When the last time comes
Just over 7 weeks ago, we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog, Ziggy. Although she started to become out of sorts and then unwell since the beginning of the year, the ‘quickness’ of her passing was still a shock.
For 6 years, she had been by our side day after day, week after week, enjoying all that life had to offer. Her joy for life will remain with us forever. During her life with us, the possibility of her not being here was unimaginable. But nothing is forever; the ‘good’ or the ‘bad – everything contains impermanence.
Recently, I’ve noticed that in our street of 9 homes, there are 9 individual threads of life unfolding as life ticks on by hospitalisation, a death, a move, a building project, and a holiday. Everyday habits and routines punctured by the ‘unexpected’. With the unexpected sometimes comes that moment of the ‘last time.’ Ziggy went out through our back door one sunny Wednesday morning, full of curiosity and wonderment. Unconfirmed at the time, she was suffering from a fast-growing mass in her abdomen.
Unlike previous times in my life, I like to think I was just a little bit more prepared for this ‘last time’. Before leaving the house, I noticed something was different in her demeanour, still playful – but there was an indescribable look in her eyes. We rested together on our softest blanket as I silently worked with the practice of Tonglen, as I stroked her head. We were communicating for the last time.
But in the spirit of my canine companion, I also want to acknowledge the sheer joys in life and, in particular, the ability of human nature to overcome great sadness and debilitating fears. For example, a client who had struggled for four decades said, “I can’t remember the last time I was hypervigilant or scared of being attacked while outside my house.”
Our world may appear firm and unchanging, but even mountains crumble, seas dry up, stars burn out, and rivers change course. Everything is in a state of flux and will experience a ‘last time’. Our brief lives allow us to be present and ready to bear witness fully to these last moments, should we choose to do so.