Adventures in Dying
Dying-a fact of our farm existence. A fact of life, actually. A Buddhist discussion came across my browsing yesterday, and while I do not pretend to be a student of Buddhism, this teaching was pretty straightforward. To truly live, we must really contemplate death. I tried it out, telling a few trusted people-- hey, you know, we're all dying. They thought me morbid. But truly, in this teaching, the idea is to really let death sink in. What are we reaching, striving, hoping, fantasizing, creating? How important do we imagine our things, our legacy, our ideas? What truly will we take with us other than our karmic balance? I believe the teaching is pushing us to wake everyday and strip it to the bare bones. I think it is challenging us to walk in love, breathe in peace, and exhale oneness. It is pushing us to take a step back, imagining this as our last day and asking us, what is important? why are we here? who are you?
So meet our little teacher, Tiger. As alluded, the farm is full of death and also bursting with life. It is full of its cycles of renewal and decay, bursting and withering. The girls are used to this. The tragedy never escapes them. We do our best to live lightly, taking only what we perceive is needed. The tragedy is beautiful in that each time we are reminded that we still feel empathy and that the suffering of other beings, be it this tiny teacher, or be it a mighty oak, hurts us all.
We are slow learners. Maybe we are fast learners actually, but since we learn primarily by doing and not by books or being told, we have to experience a lot of mishaps. Its the hard way, but it is the way of us. We noticed Tiger was seeming tired. We are new to pigs. We observed. Then we noticed he wasn't nursing much. We tried to get him to nurse, but Momma refused. So we brought him in, got him some goat's milk and gave him a bottle. He ate it right up. We thought this a good sign and planned on watching him recover into being our cutie "pet" pig.
When it became clear that he wasn't well enough to be in the barn, we took turns sleeping with him fireside. On the cement floor-- emphasizing that we really gave this our best go! Like an infant, he awoke throughout the night for food or just for attention. We were tired. After a few days, he wasn't improving much. I tried to listen more closely. I heard a thumping. A little wheezing. Enough info to ask Google some questions. The answers were not good. Pneumonia. We called the vet, knowing that we were fighting an uphill battle.
The nearest vet who would see him was an hour and a half. By the time we got there his fever had spiked and the vet tried to be straightforward without being negative. We took our antibiotics, our baby, and prayed. He hung on a few more days. He never wanted to be out of our arms. The girls were having some Kindle time while holding him. I began having a feeling and I snagged him and began rocking him by the fire. I began to have my senses clear and I told the girls that I was having a feeling that it was almost time to say goodbye.
He began to gasp, and the girls and I laid hands on him, praying for his easy passage, as we sent him our love and goodbye. It was a new experience for us, being midwife to this slow death. This is the kind of death that leaves us broken, but whole all at once-- the kind of death that calls to our humanity and our care rather than to our adrenalin, our vengeance, or our shocked grief.
We can spend our lives collecting, searching, making, brooding. We can spend our lives wishing, waiting, hoping, hurting. Or we can spend our lives being, Being. In each moment, letting it wash us over and lead us to be more deeply present. Your teacher is inside, but sometimes there is a being outside of us who is a good match to reflect to us just exactly what we need in the moment. Thank you Tiger for being such a Love, such a Teacher.