Excel The Greyt was diagnosed with bone cancer on July 31, 2015. His prognosis: three months.
At the time, I didn’t believe he had three weeks. The cancer moved so fast. It seemed to consume him. But I also didn’t believe the only thing I could do was wait for him to die.
I wanted him to reach his 9th birthday, on Sept. 1.
So I fought furiously. I battled cancer with food. I responded to death with love. I surrounded us with the very best adventure of life: friendship and true love.
We took to the mountains and laid in the creek. We played in the park and slept in the grass. We gardened. We held babies. We held hands. We had parties, backyard barbecues and around the block adventures. We slept in, and we snuggled.
Excel responded miraculously to the love and food he received, and I in turn grew braver because of our time. I learned how to feed with love, how to live presently in a very momentary life, and how to more fully trust myself.
Yet, I didn’t believe I’d know when our time was up. I worried that he would be in pain and I would not know, or that when it came time to say goodbye, I wouldn’t be sure. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be strong enough to take him to the end.
The evening of Saturday, March 12, the cancer overtook his lungs. All the comfort I gave Excel was gone, and he asked me to help him. My room reverberated in his pain. I felt his anguish as if it were my own. With the clarity that intense love brings, I knew I would not keep him here to suffer. It was time to release him from all the pain of his body.
That Sunday, March 13, we said goodbye. I surrounded myself with the biggest love I knew, the love of strong women and best friends. They held me, and they comforted him. Then they left us alone. I placed him in my bed, his favorite spot to be. His breath was gaspingly shallow. He would stop breathing for moments, as if he were trying out the other side. A trusted friend and vet came to my home and took him to the end. I held his head, placed my forehead to his and sent him into death with the reassurance that he was the strongest, kindest, most admirable soul I’d ever met.
I felt him leave his body. I heard him leave the room. The world shook on his exit. Of all the souls in all the world, to have known this one is staggering. To have found him across so many lives and to be able to take him to the very end was a most honorable act.
There’s vastness left in me, an expanse that is not empty but rather wide open to all the beauty and pain that death to life brings.
Time, with a soul this big, doesn’t exist. Love is the only way I know to measure of such a life’s span.