a good day to die

The day my father died I spoke to him on the phone. He’d been battling multiple myeloma for five years, since he was sixty-five, and it was the first day in months that he’d spent time alone in the house. He’d recently recovered from consecutive bouts of pneumonia which had landed him in the hospital, and for months he’d been drugged up on morphine to blunt the pain in his bones. Our conversation went something like this:

    “Hi Dad. It’s me.
    “Hey, Shorty.”
    “I’m calling from New York. What’re you up to today?”
    “Well, I swept the garage and brought in some wood for your mother, then I checked the oil on the car.”
    “Wow, that’s great! Is Mom there?”
    “Nope. She went into town to do a couple of errands.”
    “How’re you feeling today?”
    “Pretty good ... I think I might’ve turned the corner.”
I told him that I loved him and he said it back. I hung up the phone wondering which corner he had turned. Later that night I got a call from my mom and my brother telling me that Dad had died. It occurred to me that it was a good day for Dad to die, one in which he felt worthy, accomplished things, and felt good enough physically and lucid enough to do so.

This past weekend Michael and I watched out thirteen-year-old chocolate lab Rudy hobble around on his weak, arthritic legs, one of which he suddenly can’t put much weight on anymore. Last week he stopped eating his breakfasts. He’s lost some weight and has long been incontinent. A visit to the vet on Thursday resulted in a substantial increase in painkillers and anti-inflammatories in a last-ditch effort to get our Rudy back into decent shape. Our strategy didn’t work, and after a lot of thought we decided that today is the day we’ll be putting Rudy down.

It pains me to do so. Every cell in my body wants him to get better, wants his elbow to miraculously improve. I know deep down inside, however, that it won’t, that he is in pain, even though he wags his tail, still enjoys munching on dog biscuits, still wants to follow us around the yard even though he is terribly lame.

Today will be a good day for Rudy to die because yesterday our friends Brian and Joanne, Luke, Sarah and Jacob, Matt, Macauley and Carol and their black lab Millie came by separately to say their goodbyes to Rudy. There were tears and wags, and glasses of beer and bourbon. As Rudy and Millie sniffed each other, Macauley recounted the legend of the Oglala Sioux warrior Low Dog, who was thought to have said before going into battle, “It is a good day to die.”

Today will be a good day for Rudy to die. The ground has finally thawed. The fragrance of spring is on the wind. Birds are chirping. The vet is making a house call. Rudy is still in good spirits. But as I write this I can’t help but weep. He’s been such a good boy, friendly to everyone, loving, loyal, affectionate, well behaved, albeit stubborn in his final months. We’ve been lucky to know him and terribly sad to see him go. But as he goes, he’ll have the sun shining on his chocolatey coat, the grass as his bed and Michael and I there hugging him goodbye.


day three

my boy. face down in bathwater again. blue and limp. only three days since his last seizure. the likely culprit: one jagged quarter of a chalky white benzodiazepine tablet he isn't getting anymore.

snow. in shady places there's still some on the ground. naked branches are just beginning to bud, their crooked shadows raking withered crocuses.

rudy the dog. all of a sudden—and yet not—completely lame. thinning and incontinent but still happy. enjoying his favorite sunny spot in the front yard watching the world go by, living what might be his final moments as if there is no tomorrow.

the birds. flitting around, twigs and grasses pinched in their beaks. alighting on quivering boughs to sing my mind away from things disconcerting.

me: sleep deprived and feeling it in my bones, in aching eyes. trying hard not to worry over my boy. pursuing a high CBD cannabis oil. who to make it? what extraction method? who to trust? which substrate? who is reliable for the long haul? will it help calvin?

my boy. napping now. it's where i need to be, too. we used to nap together. at home. in the hospital.

tomorrow. will be a new day.

photo by Michael Kolster


simply splendid

It was a simply splendid evening. Thanks to everyone—to local establishments who donated food, to pro bono musicians and bartenders, to generous friends near and far—who helped us raise over $16,000 at our CURE epilepsy benefit, not including receipts from the event itself. Your compassion warms my heart.
Please Join us by giving only what you can at http://www.calvinscure.com

Click on photos to enlarge.

if you haven't already, please give to CURE epilepsy at http://www.calvinscure.com

Please join me in thanking the following establishments
for their generous contributions

Aki Sushi & Hibachi
Bath Sweet Shoppe
Big Top Deli
El Camino
Enoteca Athena
Frosty's Donuts
Henry and Marty
Little Tokyo
Pastry Chef Patrick Jones
Trattoria Athena
Zu Bakery
Wild Oats Bakery
Solo Bistro Bistro


day eight

I was going to write about the CURE epilepsy benefit we hosted last Saturday night, about my man-catcher choker, about how I wept seeing all the tasty food our local restaurants donated, about the band, the bartender, the bodacious blondes and brunettes (guys and dolls) shaking their groove things on the dance floor, about friends from near and far, who signed up, picked up, setup and cleaned up and who helped us raise over $15,000, not including the receipts from the benefit itself.

Instead, I’m writing about the seizure Calvin had this morning at 1:30. I heard him coming out of it, heard that unmistakable constricted breathing like a death rattle. Yesterday, all day long I’d been dreading its arrival, had sensed its imminence for three days and had logged it in my journal:

no smile coming off bus. stubborn. dropping down. eye poking like crazy lately. crazy in jumper. seizure coming. crazy in bath. lots of hypercough. stubborn on way to woody’s. INTENSE. pulling hair. seizure coming. whiny. restless night. not hungry or thirsty. no a.m. nap. crazy in car. *hot hands. *red cheeks in store. ABSOLUTELY CRAZY BATH (took him out after one minute). gazing up and to the right w/shifting eyes in car. pounding heart. seizure on the way.

Instead of writing about the benefit and sharing photos, which I will do later, I’m asking each one of you, Readers, to channel your undeniable compassion for Calvin into funding to CURE epilepsy. Give only what you can at http://www.calvinscure.com


help us CURE epilepsy

In honor of Calvin's tenth spin around the sun, and for the millions like him suffering from epilepsy, please give what you can to help CURE epilepsy now at: http://www.calvinscure.com

click to donate to CURE epilepsy


my sustenance

Often your post is what I intentionally read last before bed. That way I go to sleep thinking about important things rather than about work or the very minor stuff I worry about during the day. Thank you for that.


I just had a moment to catch up on your blog. I hear the hurt that the positive effects of the current therapy are so slow, so tenuous that one begins to disbelieve that things can change. It has some analog in the seasonal despair of mud season. A Maineish slough of despond: there ariseth in [the] soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground. Like mud season, I hope to see it clear soon, but I can't promise any time table on which you will be relieved of this heart-wearying struggle. Keep on. None of us can anticipate the best changes, in ourselves or in others, that time will bring. You gave, I think, the best defense of hope some weeks ago. We must embrace it for without it we are lost.  


I'm so sorry, Christy. With the label on your post "despair" I can feel the weight from your home to mine. If I had posted within these last few difficult months, there would be a label of "resignation." I am in awe of the sadness of epilepsy, of how it drains the life from its sufferers and drains the color from the caretakers' lives. My heart is with you today.


I'm listening. Sometimes I cry when I read. I have nothing else to offer.


We haven't corresponded much this year, but I've thought of you and your family many, many times over the past 12 months. Calvin's picture remains on my computer desktop and I continue pray for his health, peace and well-being (as well as yours and Michael's) every day I see his picture.



day five

day four

purple crocuses bore through bark. sun sparks. kid walking blocks and blocks. hand in hand. sidewalks caked in sand. slight breeze. fifty degrees. mercury’s silver pipe reads fair. winter’s glare has scorched the leaves. in its reprieve they curl into frozen spasms. some, still rooted in their icy chasms, may not survive the melt.

his grinding teeth sound like sand beneath boot. i feel it in my marrow. his pair of eyes rove and jerk. he goes berserk. my boy is not himself—whatever that is. fingers frantically snapping. its half-life met, the benzo withdrawal compels. it’s going to be hell.

day five

four thirty. the cardinals chirping. i hear him choke. i quickly unfasten the canopy ropes. his face is pale and he fails to meet my gaze. his hands turn clammy. the seizure makes his gut churn and creak and groan. i slide in beside him. he moans and pulls my hair, claws me like a bear. his head must drum. for an hour he shudders and writhes and whimpers and hums.

he wakes up cackling. something must hurt. he's cracking. his tummy must feel sour. he spends the first hour with his head in his hands, finger in his eye if he can. he coughs and whines and drools. i keep him home from school. he wants out of the jumper. he wants in. he wants out. he wants in. he flails and shrieks and stomps. rudy pants and tromps around the floor. i try to comfort my poor ten-year-old boy who is suffering withdrawal. i’ll try to be his steely pawl.

a cannabis man is coming by soon. i want him to grant calvin the moon, offer some hope. i feel we’re at the end of our rope. but i won't let go. no. no matter what, i won't.