To God, Not Goodbye - Adieu Barrington
Where to begin when speaking of endings? Where do I find the words to adequately express the impact of Barrington’s passing? Where do I pull the courage to feel it all? Where do I find the strength to work through the grief that clings to each heartbeat and every breath?
We knew that Barrington, our little buddy, our rescue Frenchie who had been with us for just over 4 years, was going to be leaving us. We found a tumor 10 months prior. But knowing someone you love will pass - and experiencing it - are worlds apart, especially when you are called to make the right decision at the right time. When the time comes for that unavoidable decision, it is still sudden and jarring.
The decision was ultimately his. His fate was not in our hands. Our role was to provide him with a safe and comfortable home, nurturing, caring and happiness. To give him a good life. To love him. And we did. We loved - and love - him so much.
Barrington made us a family the moment he entered our lives. Without planning it, we adopted him on the same day as our first date anniversary, two years into our relationship.
“Happiness looks good on you, Sis!”, was the comment from my sister Bianca when we sent the first pics of our new little family. Big smiles all around.
Right now Facebook keeps serving up those daily ‘memories’ and it feels like they’ve all been from this time four years ago when we first adopted him, probably because I was posting at least one image a day! But how could I not? He had the best head a Frenchie could ever have. And those eyes - goofy, expressive, inviting. We were so happy to have him in our lives. He brought so much joy. Pure joy.
Despite the first six years of his life as a caged breeding dog who was left behind by his owners, a terror of stick-objects like brooms, and dog aggression due to lack of socialization and other bad experiences, he was a happy, loving, and ultimately trusting Soul. He immediately melted into our lives and into our hearts.
No matter all the wrongs that others had done to him, he never assigned any of that blame to us. We were a clean slate. No baggage. No projection. Just love (and some separation anxiety). He didn’t want to lose us, and we always wanted him to know we’d never leave him.
And we didn’t.
Until his last breath we were with him. I never took my eyes off of his. Andrew held him and stroked his body, and I held his face in my hands, telling him how much I loved him, how grateful I was for his presence in our lives, and promising that I’d see him again. My eyes locked into his until he fell asleep.
I’ve never experienced anything like that moment. I thought I would implode when the doctor said, “he’s gone”. I doubled over as a sharp pain struck my stomach, cutting me open. But he’s there, sleeping … he’s not gone. He can’t be gone.
We may not get to stay in this physical form, but there’s no way that this is all there is. There’s no way that we are just flesh and blood. We are Spirit. We are energy. We are Souls. And Barrington’s Soul is back in the realm of perfection. Perfect health. Perfect joy. Perfect love.
I know I wasn’t always perfect with him. The imperfection of being human is our common condition. We do our best. Even though it doesn’t feel like our best is good enough when it comes to these four-legged angels who love us so easily and deeply.
It’s hard to adequately describe what it means to be unconditionally loved by anyone. But our fur babies do. These beings who rely entirely on you, trust you, and will never judge you. They are the embodiment of love and living in the now.
Dog owners know this. It’s unsurprising that many feel it’s harder to lose pets than people. Our pets are family members. Fur babies. Best friends. Soul mates. Barrington was all this and more. I called him Andrew’s spirit animal and my ‘little protector’. They are soul twins. Both my guardian angels in their own unique ways. Now, Barrington watches over me from a different place. A place I can feel, though I cannot see or touch it. I trust. I know.
Barrington was loved by everyone who met him. He left his mark on their souls. He was a special angel who graced us with his love for four years. I’ll always carry him in my heart.
Barrington taught me to meditate. When I first began my meditation practice 3 years ago, he was with me. We did this off and on for a bit before really anchoring into a daily practice when we moved into our home in August 2015. This house gave us a real home base, a back yard, and a routine. I’ve never had a morning practice without him. He was also the original inspiration for this blog (sort of). When I was in a dark place after leaving my old role and wondering what I would do with myself, I thought maybe I could make him into an Instagram brand! He hated getting his picture taken, though, most often turning away at just the right moment.
He did like watching sunsets. And flowers. And hiking. And his daily walks around the neighborhood so he could monitor all activity. He hunted flies and crickets, and even caught a mantis once. He knew the postman and all the construction workers and contractors, and they all knew him. He would sleep through anything including heavy concrete drilling but would always notice the mail being dropped off. He loved sleeping as much as he loved eating.
We were vigilant of his condition, watching daily as his tumor grew despite our best efforts. Andrew and I agreed that we would not allow him to suffer. His appetite was not the right, nor the only, signal.
We knew when he was ready to go. In his way, he let us know. We instinctively, immediately, and simultaneously knew. It’s not something that can be described. In a subtle yet completely clear way, he told us he was ready to be off-duty, to take his final rest and his final leave. He brought us this far, and he was confident that we’d be ok.
Those are special moments that I’ll treasure - the level of communication and understanding and knowing for those last days and hours between us are unforgettable and indescribable. And will forever remain between us, only.
There are many moments when I want to take it back. When I think back, when I recall and rehash everything I could have done differently. What more could I have done to save him, to keep him with me, to keep him alive? What more could I have done to stop a relentless disease that was, in the end, more resilient than his body? Is it my fault because I failed?
I lost. He lost. I lost him.
Would anything that we could have done differently - faster, better, etc. have changed the outcome? I don’t know, and I can’t know. But the thoughts are there, often haunting me, as thoughts like this tend to do.
I know well enough by now that thoughts are transitory. They contain information and trigger emotion. It’s my choice what to do with thoughts, especially those that contain anger, resentment, guilt, blame, shame and judgement. I can dwell on the thoughts and be brought down by them as if in a vortex. Or, I can let the thoughts arise, fully feel the emotions, give them time and space, and let them shift.
Neither is easy because mourning and grief are devastating to feel, but one road leads to resolution and clarity, and the other keeps me stuck in a negative loop. Neither is the resolution that my mind wants because, irrationally, I want him back with me - healthy, happy, and whole.
In January of this year, we found a small growth in Barrington’s right cheek. First we thought it was a bug bite, then we thought it was benign swelling. It was a tumor.
We put him on an anti-cancer diet. No more kibble. No carbs. Cancer thrives on sugars and carbohydrates and converted to digestible sugars. He only got fresh meat and veggies that I cooked and prepared for him every day. We supplemented with CBD oil, NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine), and when we needed to, with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication. I did so much research on cancer, especially using food and alternative treatments. We were going to beat it. If I could beat Crohn’s Disease, I could beat this. F*ck cancer.
By the end of February it had gotten so big that we opted for surgery at the suggestion of one vet. The tumor was aggressive, and grew back. We researched more options. Most were grossly invasive and dangerous. In May we found a type of radiation treatment called stereotactic that is very targeted and suitable for tumors around the face and head. Stereotactic is relatively new for animal cancer treatment though it has been used for a while to treat human tumors in delicate areas like brain and spine. On May 29th, he received his last treatment and certificate of completion from the veterinary cancer group.
We were all expecting to see the tumor shrink. It stalled for a few weeks, and then began to grow again. But after radiation, which wasn’t supposed to affect any other part of his body (and it probably didn’t) he suddenly lost a lot of weight. I couldn’t get him to bulk back up. And giving him carbs was not the answer. His body was fighting the cancer, dealing with daily doses of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory steroids. But it got so big, so fast, that it wrapped around all his facial and optical nerves. Any further attempts to remove it would require facial reconstruction surgery and come at a very high risk to Barrington. These were risks and procedures we didn’t feel comfortable taking given how awful it was for him after his first surgery.
No amount of western medicine, food-based healing, energy healing or prayers could stop the inevitable course of his fate. Our priority was on his quality of life. Rationally, Andrew and I knew that we had done what we could do, and that we only had a short time with him. Suffering was not an option and we were as vigilant as we were loving.
It seems unfair. The tumor was not metastasizing; it was low-grade and it wasn’t in his blood stream or organs. It was only on his face. He was otherwise normal Barrington - a professional cuddler, thunder-jumping, toy-burying, playful, always hungry, always finding the sunny spots in the house to nap in, always making sure I was in his line of sight, always by my side as I went about my day. He would meditate with me every morning, and fall asleep with Andrew on the couch every night. He had his routine, and he never strayed from it. He loved his home, his backyard, his habits, and his life with us. We were his forever family.
He was in high spirits and stayed that way throughout the Summer and well into the Fall. We watched a stunning, magical sunset together on November 1st. Deep, penetrating shades of reds, purple and pink from the ocean up and across the sky. Eleven days later, on November 12th, his Soul went to the source of those colors. To the horizon.
to god, my angel
He was ready. We were not. You’re never ready to say goodbye. I wasn’t ready to be left behind with this grief and only memories now in the places and spaces Barrington once filled with life, joy, passion, intensity, enthusiasm and his presence of unconditional love.
We don’t have the right word in the English language for the final parting of ways. But it’s also not final. It is only a temporary separation till we meet again in a different place. A different space. A different time beyond time. The word does exist in other languages. In Italian, Addio. In Spanish, Adios. In French, Adieu. The final farewell. Adieu, which means, ‘to God’.
To God. Not goodbye.
Because I will see him again. I keep my promises. Angels and Souls are forever. Time is not on our side. We get segments of time with different Souls. We have our moments together. Some are longer than others. Each moment is meant to be treasured.
May I remember, in the seat of my heart, to be as present and as loving as Barrington. May he always live in my heart, protecting me, guarding me and guiding me on this journey. May I find within myself the joy, the playfulness, the intense presence, and the easeful happiness that he embodied every single day. And May I embody it with the same light that he did.