On Thanking One’s Abusers

wolfloveOn November 15th I gave a talk in Santa Fe on the ten levels of consciousness I’ve been blogging about here for some time now. During the meeting I pointed out that all too often in New Age circles well-meaning people tell abuse sufferers to let go of their pain and forgive their abusers, before the sufferers have been able to even feel and find solace for the extent of their inner wounds. I told the group I felt that this pathologized the very healthy rage abuse survivors feel, a rage that if felt fully and expressed safely can eventually lead one to such a strong sense of self that the effects of one’s abuse soften and become part of one’s inner landscape.

In response to this, one attender shared with us his experience of having forgiven his childhood abuser, and how it freed him from the damage the abuse had done to him as no other therapeutic technique had before then. He said he had spoken directly to his abuser and told him, “I thank you for the abuse, because the lessons I have learned from the experience have been so valuable,” whereupon a weight, he said, had lifted from him. (He would not tell us what abuse had been done to him, only that it had been extremely severe.) He shared this in a genuinely nonjudgmental and loving manner. I thanked the attender for his share and admitted that although I have forgiven my parents, I was not at a place where I could say I was grateful for what my abuse history has taught me, and might never be.

During the guided meditation at the end, which I led, I invited the group to join me in raising ourselves from the consciousness levels of Force, Threat, and Blame to the consciousness levels of Acceptance, Understanding, Giving, and Loving. As usually happens when I lead a meditation, I got a lot out of it myself. On this occasion, the purified essences of my birth parents came to me and showed me their acceptance, love, and regret for what their shadows had done to me while they had been alive. Their love for me shone brilliantly, and I let it in. This is the very first time I have ever felt any such connection to them, and I was flabbergasted by the experience; it came entirely unexpectedly, on a wave of attar of rose (a diluted essence of which I had passed around the room therapeutically).

Today I have been lonely, isolating, and eating compulsively. I napped and dreamed of Blessing, my dead husky: of a ridge where a crowd of people was gathered, all with their backs to me. I moved among them and saw beyond them thick dense woods, and I knew that Blessing was running free in the woods. And I longed for her, and called to her, hoping she would hear me and come back to me. I awoke in a bad sweat. Is this what happens when we let Love in, that it stirs up the next layer of grief sediment in an effort to flush it from our systems? It seems so.

Thank you, housemate Leo Richard, for letting me take care of your big brown dog Horseshoe today. Playing ball with your dog, and hugging him, and giving him pieces of chicken, I felt a connection to Earth and Earth love, and it consoled me. Mother of Wolves have mercy on all of us, your cubs, and bring us safe home to Your den when our time comes. Amen.

Stuart In the Sky, With Diamonds

NM.Kaz_as_cub.1987-8

The week after my lover Stuart died, I took our wolf-dog, Kaz, out into the wintry New Mexican woods. Snow had softened the ground’s harsh clays. The sun was shining brilliantly off the white-clad junipers and little piñon trees. Kaz led me in a romp-and-tumble over the hills and down some arroyos until we both ended up, limp and panting, in a valley floored by a frozen brook.

I was in that state of heightened awareness that often accompanies deep grief. I’d hardly eaten for a week. For all the two years Stuart and I had spent together as lovers, best friends and channelers, his sudden death had taken me utterly unprepared.

He had developed ARC after having been infected with HIV in an accident at the Key West lab where he’d labored as a medical technologist. We had assumed that either AIDS would kill him some day or old age would. The former had seemed less of a possibility as, one by one, his ARC symptoms had gone into remission. We’d put it down to clean living and the effects of our metaphysical researches. (This was before advances in medical science provided AIDS patients with chemical cocktails designed to bolster immune response.)

But I had found him one morning anyhow, body cold, vacated, and neatly arranged on his bed. The medic who examined Stuart after I had called 9-1-1 later told me that Stuart’s death had been a reaction to a painkiller he had taken for an abscessed tooth due to be extracted the following Monday.

I came to a different conclusion. A month before Stuart had told me he had had a “dream” in which he had gone into a coma and I was sitting by his bed in the hospital. After his death, it struck me that, consciously or not, he had been warning me that he was planning to commit suicide. I still believe this to this day.

That winter afternoon in the valley, I hunkered down and watched Kaz nose cattails. Gradually the sunlight seemed to take on personality. It seemed to shine not on me but for me, and I knew, abruptly and impossibly, that the sunlight was Stuart, somehow. He seemed undismayed that I had been calling him a selfish bastard all week.

You must understand that I am not given to visions. My psychic experiences tend to be quiet, undramatic, noticeable mainly because I have trained myself to recognize them when they occur. Stuart was the visionary. Every time he surfaced from a deep trance channeling session, he said to me, “It’s so beautiful there, where I was; one of these days I’m just going to stay.”

In the valley, dusk fell. I called Kaz, started carward, and in my altered state got lost in the shadowed streamcourse. Nothing looked even remotely familiar to me. The moon came out, and there was Stuart again. Guard-dogs barked at a farm. I felt afraid. I glimpsed mental images of barbed wire, German uniforms, German shepherd dogs pulling at leashes, and myself at a dead run for a clipped fenceline. In my fantasy memory, Stuart was there, saying, “Through here!” He pushed me ahead of him so that it was he, not I, whom the dogs brought down.

As I have said, I am not given to visions. That night I asked the sky, “How do I get out of this arroyo?” A prominent star winked, then burned steady. By its light, I spied a side-track I had not noticed before. Following the track, Kaz and I found ourselves back on the road we had taken from the spot where I’d parked our station wagon.

Stuart again. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Up to that time, Stuart’s death had been the most devastating thing that had ever happened to me. This has changed in the years since. Since that winter I have climbed the years to sixty-two. I have lost Kaz, to a hit and run driver, and three subsequent dogs, one to old age, one to liver failure, and one to cancer. I have lost friends to AIDS, including my beloved little brother; lost my teeth, my health, my career in horticulture, my self-respect, and most of my financial resources. And since Stuart’s death I have never had another lover. I have kept love at arm’s length from fear of having to go through a loss like that again.

Stuart’s death was the most terrible thing that had ever happened to me. But I am certain that it was not the most terrible thing that ever happened to him. The night in the arroyo taught me that. I’m certain that death, for Stuart, had been an explosion of joy.

I drove home that night with Kaz’s paw on my right shoulder. Three months later, on an empty road near our house, some guys broke Kaz’s back with their speeding truck and I had to say goodbye to him, too. I buried his body in my rented garden, between the French tarragon and the double coreopsis. For two weeks I had nightmares that somehow the vet’s needle hadn’t put Kaz out of his misery; that somehow I had buried him alive; that he had awakened, stifling, with dirt in his lungs. Of course it was I who felt buried alive: trapped in the physical plane, unable to get free of the pain and horror of it.

A Gentle Death

Ruby was an 11 or 12 year old Australian shepherd dog who had been kept confined in a trailer and overfed to the point where she was virtually immobile. When my housemate Dina adopted her back in June, they lived together in a cabin in the northern Colorado wilderness. They took long walks through the woods and played in the fresh sunlight and breezes. Ruby began to lose weight and get more fit. She joyously greeted her friend Dina every time Dina returned to the cabin. Feisty and long-coated, Ruby was a working dog with a deep sense both of loyalty and of her rights to her own body; Dina was the only human Ruby permitted to stroke her belly-fur.

When Dina and Ruby moved to Aurora not long ago, it quickly became clear that Ruby had reached the point where her body, severely arthritic and spotted with flesh-pads, could no longer support her fiercely independent spirit. Dina made the difficult decision to have Ruby euthenased.

Having a beloved animal mercifully killed in order to spare her the agony of a lingering, painful death is I think the bravest and most unselfish service a pet-owner can choose. My late partner’s Stuart’s wolf-dog Kaz died in my arms on the emergency vet’s operating table after a deliberate hit and run one Sunday morning broke Kaz’s spine. I felt a window in reality open up and Kaz’s spirit drop through it, and then the window closed, leaving a smooth unruffled surface behind, as though Kaz had never been. This took place about a year after I found Stuart’s dead body in his bedroom, dead via brain embolism.

Years later, I held the head of my blind husky, Moon-Pie, when a Santa Fe vet gave him his final injection. Moon’s hind quarters had failed, as had his kidneys, and he faced his death with a growl and a bark. A few years later I lay with another dog, Bear, who went to sleep peacefully, felled by the same symptoms that had brought Moon-Pie to his end. Then, last year, my husky Blessing died at my feet in our back yard, possibly of cancer (there is also the possibility she was poisoned by a mentally ill neighbor who showed up very suddenly while I was mourning her body with a friend). All these losses came back to me as I sat quietly beside Dina, observing beautiful brave Ruby’s last moments in her old body.

The deaths mount up as one gets older. But the hope I cling to, when my emotional body is wailing in grief and loss, is the memory of what I felt with most of my dogs after their last breaths: the persistent sense of their loving spirit presences around me. I am not such an anthropocentrist that I believe a dog’s purpose is to serve its human caretaker. Dogs, like everyone else, have their own private stories which sometimes coincide with ours and sometimes do not.

But I do know that love is never lost. In a dream I saw my dead brother Jeffrey’s spirit move off into light accompanied by all the dogs, cats, and birds we had known and loved in our Connecticut childhood. We are all one, and Love is the evidence of that; and I pray to Wolf Mother that when it is my turn to shed my own noble, sagging, arthritic animal body, she will receive me into her pack with the same loving playful devotion she showed to Kaz, Moon-Pie, Bear, and Blessing.

And of course, Ruby.

Moon-Pie & I, 2008, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Moon-Pie & I, 2008, Santa Fe, New Mexico