Are You Willing to Learn Endings?
On June 12 Orion let me know he was entering his dying time. It came as a dawning awareness throughout the day. In my earlier post, I described an emergency health issue that he’d had earlier that April. After that, something kept saying to me, time is of the essence. Savour everything. It wasn’t a worry or fear … rather it was a knowing felt in my heart and gut. Still and true.
I was away the weekend before he entered his dying time and upon my return that Monday, that knowing sense was speaking louder. There wasn’t any trauma or red flags. Physically, he didn’t change in any obvious way – the only outward signs were that his head was staying low (not easy to see as they graze this time of year) and that his gate was slightly slower and a mildly unsteady walk.
The herd and I entered into a truly sacred time and sacred teaching. I had no idea how deep Orion would take us, and, to this day, I am still coming to the depth with patience. On many occasion it seems too much, I retreat a little, and then, with tenderness and courage, another layer is revealed.
Dying is what you do. It’s not something that happens to you. It’s something that is entrusted to you. What shall you do with this garden that has been entrusted to you? The question is not what dying does to you. It’s what dying asks of you. And, it’s not about endurance, it’s not a trauma. Dying asks of you the willingness to learn endings. You had a chance in the fullness of your days to practice. How do you do this? You don’t cheerlead your way out of it. It’s something learned and befriended. Dying is the fullest incarnation of everything you’ve learned. Dying Wise is the last gift you have to render to those you love.
On June 21, the summer solstice, I woke up and looked out to see Orion standing in the field, alone, with a ring of sunshine around him breaking through from the cloudy sky. He was standing alert, his head up, looking off to the east, the direction of Spirit. As I dressed, I wanted so badly to believe that he was better — our scared, small self has many ways of keeping us from what is.
As I prepared the morning minerals and let the herd into the barn, it was clear that he could no longer lower his head. And so we entered, knowingly, into his final hours. After some time, he quietly laid down. I called my adult children and they drove out — we sat with Orion for 3 hours, sharing and talking from the heart, stroking his body. The joy that emanated from him was quiet and palpable.
The entire experience is burned in my heart minute by minute in slow motion. He gave us a rare and precious gift – a lesson in the deeply instructive nature of endings and the allegations of the beginnings they give birth to.
May it be that in some way his gift finds it’s way to your doorstep and that these images awaken something worthy of your deepest soul longings. May we all come to the holy and whole gift of giving to a life that is bigger than our own.