On Time and Being

The Next Family

By: Sheana Ochoa

Yesterday I had to put my dog down. I wrote about Chloe in an earlier blog, how she’d been my constant companion for the last 12 plus years. How she was always there for me, through all my relationships and their break-ups, my achievements, the conception, pregnancy, and birth of my son, and my chronic illness that developed when she was five years old. She had cancer near her cervical spine, a spot precariously close to her brain. The day after I took her to the vet she declined quickly, couldn’t stand or lie down without pain, dragging her feet when she walked. And so when the diagnosis came in two days later, I spent that night lying by her and saying goodbye because I knew I wasn’t going to let her suffer.

I’ve had to make two very difficult decisions in my life: the first was to stop breastfeeding my son after a month because I had become bedridden. The other was euthanizing my best friend. I held her as the vet injected an overdose of anesthesia. Before he came in I repeated the serenity prayer so that I knew it was god’s will and not my will to put her down. I didn’t want it to be because I was thinking thoughts like: “Am I doing this because I’m not strong enough to watch her suffer?” or “I can’t afford the treatment.” I wanted to make sure there was no selfish motive behind my decision because if there’s anything a pet will teach you, it’s to be selfless. So, I prayed like a mantra and it calmed me down. I was able to ask the vet to come in and administer the overdose. I was able to hold her in my lap and tell her I loved her and thank you, thank you, thank you until she drifted away. When she was gone, time stopped. That was yesterday and time has not resumed, sometimes it moves in slow motion the way it feels being in a car accident, but mostly it’s just ceased. Chloe’s gone.

I know the worst thing that can happen to a person is to lose their child. I imagine when a mother or father loses his child, time stops. Time, a man-made construct, has no meaning in death. It isn’t because time has stopped for the dying. It is because the illusion of time suddenly kicks in. Nothing matters but the present, each second is the same, not a movement forward, just another space.

Living without time is raw and very real. The rub about living in the now is you can easily lose perspective of the world in which everyone else operates. Most people regret or dwell in the past or perseverate and fantasize about the future. In this world, in this country, you have to accept time so you can manage it, get the work done that you need to accomplish your goals, set aside time for yourself, set aside time for your friends, your children, and your dog. You can’t ignore that even though it is an illusion, time moves and we grow old and we run out of it. But the truth is, if you live in the present, you cherish more the moment at hand. I haven’t stopped crying since my dog passed. It wells up and I’m grieving and because I have no sense of time, I don’t try to suck it up or otherwise control what I’m feeling. I just am. I just am.

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