she finally ate a few bites of chicken and some golden grahams (We were trying everything in the house!!) We went to bed feeling hopeful but were awaken in the middle of the night to the sounds of her throwing up every thing she had eaten. It was heart breaking to see her struggling to stay alive and her body just not cooperating with her.
Thursday morning was awful, her refusing food and water, struggling just to hold her head up. I had to run some errands and when I got home and saw her, I knew in every fiber of my being that it was time. She could no longer take in water, her head would just kind of float on the surface of the water bowl. She could not stand or walk, could not make eye contact, could not wag her tail. I knew that if we let this go on any longer it would be cruel to her. She had given the good fight and now it was time for me to let her go. This moment, as I was sitting with her, half laying across my lap, stroking her velvet ears, making the hardest decision of my life, was excruciatingly painful. I actually had horrible physical pain. I had tapped into my deepest emotions, my deepest feelings of loss and grief that I have ever experienced. I know my decision was a good one, the right one, the ONLY one truly, but it did not make it any easier.
Again, I had to get Bruce on the phone at work. It took a few phone calls back and forth to get him on the same page with me, he was still hoping hard that she could make a recovery. Finally, he knew it was the end too, and was able to get the vet on the phone.
Now, while all this is happening, you will remember I have two little kids at home who's needs still need to be met, who still need to be cared for, no matter my emotional state. It was so tough at that moment to be Mama, to put my grief to the side and take care of the necessary, like lunch and diaper changes. I am not ashamed to tell you, I wept my way through the making of Easy Mac that day. But on the other side of that coin is the love they gave me, and the way they instinctively comforted me. I had been really open with Griffin about what was happening with Sunshine and we were able to talk about it, talk about and to Sunshine together, and cried together. When they would find me kneeling beside her with racking sobs they held me, hugged me, danced around me. I said goodbye to Sunshine while they were eating lunch and afterwards they came into the room and said goodbye for themselves. Griffin with hugs, kisses and sweet words, Lucy by making sure Sunshine was properly covered up with her blanket (that had become an obsession of hers) so that only her head was visible.
Bruce arrived home shortly afterward and had some moments with Sunshine. We loaded the kids, warm clothes and some digging implements into the car. I wrapped up Sunshine tight with her favorite blanket and carried her out to the car. By the time I got to the vets office, I was truly wrecked with grief. We carried her in and went back to the exam room. Bruce, Griffin and Lucy gave Sunshine one final goodbye and then left for the waiting room. I stayed with Sunshine, crying my heart out, letting her go, feeling her absence already. Her breath had become labored and as soon as the Dr. injected the medication, her body instantly relaxed until she was still. The Dr. and his helper were so sweet, so kind, so respectful of my grief. They cleaned up Sunshine's body and prepared her for burial. They wrapped her up so tight, so womblike, it comforted me. The Dr. carried her out to the car for us and we headed to Katie's farm. It's called Wilding Farm...wilding, back to the wild, the perfect place to bury Sunshine, to set her spirit free.
As soon as we got out of the car, Katie's 4 wonderful dogs greeted us merrily. It was so soothing to me in that moment, to be around all that vibrant doggie luv. We bundled up, it was a blustery chilly day, and walked up to the peak at the back of the property. There in the beautiful Kentucky hills, near where one of Katie's dogs was buried, we found a spot for Sunshine. Bruce had carried her up, and told me later that he felt her presence with him, almost as if she was right there, saying goodbye to him. He dug a big hole, the physical exertion dulling some of the emotional pain for him. I hung a sunshine charm on a red ribbon from the tree above the grave. It will be a marker for now, but eventually will join her in the soil below. After we placed her body in the grave, we all said a few words and sprinkled a shovel full of soil over her. We all took turns filling the hole back up and stomping the soil down. It was really important to us that she was secure from curious animals. It was almost sunset as we walked back down the hill toward the house. I noticed all the gorgeous trees, moss and fungi that surrounded her grave...what a beautiful final resting place for her on this planet. (Thank you Katie, for opening up your property to us in this sacred way!!!!)

As we drove away, I saw her so clearly, running beside the car, so strong so free.

And now, we are facing the reality of life without our special girl. The energy in the house feels different. We always think we hear her collar jangling or her nails clicking on the hard wood floors. Hundreds of times a day we think about her as we walk past where her bed was, or think it is time to feed her or walk her or let her out. Sometimes these thoughts pass with a smile and many times with a tear. I have been brought to sobs putting away a Christmas ornament that made me think of her, seeing a snippet of the dog whisperer show and dusting a photo of her, or the ablsolute hardest, hearing "You are my Sunshine", her song, on the night of her death. I am sure that there will be more of this as I let myself work through the grief in the coming days, weeks, months.
I am so thankful that this is the way Sunshine left us. We have been able to say goodbye, to remember her and mourn her together as a family, with no other commitments this weekend. This feels like Sunshine's final gift to us. The opportunity to teach Griffin about death, as part of the human experience, has been such an important lesson. We have been able to talk about what we believe about death and help him find healthy ways to grieve and mourn his loss. We are working through this as a family and it has brought us even closer.

If you have made it this far in this post, thank you for listening. It really does make me feel better to share our story.

Love and peace to you, friends.



Louise said…
Wow, you gave me a good cry over this one. I remember when you got Sunshine. She really was your best friend and will be missed for many months and even years to come. You have a very special friend who offered her farm to Sunshine. What a blessing.
Anonymous said…
Hello from Laurie in Ann Arbor...I was so sad to read of Sunshine's passing. I am remembering this past summer, at your Mom's house when we were all there, and Griffin asking me if I would treat Sunshine with energy healing.

Many many lessons are learned through loving our animal family so deeply. My cat, Misha, was my biggest teacher about Love. In a few days, it will be the 10th anniversary of her dying, and I still grieve her deeply.

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's Soul remains unawakened." (Anatole France)

On the letter I sent out to friends after Misha died in my arms January 17, 1999, I included this quote from Garrison Keillor:
"We quickly turned and went inside the empty house and sat and cried softly in the dark some tears, for that familiar voice, that fur, that soft weight missing from our laps..that we loved too well perhaps...And we mourned from weakness of the heart: a childish weakness to regard an animal, whose life is brief, with such sadness, and such grief."

For so short a time does God loan us to one another, eh?

I am sending hugs, and much love, and my wishes that you all keep breathing in, and breathing out, allowing your hearts to swell even bigger with Sunshine Love.