A wildlife rehabilitator’s goal is to care for an injured or orphaned animal until they can be released back into the wild. And while this is very much my goal as a rehabber, one of the reasons why I chose to volunteer my time caring for animals, is also to work with the suffering and the dying. I view this as extremely important, albeit difficult work, and it is very much a part of my inner journey.
This morning I awoke to find a bunny patient in its final moments before death. The bunny had developed diarrhea during the night, which can often happen during the transition from drinking formula to eating solids. A bunny with this affliction can die within hours.
I don’t blame myself when an animal dies, but I can’t help but wonder if it would have survived if I had done things differently. A million possibilities swim through my head until I am filled with the peaceful stillness left behind by death.
I have been unwell lately, suffering as I have often suffered over the last 5 years with chronic illness. Yesterday, I found myself imagining breathing my last breath and feeling relief sweep over me as I left my body. I don’t want to die, but I could see that death is not the enemy as we are sometimes led to believe. Death is a natural part of each and everyone’s journey. Death is not a failure.
We all have our own journey through life. Some of them are long, some of them are short. All will have some degree of suffering. This is a universal truth.
Yes, it is sad when my patients die. It’s sad that they didn’t get to run through meadows and nibble on clover in the late afternoon sun. But they completed their journey and returned to their place in the circle of life. Furthermore, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to care for them in their hours, days, weeks, or months on this planet. I’m grateful for their wild wisdom and for their difficult lessons in suffering and death. More than anything, I feel that this is the most precious and sacred gift of all.