Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When Death Comes

We are approaching 9 months now since I held my sweet Ahnung in my arms as she transitioned to the spirit world. This journey began in July, 2011 when I first heard the words after Ahnung’s first surgery to remove a lump in her mammary chain … ‘I’m sorry. It’s malignant. She has cancer.” Her diagnosis came just 2 months after I learned I had a serious, and rare, heart condition … a diagnosis of left ventricular non compaction – a condition that would lead to heart failure. I asked my cardiologist when I was laying in my hospital bed at Abbott in May, 2011 how much time I had before the symptoms would start showing …  because of how rare the disease is and not much is known, I distinctly remember him saying … “it could be 1 year, 2 years … 10 years …” Funny isn’t it, how we can live our lives thinking we have all the time in the world, and then one day, it all just changes and that long road we thought we had, is abruptly shortened. 2011 was a year filled with so many new discoveries, and beginnings. It was the beginning of new paths for both Ahnung and I as we learned to walk with a new realization that our time was limited; it was the beginning of Leech Lake Legacy, a non-profit I co-founded to provide education and resources for the animals and pet-owners of Leech Lake Reservation.
Ahnung - July, 2011 up at Red Lake
So with Ahnung (a Red Lake Reservation dog) by my side we put our heart and our soul into the work of Leech Lake Legacy. She came with me to every spay/neuter and wellness clinic from the very first clinic in March, 2012 .. up until August, 2013 just 10 days before she crossed over to the spirit world. I just returned from a spay/neuter and wellness clinic up at Leech Lake … it’s the 2nd clinic without Ahnung by my side, but her spirit and her presence continue to be there with us.

In 2011, we were both given a new path to walk. I can’t say it was a path I would’ve chosen, but it was a path we were given. Ahnung came into my life at the end of 2008 for a reason. Her 5 years with me were to guide me and prepare me so I could continue her work …. There is a Way about Ahnung; there is a spirit, a wisdom, an essence about her that touches souls, lifts spirits and defies words.

And when Death came knocking on our doors, Ahnung taught me so much … and this morning there was an On Being blog post  that reminded me of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems .. a poem that Ahnung and I began to live and walk, side by side, in 2011. I may not have her physically by my side, but Ahnung is in me, and she will forever be my guiding star for as long as I am meant to walk this earth. And when the time comes for me to join her in the spirit world, my wish is that I too will have touched the heart of someone to continue the work we have begun.

When Death Comes
By Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited the world.

Ahnung at the Leech Lake Legacy August, 2013 Clinic
... this was just 10 days before she crossed over into the spirit world

A video I created in honor of Ahnung for our Final Walk.
This video was created in January, 2013 after our decision to stop chemo.
Ahnung gifted me with 8 more beautiful months.