Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Joyful Leap of Faith that is Death

Today, December 28, 2013, is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  And tonight, at 6:58 PM, our beloved Macy died in my arms.

Earlier today, she started weeping.  Gentle tears fell from her eyes.  I noticed them and wondered if she was perhaps sad to know that this day would be her last with us.

I want to describe her moment of death because it was one of most beautiful and profound moments of my life, and I will never forget it.  When I am old and gray and on my death bed, I want to recall Macy's beautiful last moment for the hope that it can bring to all of us.

Tonight I feel like I caught a glimpse of one of God's beautiful secrets, a hidden surprise kept from all of us until it is our time to be called home.  Macy shared her moment with me, and I held her so close that I felt it. 

She had waited for us all to be home and together.  She had waited for us to eat dinner and clean up.  She had waited for Michael to finally sit down on the couch and for Liam to have a clean diaper and new book to read in Daddy's lap.  We were back from our walk to the park, our bellies were full, and we were letting Liam skip a bath tonight.  There was nothing left for us to do except sit on the couch and watch a movie.  You see, our precious Macy had waited for the most convenient time for us.  My humble, always patient dog was her beautiful, holy self until the very end.

She was laying on a blanket on our kitchen floor, fully immobile now for three days and done with food for two.  She moved her head gently back and forth, and that signal was all I needed to spring from the couch to her side, kissing her precious head, telling her that we were all here together.

I reminded her that if the Divine Master should call her, she should go joyfully.  And I told her that I would see her there in Heaven one day, although hopefully after a long and fulfilling life.  I even told her about my duck Harold and my white cat Cotton who were there.  And that's all I had time to say.

Three minutes was probably what we had together.  She nuzzled lovingly into my sweater, moving her head back and forth to get the best feel of her head nestled into my person.  Her breathing was quicker but certainly not gasping, and it never quickened or got worse than that.

What changed is that all of a sudden she seemed to have more life within her -- and she wanted even more of me.  She began to savor me like never before, and although I was on my knees, hugging her head, she managed to leap up to tuck her head beneath my chin, her soft fur pressing into my neck.

The front half of her was jumping into my person, and I held on tight and loved her and told her how much.  This hug from Macy had the vigor of a passionate last embrace, as if a train were pulling out of the station and it was time for her to go.  That's when I exclaimed, amid tears, "Oh, Michael, it will be very soon!"

And, within probably only a few seconds of my outcry, her death began.  And I held her, and I felt it as death happened.  As I escorted Macy to board that train, I peeked into the cabin.  And I glimpsed a secret.

Here's what I can say.

Death is not the gradual disintegration of the body and the final failing of organs.  Rather, death is the final integration of the body, the last and mighty Event that her body was called to do, its last concerted and united effort of all the parts of her body, an encore to the orchestra which was her life.

I feel now that the time was chosen by her.  The invitation and call was made by God alone, but her response to Him--the giving up and offering up of her life, if you will--was hers alone.

It looked as if she was having a swooning orgasm, and it was most definitely not a seizure; because, unlike a seizure, this was a smooth, peaceful, and joyful moment where Heaven touches earth.  Having witnessed this, I better understand why the Church tells us that the martial embrace is meant to be a foretaste of Heaven on earth and why the saints have orgasmic-looking ecstasies when they glimpse God.  It is, you see, all part of the same experience.  All are a glimpse of the same Vision.

All of her body participated in this event, right down to her precious tail, which lifted into the air with happy surprise.  I felt her body surrender her life, and the release was joyful and seemed to happen from her head.  Death lasted only a few seconds, with no particular sound to mark the moment, although I knew precisely when she was gone.  It was, indeed, a joyful leap of faith.  My dog had done it!  All I kept exclaiming amid my downpour of tears was, "Oh, she did it!  My Macy, she did it!"

And she had.  She had lived well.  And she had died more than just peacefully; she had died joyfully.  She died with all of us here and, most especially, she had died naturally in my arms.  This is just how she and I wanted it.

Several days ago, when my friend Britta asked me if I had a gut feeling of how long Macy would be with us, I told her that I felt in my heart she would leave us on Saturday night.  The fact that I could feel and say this with such certainty (and then see it unfold) is a testament to how emotionally connected I was to my precious dog.  Our bond is rock-solid tight, and not even death can loosen that.

So does God permit animals into Heaven?  He is God, and He can do anything that He'd like.  And because God is Father of us all, and He desires Heaven to be for us our very greatest joy with Him, who is to say that He wouldn't want to delight all of our hearts with the surprise of our dear pets in Heaven?  His love for us abounds.  He will move mountains to bring us into His love and His light.

After all, it was not the animals who disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden.  It was the humans.  We humans are in need of a Savior to redeem us from our sins and grant us entrance into Heaven.  But, a precious innocent like Macy has never betrayed Him.  She is the most loyal devotee, always desiring to please and do good for her master, a lesson that we can all learn from.

Tonight, as we drove back from the Pet Emergency Center (who will be handling the cremation of Macy's remains, since burying a dog of this size in our backyard is not legal), Michael told me that I had done well.  He said that not only had I saved Macy's life by rescuing her from the puppy mill in which she was a breeding dog, but I had also given her the dignity of a natural, peaceful, and dignified death at home, held in my arms. 

God be praised for the gift of Macy's life and all the beautiful lessons she has taught us about life, death, joy, trust, devotion, and God's abundant generosity.  Those 4 years and 10 days with her were a treasure.

*        *        *

Macy's last moments with me reminded me of our very first.  Just as she jumped into my arms one final time before leaving us tonight, she had jumped into my arms the first moment she ever saw me.

When I walked into that smelly, dirty shed in which she was a breeding dog for 6.5 years, I can remember how she rushed over to me, and--although she had never before seen me in her life--leaped up to place her front paws on both of my shoulders, as if she knew her human mother had finally arrived.

It was an incredible first encounter and a just-as-incredible last.

Liam cried hard tonight when he saw me sobbing over Macy, and he waved good-bye to her with his little hand.  Tonight I received from Liam some of the tightest, most tender hugs, and, oh, how I needed them.  Michael gave me lots, too.

Thank you, readers, for your prayers for our girl.  May God bless and keep Macy.  And, oh, how I look forward to our reunion some day in Heaven!