We are giving away a copy of Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet, by Gary Kowalski. Check out this excerpt on bidding farewell to a beloved pet, and then leave a comment for a chance to win your own copy of this book!
One Family’s Ritual of Leave-Taking
An Excerpt from Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet, by Gary Kowalski
Although we didn’t plan a formal ceremony [for our fatally ill dog Lady], my wife, Meredith, our son, Mark, and two close friends, Jeremy and Helena, gathered with me on a sunny hillside less than fifty feet from the open grave we had dug earlier. Together we created a memorial service that embraced the following four elements:
1. Honoring the life lived. As we sat on the ground, I held Lady so her head rested gently in my lap. With everyone taking turns stroking her, we reminisced about the times we shared with her. With tears flowing freely down my cheeks, I recalled Lady’s frequent nuzzling of my hand and the little four-footed dance she always did with a few barks thrown in whenever she wanted to play her retrieval game. Meredith recalled the proud way that Lady took a territorial stand accompanied by constant barking every time a strange dog so much as dared venture onto our property. Even the stories about her occasional digging in our flower gardens brought back fond memories.
2. Giving reassurance. We had no doubt that Lady knew her time in this physical world was drawing to a close. She gave me one long last look with those soft brown eyes, as if to say, “It’s okay. I’m ready. I’m not afraid. And thanks for being with me before I go back home.” In seeking to reassure her, we found ourselves being the ones reassured. Being present when euthanasia is chosen by an animal’s caretaker is absolutely an act of kindness as well as balm for lessening one’s own grief and suffering.
3. Releasing to the oneness of life. As Mark and I carried her quiet limp body and placed it lovingly into the earth, we felt a gentle lifting of our spirits, as though God were more present than usual. The energy in the air was palpable, and we knew deep inside that all would be well. In those few moments of committing a loved one’s body back to Mother Earth, we realized how precious life really is and that we are all inextricably connected to one another and to the Creator.
4. Remembering with love. Our animal friends are great teachers. They participate easily in the flow of life and surely accept death with greater courage than most humans do. As we reflected on this experience of life, death, ó and, we believe, rebirth ó we felt richly blessed and filled with a deep sense of community. Lady’s spirit was tangibly present. It was as though we would feel her laughing again, freed from a worn-out body and forever the playful retriever.
The Reverend Gary Kowalski is the author of bestselling books on animals, spirituality, and nature. His first book, The Souls of Animals, which explores other speciesí capacities for love, creativity, and self-awareness, has been translated into Chinese, Czech, German, French, and Spanish and has sold over 80,000 copies worldwide. His second book, Goodbye, Friend, was featured by both One Spirit and the Quality Paperback Book Clubs and remains a valued resource for those grieving their animal companions.
Excerpted from the book Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet © 2012 by Gary Kowalski. Printed with permission from New World Library.
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