Nothing can take us to the depths of despair than losing a loved one. It is one of our greatest fears and one that we seem to believe that we can never escape. It is such a complex of hurtful emotions and painful thoughts and it weighs us down until we can hardly function.
As a holist veterinarian for many years, most of the clients that I deal with have a pet that has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. They call me in deep despair, trying to help their pets, and without knowing, help themselves. They are often desperate for me to help their pet heal, while the truth is that it is they who need the healing and not the pets.
Over the many years of conventional practice, I had to euthanize thousands of pets. The one thing that I can absolutely tell you is that not one time, was there a pet in the room that was suffering. The only suffering that I saw was from the caretakers. From the Labrador with his stuffed ducky in his mouth and his tail wagging, to the cat lying on its side, struggling for its breath, there was no despair to be found in the pet.
What is it that is so difficult about our pet dying? It is because we don’t know the truth about death and that causes great fear. Then, we attach a story about the unknown and what the future lies ahead and the story grows and grows, causing great suffering. It is not the dying or death that causes the suffering, but the story that we tell ourselves. This is why the dying pet is incapable of suffering. It has no story of dying or death.
Imagine that you have recently been told that your pet has an incurable disease and that it will die within a few months, irregardless of any treatment. The minute that the diagnosis and prognosis was given to you, you began to create your story about your pet’s impending death based on your knowledge of the conceptual disease and your belief about dying and death. Your belief about death is nothing more than what you have been told and can imagine. There can be no way that YOU can ever know what death is like. So, you cling to your story about it.
Imagine that you have a beautiful 12 year old Golden Retriever that has been limping on its front leg for a few days. You take the fine fellow to the vet and the vet tells you that he has bone cancer and that the cancer is going to kill him. He tells you that you might try this or that, but eventually, he will die from the disease.
From that moment forward, you no longer see him the same. Every time you look at him, your mind reminds you that he has cancer and that he will be dead soon. It is like you have put on some weird glasses that make you see him as a dog with cancer instead of the dog that you believed that you loved unconditionally. Can you see that the only thing that has changed is the story that you have created about your pet’s illness. As long as you carry the story in your head, you will no longer see your dog in its truest self.
Even if you try not to think about it, and you manage to temporarily push the story and feelings down, in just a short time, it will re-emerge, gain strength and cause you great suffering and rob you your quality time that you have left with him.
So, what can we do to break this horrible story telling and suffering? We can be like our pet. We can learn to love unconditionally. How do we do that? By not having a story. We do this not by ignoring or pushing it down, but by witnessing it full on. By being courageous enough to be with it and all its pain. It will be painful but it is the only way that we can get to the truth; that it is nothing more than a story. This is called transcendence, or awareness of the truth. It is like walking through a fire, feeling the pain and once you are on the other side, knowing that there was no fire at all.
The reason we are not willing to do this is because we don’t have an experience of transcending the story about dying. The thinking mind doesn’t and cannot tell you the truth as it is beyond its ability. Besides, it is the thinking mind that created the story and why in the world would we turn to it for an answer?
We can, however, use the thinking mind to point us towards the truth and once it has taken us as far as it can, we surrender, let go and have faith that the truth will reveal itself. Sorry, but that is the only way that it can happen.
Many of us have a misconception about healing. Caretakers come to me wanting me to heal their pet. I tell them their pet doesn’t need healing. They are the ones who need the healing. Pets don’t need to be healed because they are already healed. That is why they wag their tales while they are dying. They can’t do anything else. And, if they had one last desire, it would be that you would use this experience to heal yourself and learn to love unconditionally.
Healing is awareness of the Truth. Please do not ever forget this. Once you are truly healed, the body, the mind, your life can do as it pleases and you will still love life unconditionally. The healing begins by looking at the story with all the attention and focus you have and in time, the stained glass that keeps you from the awareness of the truth will fracture and come falling down into pieces and then you will know the truth. Then, you can love your pet, other loved ones and yourself unconditionally during the dying part of life.