On the morning of December 28, 2015 my mom came over to my apartment after concluding her night shift at work. This isn’t an altogether unusual occurrance as she does stop by from time to time when she’s done with work. But given that this was a Monday and she still had another job to do that day it was a little bit more unusual than if she’d done so on a Saturday morning.
She came over for a reason. I called her the night before and told her that Ginny needed to go to the vet and that it was more than likely, as in almost a complete lock, that she would be put to sleep. The decision to do it on Monday morning was made by Ginny herself. On Saturday, she stopped eating and did not really even try.
During the last month of her life, Ginny had taken to skipping some meals but she would always eat again later. This time she just refused. The fact that she didn’t try again on Sunday was all I needed to see. I was not going to watch Ginny starve herself to death. So the call was made and that’s why my mom was there the next morning.
When mom got to my apartment, we did not leave for the Vet right away. She collected my recycling and did a couple of other things which I don’t really remember. Then we sat and talked for awhile and then we just sat. It was clear that we were both stalling. Ginny’s life was about to end and we both knew it, so we weren’t exactly going to run out the door.
Before we left, my oldest brother called and wanted to know what I was going to do. I had told him over Christmas dinner that I didn’t think Ginny had much time left as her physical condition was apparent to everyone. I had also put on Facebook the night before taking her into the Vet that it was going to happen the next morning.
Not only did Ginny stop eating but she was also having trouble keeping things down.
The truth is that the decision wasn’t in and of itself very hard. I had started to do something I prayed I never would. I started to view Ginny in a different way. Her personality had changed because of how ill she was and she spent most days towards the end by herself on her dog bed. I started to see her less as my girl the way she’d always been and started to think of her more as a crap and vomit factory. That sounds horrible to say, even as I typed it and I wanted to remember her more for what she was before her final days.
I think even up to the end, Ginny’s spirit was willing but her body just gave out. I don’t know how long she would have lasted had we not ended her life on that Monday morning and I had no desire to even attempt to find out. Her last gift to me was that she made it through Christmas. It was almost like once Christmas was over she said: “I have done my part and can do no more”.
So while talking to my brother I basically confirmed what we all already knew. Mom, Ginny and I would be going to the vet but only two of us would be coming back. He then made me a very generous offer. He and his girlfriend had offered to buy an urn for Ginny’s ashes. I hadn’t really considered what I was going to have done with Ginny’s body.
Burying the body directly wasn’t an option. It being winter, the ground was frozen and we sure weren’t going to be digging any holes right away. Letting the Vet do a mass cremation and disposing of the ashes just did not seem right to me, I thought and still think Ginny deserved a more special end. And yet, the prospect of having her ashes sitting on a shelf in my apartment was unsettling at least at first. So I told my brother I’d figure out what to do and I would let him know.
Finally, we left for the Vet. The drive isn’t very long but it felt like an eternity. I sat with Ginny in between my legs in the front seat of mom’s car for the last time. I couldn’t help but think about the time we went to a wedding and Ginny was sitting in that position. Something slide off the dashboard and clonked her in the head and so she jumped into my lap. Somehow in the process she’d done a complete 180. She sat facing me on the floor but when she ended up in my lap she was turned and looking out the front window. Okay, it might have only been 90 degrees and looking out the passenger side window but she shifted and used my body as her platform.
When we got to the Vet’s office, Ginny had one final surprise. Now I must say that our local Vet Clinic had always been so good to Ginny. Even though they were nothing but great, Ginny didn’t like going. Having her nails clipped was not her favorite activity. She always behaved herself but you could tell she never had fun.
Well, Ginny got in the last word. As we entered the Vet’s office, she started to relieve herself. For those who knew her best throughout her life the consensus was unanimous that it was Ginny’s way of getting the final word.
So we took her into the usual exam room we’d been in so many times before over the years. They checked some vital signs, most were bad but a couple were good. I was surprised they did this at all, at least on some level. I knew what was going to happen and thought this was just another type of delay. So they told us that there was nothing that we could really do and confirmed what we already knew.
We talked about options as far as the body went. They told us how much it would cost for an individual cremation if we wanted to go the route of the urn. They gave us a few minutes to discuss matters and to be with Ginny as they made preperations.
When they came back in the room, they hooked Ginny up to the IV and asked us if we wanted to be in the room. I was prepared for them to ask this question. I had thought about this for quite a long time. I originally decided that there was no way I would be able to be in the room to watch her die.
I said yes.
In the moment of being asked that question, I could not imagine myself abandoning her at that point. She had given me so much over the previous 13 and a half years that if I left her to die alone or with just the vets and my mom it wouldn’t have seen right. I’m glad I stayed, if I had not the guilt would have eventually gotten to me and I already felt guilty enough.
So the proceedure started. The vet tech was holding Ginny and speaking quietly to her. I stood off to Ginny’s right up near her head and rubbed her cheek and chin. We talked to her as the drugs took hold and my beautiful girl passed from this world into the next.
I was able to hold it together for the conversation that came next. The disposition of her body needed to be decided. This is one of those decisions where I was unsure and wanted desperately for my mom to decide for me. I hemmed and hawed and stalled until I realized that this was an adult decision and she wasn’t going to be the one making it. I decided to take my brother’s offer to buy an urn, even though that meant not only the cost of an urn would be included in the final total of what needed to be paid but the actual bill would be higher since she would be cremated separately.
They had a book that they let us take to pick out an urn. I told my mom that I wanted no part in making a selection. I would be okay with whatever Chris and Sarah decided would be best. I just couldn’t make that kind of decision, in part because I didn’t want to spend an afternoon having urns described to me, in part because I wasn’t sure if I’d keep the urn or bury it in the spring when the ground thawed and in part because I had made enough tough decisions for one day.
I walked out the door, leaving Ginny’s physical body behind. We got back in the car and mom drove me home. The ride home was quiet though I did talk for awhile to try and keep myself from crying. It was when I got back in to my empty apartment that I began to weep.
The home that Ginny and I had shared for over 10 years was now just mine. But there were signs of her everywhere. Her leashe and dog collar hang on a closet doorknob, her bed still sits in the corner of my bedroom. There is still dogfood in the closet and her food and drink bowls are now stacked in the bathroom. Toys and bones lie about though it had been quite some time since she’d chewed on a bone. There are still signs she was here but otherwise it felt so empty.
I posted the news to Facebook and then wrote my article for this blog. I think I spent the rest of the day listening to podcasts and watching TV, trying to have as close to a normal day as I could. My mom brought me a McRibb for supper which I really appreciated.
The next day I tried to be as normal as I could. I had lunch with friends and talked with them a little about how strange it was to know that I could stay out as long as I wanted because Ginny didn’t need me to take care of her. Essentially, the last month of Ginny’s life I did nothing but take care of her. I followed her actions like a crazy stalker and sometimes even that wasn’t enough. We went out of town the next day and then it was New Year’s Eve. Of course by then I’d receive two more pieces of bad news which I’ve mentioned elsewhere.
I don’t think I need to go much beyond what I have already said on the matter. How I did in the days and weeks to come is well documented in my January 2016 Archives.
It goes without saying that I still miss her. I still call out her name from time to time as I did countless times while she was alive. I always have to stop myself and remember that she’s not going to come. The urn has been ordered but has not yet arrived. Most of the rest of the bill has been paid, in part thanks to a donation from a co-worker of my mom’s who wanted to help. I still need to write a thank you note to her and her husband.
What will happen when I am holding an urn full of Ginny’s ashes? Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve thought about this a lot. The ashes will be what was once her body but they won’t be her body because they won’t be her beauty. Ginny was also more than a body, she was a personality and the ashes won’t be that. So how I’m going to react is as hard a question for me to answer as where I’m going to put the urn and that’s also one I haven’t resolved.
My life has changed quite a bit in the last month. The routine that I had built around Ginny and altered so drastically when she got sick is now gone. I have to make an effort to go outside every day and many days I simply don’t (it is winter after all). I’ve been emotionally unstable, especially earlier in the month. I rejected all company on my birthday and surrounding days, I declined my annual January trip to stay with my cousin in Sioux Falls and generally closed myself off from people.
And then, I started talking to her and it has almost been like I’ve had two Januarys. Everything is different now. I’m not just talking to people, I’m engaged in conversation. I actually look forward to getting out of bed. I’m being more social with my friends and I’m finally having good days. I’m going to leave you with a quote that my new friend shared with me this morning.
“People are born so that they learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The four year old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
The full story of that quote’s origin can be read here.
I can’t think of a particular song in my music collection that is about dogs. I could pick something that I listened to over and over on my birthday to help get the tears out but I want to be upbeat. So this song has nothing really to do with the theme of today’s post.
Although, as I listen to the lyrics closely there are some that capture pretty well how I feel when I talk to No Passing Fancy.