Day 25: My heart is heavy after losing one of my most faithful friends early this morning. I got the call around midnight as we were negotiating the icy passes of the Continental Divide on our all-night drive back to South Dakota from Aspen. My best friend was in tears, telling me she had just taken my cat, Biggie (named not only for his physical size, but for the size of his spirit and heart), to the emergency veterinary clinic. He had almost stopped breathing and was now in an oxygen tank getting blood tests performed and x-rays taken. Only just yesterday a happy cat, the prognosis was now suddenly bleak, so we diverted our route north to Boulder so I could be with him.
Biggie seemed resigned when I saw him. He purred quietly and calmly looked me in the eyes as I stroked his beautiful fur. The picture the vet painted gave little reason for hope. An undiagnosed cancer had spread throughout his body; his lungs, liver and small intestine were damaged; and he had an irregular heartbeat. Fluid had been drained from his lungs to help him breathe. I was advised that treating him for one problem could exacerbate another and to not expect a good outcome. None of the options presented to me were good.
So I decided I would leave it up to him and do whatever he wanted me to do. I asked him twice if he wanted more tests performed and twice got a clear answer of no. When I asked if he wanted to go to the other side, I got a yes, but not now, so Marti and I sat with him for an hour or so, just loving him, looking into his sweet, soulful eyes and stroking his soft fur. At long last, he rested his head heavy on my hand and looked me intensely in the eyes, as if peering deep into my soul. When I asked him again if he was ready to go, we got a very clear yes. So I hesitantly gave the kind on-duty night veterinarian the go-ahead to give him a sedative to put him to sleep, then another that stopped his heart from beating. And just like that, my friend was gone.
I don’t believe it was an accident that Biggie’s health failed just as I was traveling within hours of Boulder on a totally unexpected side trip to Aspen. Mixed with all the sadness is gratitude that I had a chance to say goodbye to my faithful companion of so many years and to help him pass over to the other side. We are all going to die. I just hope when my time comes I face my own death with similar grace and dignity. In honor of my noble friend, I dedicate this video of our beautiful and powerful Lakota Nation “Tour of Resistance” solidarity march to Biggie: http://k.olc.edu/Events.html.
I left the clinic drained and after some comforting words by my friends dropped off to sleep in the back seat of the car. Not long after sunrise, we made it to Pine Ridge, where we dropped off Alex at his home and my new friends Phillip and Mark drove me on to Rosebud to retrieve the trike. There we were met by Chief John Spotted Tail, who ever so kindly trailed me in his car the whole 54 miles to Winner, which I pedaled in record time but with little enthusiasm. I wondered how the White House encirclement had gone today in hopes they had surpassed their original estimate of 5,000 people. Pulling into a motel around sunset, I got to work catching up on my backlog of emails, blogs and social network posts.
Tomorrow is a new day.