post scriptum – R.I.P., Julian Dachshund
I was awakened by my husband this morning at 4:30 AM and told Julian had died in the night. There’s no small amount of irony in my premature eulogy to him on his birthday yesterday and his passing on the same night. I think Julian stayed alive this last year on sheer willpower to be with his daddies. And sometime in the middle of last night, sheer willpower was no longer enough.
Julian spent his last day doing what he has always loved – sniffing around the yard, napping in a pool of sunshine pouring through the French doors, being played with by his cats, snoozing with his daddy in the bed and eating his dinner from the Publix deli. I don’t know if he suffered before he died but what does appear from his body posture is that he died fairly quickly. May we all be so lucky.
He will be buried in the pet cemetery in the southeast corner of our yard beneath the bamboo tree next to his life companion, Simeon, and the other animals who were part of his life: Charlie Beagle, Ratzinger the six-toed Hemingway cat and Magnificat, the mystical cat from San Jose. I can keep an eye on all of them from my meditation bench across the way.
He will also be remembered in my prayers at the altar I keep to honor all my relations. I maintain four altars roughly reflecting the four cardinal directions in different parts of my house each with a different focus. The south altar, a pot of stones for incense and a small candle, sits beneath a tree shaped configuration of photos which cover my bedroom wall. At the root of the tree are the photos of my animal companions, in the mid-level branches my friends from throughout my life and at the top the photos of my family of birth. At the heart of the tree is the photo of the 200 year old live oak I grew up climbing in the front yard we cleared from the forest outside of Bushnell. When I pray at that altar and leave incense burning, I always give thanks for “All my relations” as my native American companions have taught me. And I often conclude that prayer with “Help me remember who I am and where I come from.” Julian’s collar will join the collars of my animal companions who have gone before him in the straw basket at the foot of the tree this day.
There are some who feel the need to debate whether animals have souls or go to heaven. As for me, I’ve always assumed that wherever I end up, if anywhere, if my animals are not there, it won’t be heaven. And I am convinced that a life without them would no doubt have been one closer approximation to hell.
Though my heart is filled with sadness this morning, I am grateful to this beautiful little animal for all the joy he has brought my life. As I lay him to rest this morning amidst prayers, incense and candles, I will repeat the words I have often said aloud to him during his life: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And I pray that at the end of my own life, the same may be said of me.
The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando
If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
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