BOUNCING INTO INFINITY
In part one, I shared some experiences I had with my old canine pal, Zak, who was getting ready to leave his body. Shortly before that issue was posted, Zak did indeed transition. A number of events dovetailed at that time, and Zak's death highlighted for me the power and value of interconnectedness. Here, then, is 'Part Two' of Zak's tale; a story of unexpected and heartfelt connections:
In his final days, Zak didn't move around much, though he did have a healthy appetite. Every morning and evening, I would bring him his usual orange feeding bowl with a helping of kibble, rice and salmon. I added warm water to make a gravy, and Zak always began by lapping this up and then slowly chewing the softened food.
Zak continued to tell me that he didn't want any help with leaving his body, and he made it clear that this type of exit was his choosing. This was typical Zak: very much a dog of his own agenda.
Two days before his death, while feeding him, I casually mentioned not eating is often a sign an animal is ready to go. The thought occurred to me mostly as a confirmation that Zak was not yet ready to go. But Zak seemed surprised by what I said—something which rarely happens! "Really? That's how it's done?" he asked. More than a little surprised myself by his not knowing this, I commented, "Well, yes, I think when most animals are ready to go they just stop eating." The following morning, Zak stopped eating.
I was with him much of the day. Such an interesting journey it was! For many weeks Zak had been both in and out of his body (energetically speaking), but now he was so much further out—as if just a few fragile strands of life-connection remained. I felt Zak's physical being was on auto-pilot, his body lethargic, his breathing steady but laboured. When I rested my hand on his side, it felt as if he was climbing a steep hill. Near late afternoon his body was tense and hard, and he seemed to be traveling back and forth between worlds or dimensions. My daughter Alyeska and I sat with him for awhile, saying our goodbyes, giving him kisses on the nose, gently stroking his head and body. My husband Bob came out and spent time with him too.
Before we took a break for dinner, I typed out a message to a few of the Animal Communication groups I am part of online. It was a request for Reiki or other healing energies to help Zak with his transition.
About an hour later, Zak was ready to go. We were all there, gathered around him. His breathing shifted from its steady pace, and he began taking shallow gulps of air every 10 seconds or so and then: he just sailed away. Bye, bye Zak!
We all had a feeling of lightening… not only for Zak, but for all our worry and concern about him, too. It was definitely time for him to be relieved of his body.
I sat for a few minutes and closed my eyes, feeling the connection to Zak's passing. "Free at last, my pal," I whispered. And, ever humorous, insightful, wise being that he is, Zak quipped back: "I was always free."
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The following morning I began to read all the emails that wished Zak a peaceful transition and offered healing energies to our family. I was so touched by the heartfelt wishes from family and friends, as well as from people I had never met in person; all sharing their deeper thoughts, stories of their own animal passings, beautiful poems and sentiments. I particularly enjoyed one from my nephew Franz: I am sorry about your dog Zak. Well, he was pretty old and he has to go to dog heaven, where he will be joining his "brother" and long-time friend Barney. I will always miss you and think of you, Zak. You are a good dog. Peace and quiet in your mind as you join your friends in dog heaven. I will be watching you in the sky! God bless you, Zak! I love you and miss ya!
After some coffee and breakfast, my husband and I began to talk about what to do with Zak's body. When our old dog Barney died, it was summer, not so difficult to dig a hole in the back yard for his burial. But it was now a very cold February in Alaska; digging a hole would not be easy. Over the past few months, Bob had mentioned the idea of making a funeral pyre for Zak. In my mind, this seemed to fit Zak, who often talked of ET connections and otherworldly travels. However, it had never felt right to me at a gut level. Alyeska similarly agreed, and when I went to check email again, I got a second note from Franz: Are you going to bury Zak in your backyard next to his brother/long time best friend Barney? I think it is a good idea because both need to rest, sleeping together and talking together and thinking of us as our family!
Thus Bob began the all-day process of digging a hole in the frozen ground. Using a pick-axe, shovel and weed burner, he alternately warmed the ground and, slow inch by inch, carved out a hole next to Barney's grave. Because everything was frozen solid, he shoveled the dirt into buckets, which he then carried into the garage so they wouldn't refreeze. It was clearly a labour of love for Zak, and more besides. Bob had begun crying in short bursts of huge emotional releases. I encouraged him: Get it out, honey; Let it go. We both realized while he was grieving for the loss of Zak, he was also feeling grief for another loss. Bob's mother died when he was 11 years old. Some 30-plus years later, he still held many uncried tears. This, too, reminded me of Zak's doing, who always encouraged facing one's shadow self and clearing old holds.
It took Bob nearly a full day to dig a 3-foot hole in the frozen earth. Luckily (thanks to Zak, said Bob), it was a beautiful day, cold but bright. By dinnertime, the hole was almost ready.
Alyeska, Bob and I had a celebration salmon dinner that night, and shared a toast to Zak. Earlier in the day I had washed his food bowl one last time. It didn't feel right to keep it, nor to give it away. Drying it off, I had the vague idea it would be part of his burial. After eating dinner, I suddenly understood how the bowl was to be used: not to hold food, but to hold well wishes and messages of farewell, including all those sent to us since Zak's departure.
Alyeska and I printed out all of the healing wishes we had received by email. We cut them up, one message each to a skinny strip of paper, and took them upstairs to the dinner table. Then we read each one aloud, curled the paper-wish around a pencil to make a spiral, and dropped it into Zak's bowl. This took some time, and we were all touched by the kind wishes so many people sent our way. We also felt the desire to write our own goodbyes to Zak, which we added to the bowl.
By this time the sky was dark and incredibly clear. There were lots of stars and the moon, almost full, was shining brightly. I marveled how this was a perfect time to bury Zak: how it was almost exactly 24 hours since his passing, and how he would have appreciated a moon-lit burial service.
I noted, too, how this ritual ceremony was unfolding in such a natural, organic manner. I was surprised for a moment that I hadn't spent any time during the day thinking about a ceremony. Rather, the ceremony was creating itself; here we were, flowing from a wide-open sense of spontaneous rhythm, deepening ourselves as part of this creation. We all agreed that everything felt very right.
So, outside we went, bundled up in boots, scarves and winter jackets. Bob carried Zak's body, wrapped in the blanket he had been sleeping on (which, fittingly, was a deep purple color patterned with stars and moons), and placed it in the hole. We scattered all the paper-spiraled wishes on top of Zak's body, and placed the bowl near his head. Bob had put some small pieces of salmon (Zak's favorite dinner) in the bowl, reminding me of the ancient way of sending off food for the recently departed. As Bob shoveled warm dirt on top of Zak, we all let out a long, deep sigh. Yes, it was sad to say goodbye to our good old pal, our wise friend, my co-writer extraordinaire, but it felt so much lighter to know he was out of his creaky, achy body, running wild in the cosmos just like the free spirit he always was and Is.
A day later, Zak had this to say: There is much to be learned by being present, observant and attuned at the final passing, and I am pleased you were all 'present' for me. It was a gift we shared with each other: your presence shepherding my passing, my passing shepherding your deeper awareness. Let us all benefit from such comings and goings. Let us celebrate as we continue the dance of life becoming.
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Originally published in Timeless Spirit Magazine.
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