Setting Free the Ones We Love
“Our personalities would have us cling to those we love, but our hearts ask us to continually let go and set each other free.”
Letting go and giving freedom is perhaps the highest act of love. Releasing can be so difficult for the human personality, yet it is such a gift to the ones we love.
On April 30, 1997, our family helped our beloved twelve-year-old Golden Retriever, Bokie, to transition out of his worn-out body. This was one of the hardest decisions of my life, yet also one which eventually brought a deep level of peace. Bokie was the senior of three dogs, a proud, affectionate and noble creature who developed arthritis at age ten. Ginger and Charley are frisky four-year-olds who always showed respect to the elder member of their clan. Bokie was my favorite.
As he aged and became increasingly fragile over his last three years, I scrupulously cared for him. His favorite ritual was the morning brushing. Though he had long since lost his hearing, I talked to him during the brushing, telling him how special he was and how grateful I was to be able to take care of him. Every night before I went to sleep, I sat by him and said a prayer.
As his arthritis advanced, I increased his brushing, massage, and prayer time. He seemed almost to be living on my love alone. Though it must have been difficult, he took little walks if I asked him to. He also took his medicine and the supplements I gave him.
Then it became difficult for him to stand up unless one of us helped him. One day, after I had been gone from the house for six hours, I returned to find Bokie shaking and very thirsty. I realized he had been unable to get up to get a drink. He looked me deeply in the eyes and spoke to me in my heart. The words were unmistakable, even though I didn’t want to hear them: “Help me to be free of my body.”
That night I called our veterinarian and asked him to come in two days to help Bokie pass on. The vet agreed it was time, yet my heart was breaking at the decision we had just made. Bokie was still alert, attentive mainly to me, and had a beautiful glossy coat from all the brushing. But his joints were giving out, as well as the lower part of his spinal cord. He was clearly becoming paralyzed day by day. It was so hard to let him go. His presence in my life meant a lot to me. Through caring for him, I realized I was being cared for. Through giving, I was also receiving.
The next day our son, John-Nuriel, had his eighth birthday party. Amid boys noisily running around, I lay next to Bokie and told him over and over how much I loved him and how happy he would be with his new freedom. That night by candlelight, the whole family sat around him appreciating him for all the wonderful times. We each spoke prayers for his next adventure, while his weary but warm eyes focused on each one of us as we spoke.
The next morning, after our two youngest children, Mira and John-Nuri, left for school, our vet came to the house. Our oldest daughter, Rami, laid down along Bokie’s back, wrapped him in her arms and cried. Barry and I held his head, closed our eyes and blessed his impending journey. Minutes after the injection, and after his heart stopped, there was a clear feeling of joy and relief coming from our beloved Bokie. He was free and I could feel him thanking me. The sadness from my personal loss was great, yet I felt a distinct peace that my friend was free at last.
This is the story of a dog and a woman. Yet it is really the story of two caring beings. This could also be a story about two people. By giving freedom to those we love, we are giving ourselves a deeper peace. Our personalities would have us cling to those we love, but our hearts ask us to continually let go and set each other free.