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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

The Hardest Farewell**


Samantha
Copyright © 2007, 2011 by Ralph Couey
*Chicago Tribune
March 26, 2011
as "Loss of a true friend"

*Somerset, PA  Daily American
March 26, 2011
as "Loss of a true friend"

Ten years ago, we said goodbye to Samantha. 
It was a time of great sorrow for us,
as anyone who has ever loved and lost a pet can attest. 
This week, two friends had to say goodbye to their beloved pets,
and in sharing their sorrow, the memories of that day long ago came back. 
This is for all those who have everhad to say that hardest farewell.

The morning was bright and clear, but the sun mocked me as I finished my walk. This was a day heavy with decision; celebration had left for the next county. Opening the door, I heard you struggle to your feet to greet me like you always had. All those years, you met me with shining eyes, a happy tail, and a joyful bark. Now I saw the pain in your eyes as you tried to make arthritic bones obey the commands of your heart.

I took your beautiful head in my hands and buried my face in the softness of your fur. I sensed you contentment, but all last night I had heard whimpers of pain as you tried to sleep.

I took your brush out and one last time you stood patiently while I arranged every hair. At last, I finished my work.  For a moment, you looked as you once did; powerful, graceful, and heart-breakingly beautiful. Then with a quivering sigh your legs settled to the floor and you rested your head on my leg, exhausted by the effort.

I was flooded by sweet memories. Long walks, playing ball in the park, the drives through the country, watching you destroy my leaf piles in the fall while I collapse in helpless laughter. The simple companionship of a long winter’s eve.

It was time.

I carefully picked you up and carried you to the car. You always loved car rides, especially when you saw cows. I remember the surprise of my life when I realized you had learned how to work the electric window and tried to leave the car and go after them.

As we drove along, you looked out the window, your nose telling you a thousand things about the world that I would never know.

In too short a time, we arrived. You hung back a bit, but the Veterinarian had always been your friend and he greeted you warmly.

He gave me a knowing look and briefly, a compassionate squeeze of the shoulder. He put your favorite blanket on the table and I gently laid you there. Working swiftly, he prepared the drugs. Quietly he explained that the first one was a sedative to make you sleep. My heart was full and my hands shook as I held your head and looked into your rheumy and clouded eyes. Without comment, I nod and the Vet carefully administered the sedative. Your eyes became heavy and I said my last goodbyes in a voice that quivered uncontrollably.

For the last time, you slumbered. I knew that finally the often incredible pain you had endured for the last year was ebbing away. With my second nod, the final drug was administered.  I felt your breathing ebb and that magnificent heart of yours beat slowly, and then, no more. I carefully rested your head on your blanket and softly stroked your fur. I left your blanket. It seemed right that you should take it with you.

Driving home, the car was quiet. The markings of your questing nose still smeared the window. I knew it would be a while before I was ready to clean it.

For many years, you gave me your life. Those were joyous moments we had together and your selfless gifts of love and devotion far exceeded what I gave in return.

The house was still. Everywhere I looked were the echoes of your life. 

That night, sleep came hard, but eventually fatigue won and I drifted away and began to dream.

I see a wide, green field before me. In the distance, I see a familiar white shape. It is you. Not the crippled and aged dog I lost today, but young and vibrant; full of life. I watch as you leap and run back and forth, your eyes bright, your spirit joyful. I call to you and you stop and look in my direction, ears and tail up. Once, that summons would have brought you running to me.  You bark, once, twice, and then a heartfelt howl.  I know somehow that you are thanking me. I also know that it is here and now that we must part.  I raise my hand in farewell, and with one more bark, you turn and leap away, bounding through the green grass of a beautiful field on a perfect day.

You are Free.

Someday, my time, too, will come and we will be together again.
Until then, my friend; until then...
Farewell.
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