Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Of Rubber Duckies and Passing On

This past weekend was, in a word, surreal. Joe's birthday was Sunday, so we opted to take the weekend easy and just have some fun. No house work, no worries. And at first, it went just as planned, with stops at our local comic book shops to celebrate Free Comic Book Day and a trip to the park downtown for the annual Rubber Duck Derby. There's something ludicrously silly and fun about watching thousands of rubber ducks popping over the waterfalls and racing down the river towards the finish line.

We came home and I absconded to finish painting his birthday gift as we waited for friends to come over for a pre-birthday hangout with fire and s'mores.

As the night went on, I noticed stress and worry on my brother's face. He's not prone to either the way that I am, so I asked what was wrong and he said their (his and his girlfriend's) bunny had been acting oddly, not eating as much as usual and being a bit lazy. I assumed the heat was probably just getting to her but figured I'd give her some feel better petting. However, upon touching her I had the overwhelming feeling that she was dying. Not wanting to worry my brother, and having no explanation for my feeling other then I just felt it, I gave him the name of my vet and told him to take her in the morning.

Not the bunny in this story. This is one of our wild rabbits who I call 'The Strawberry Thief'.

They took her in, my brother went to work, telling me they needed to take her back for blood work in the morning. With that I put all thoughts of the previous night out of my head and Joe and I spent the afternoon lazing about playing video games, which is all he wanted for his birthday. No more then an hour and a half later, my brother's girlfriend rushed out of their room, panicked and hysterical, cradling the bunny who was wide eyed and shaking. I took the bunny from her and told her to get her things, I'd rush them to the vet. However, as I held the bunny I felt a tug on my guts and a sort of shift in the air and knew she had passed. I hadn't felt her stop breathing, but when I put my hand to her ribs, felt her heart had stopped. I layed her down on her blanket, petted her head and wished her a safe, peaceful journey to the Otherworld. My brother and his girlfriend opted not to bury her in our yard, as the clay soil gets too hard for us to dig without an auger past a level of about 1.5 feet and something, I suspect a fox, has dug up the baby bunny I found under the hazelnut tree and buried on May Day.

This is the first time I've held a dying animal fully in my arms. I've held the paws and kissed the heads of many of my beloved pets as they've passed over in the vet's office over the years, but I was loaded up with grief and never experienced the feeling of passing. Not the physical feelings per say, but the indescribable feeling of knowing without knowing. It was a strange feeling, not uncomfortable but not like anything I've experienced before. I've been coming across the dead more often recently, it was only a matter of time before I would come into contact with the dying. However, it effected me more strongly then I anticipated and I spent a good portion of the night in thought or in tears. I think I owe my husband another special day, for being awesome, comforting me and not once being at all annoyed that I was like this on his birthday.

An odd, full circle sort of weekend. A celebration of birth and the passage into death. Have you held an animal as it crossed over before? How did it effect you the first time? Do any of you walk a path where the dead and dying are very much a part of it and if so, would you care to share a bit about it?


  1. Oh Danni, this post started off with such fun (I love rubber ducky races!) but then turned so, so sad. Your words were very touching and while you may have been describing a sad experience it also sounded very beautiful in a way. Does that make any sense? Anyhow, I'm so sorry for you all and my heart goes out to you.

    Roisin x

  2. Oh, this is so sad. :( I am so attached to my cat who is now 19 and I am not looking forward to her passing. I do hope I am able to hold her when it is time, but gosh I can't begin to imagine how tough that will be for me. From the sounds of your post, it sounds like you were supposed to be there for this little bunny in the end. It sounds like your brother's girlfriend was panicked (and with good reason). I think your calmness and your acknowledgment of what was happening was exactly what the bunny needed to move on peacefully. Still, a very tough loss for all you. Hugs to all.

  3. Oh Danni, first off, the rubber ducks racing along the water are too adorable! Had me chuckling. But the read your description of feeling and thought brings a bittersweet tug in my heart. The loss of life, the willingness to let go, the ability to feel the calmness of a soul in the first phase of crossing over. I think one gets a truer picture of life and death through animals. They are not busy worrying or being afraid. They accept "what is" in any given moment. I think you have a beautiful gift that you are just really becoming aware of and it seems to be escalating. I wish so badly I had the ability to help you in some way, but I don't. The only thing I can say is you are blessed and you are a blessing. May your journey lead you into wisdom. --Mina

  4. The rubber duckie derby sounds like a riot!

    I'm so sorry that your brother & his gf's bunny passed. Having a pet die is one of the hardest things ever... It will sound strange as I say this, but I am glad you were able to hold the bunny as she passed. I know you were able to give her a measure of comfort they would not have been able to.

    I had my cat, Kyo, have to be put down at the vet a few years ago. I wasn't able to hold him in my arms, but he sat calmly on the table, wrapped in my & Britt's arms. I felt it when his heart stopped. I though mine had stopped too, and at that time, was wishing it would have.

    I've cared for many a dying kitten at our old place, and then buried them once they had passed. To be able to care for the dying & the dead with dignity & calm is a gift and, I feel, one of the greatest honors.

    I know I've mentioned this before, but I feel drawn to work with both the dying & the dead, which is where my desire to be a hospice RN comes from, as well as my desire to be a death midwife.

    Showing care to the dying & dead is one of the final acts of love we can perform for others. It is a time when we can give comfort and peace. I can be heart breaking, but strangely rewarding as well.

    Give my love to your brother & his gf, and of course to you & Joe.


  5. Here's some links for death midwifery...

    Also, don't feel like an asshat... ^-^
    Some people may not understand why you're not in hysterics too, but everyone grieves differently. Being able to maintain calm in the face of sadness & grief is ok & good. Like you said, it's nice to have at least one person whose head is screwed on straight! ^-^

    About the Guinness... I figure that if I can learn to like the uber stout that Britt got, I'll be able to drink anything... lmao...



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