09 March 2008

Death and Dying

In one of the powerful exhibitions I helped mount, the artist made a series of pen and ink drawings of a figure in the motion of falling. . . the undulating cycle of birth, death and re-birth. The artworks were arranged in a circular layout (the exhibit panels were adjusted to achieved this) and there were small openings at regular intervals between the panels for viewers to enter the exhibit and view it from the middle part of the room to better appreciate the movement of the falling figure as it moves elegantly from one frame to the next, without a beginning and end. I remembered spending most of my available breaks between my work then just to watch this exhibit which offers a different perspective of life and death.

Such is the magic of true art. The creative genius lies not just in the artist’s expert handling of his medium but also in his imaginative and insightful views, concepts and visions and giving them form that can inspire, provoke, teach, and present varied views of life’s realities and dreams.

I saw death and dying in another perspective in that exhibition.
It helped made me deal with a lot of touching moments with death as I watched loved ones and strangers die either in fear or in loving acceptance. I was with my parents when they died and the experience was not scary at all. I had scary moments with other people who were grasping for life till the very end when I was doing volunteer work for the sick and elderly. The experience both confused and pained me until I was able to resolved and understand the meaning of it all . . .

This week I faced death with my 17 year old dog Pica. An old, feisty, loving and stubborn mongrel bitch and passionate mate to my 8 year-old male hound Sumo and protective mother to her now grown-up hounds Bogart and Sweepy. Pica developed tumors in her mouth and she did not allow anybody but her hounds to touch it. Her vet advised us to isolate her from the other dogs and recommended euthanasia. I was not surprised because I expected her to leave anytime but to put her to sleep when she is still active seemed painful. I discussed this option with the family and her hounds. It was such a painful moment that left me sick and worried for days.

I watched this small fighter of a dog weave her way around our house Heaven proudly refusing to be treated by anyone. She has also stubbornly refused to have anybody clip her nails although she would charmingly lean her head on my lap for her daily grooming with hot water and fur brushing. Suffice it to say that Pica has wormed her way into our life and hearts for the last 17 years and to let her go, to put her “to sleep” painlessly before she can feel actual pain from her wounds seemed the best recourse.

I cried waiting for the veterinarian to perform the procedure in our house. It was more convenient for us to always request for veterinarian home service since we have four dogs. Besides Pica’s mate Sumo started getting sick himself so the veterinarian is urgently needed. It was not easy to schedule the availability of everyone from the family members, the vet, the helpers to help us with the task. But the week when the moon was waning (the last quarter) which is the best period for goodbyes, the whole thing just happened smoothly in a day! Pica even waited bravely at the room at the back of the house, had another snack and refused to talk to her hounds as they whined and called to her.

I left a candle burning at her grave as we prayed. Our funeral ceremony was over in an hour. I huddled my hounds in comfort afterwards. The animals seemed to have a better perception of death than us. They seemed more worried for me and my grief. But I did not held back my tears. Tears help us deal with the pain and release us from our grief. I cried, not just in sadness but also in thankgiving for releasing the brave and loving spirit of our female alpha dog from her old, weak and sick body. I sensed Pica’s spirit fly and join other doggy and human friends and loved ones in the Rainbow Bridge where there are no pain but only pure love.

Meanwhile, I hugged my other playful and loving hounds and focused my attention to Pica's sick mate Sumo and his medications. Sumo is still young and his sadness and pain can be healed. But then again, Sumo may decide to move on and release himself from a lonely existence without his beloved. I have learned to accept this eventuality.

Death indeed is not the end. Rather, it is the way to move on to other beginnings . . .

In Loving Memory: Pica, January 1991 to March 2008