Thursday, February 19, 2009

The fragility of life, twelve butterflies, and the Queen of England

This is from Michael Malone's terrific book Dingley Falls (the William character is in his eighties):
"Last time I wanted to die I was nineteen. I'm way too old for it now. Now hand me that pea soup," called William with gusto as out came Orchid O'Neal with the cat-faced china tureen that no one had ever liked, but that had perversely refused to be dropped and broken, and that had outlasted three generations of Dingley owners. Fragile as china is, it is less fragile than life.

Life is, indeed, more fragile than china.

In November, 2007, Princess Sunni went through a series of seventeen radiation treatments for a debilitating brain tumor. Even though the treatments were a success, we knew they weren't a cure, and the return of the tumor hung over our thoughts. Judi would often hug her little beagle and say to her, "I don't know what I'm going to do when you're gone."

"Where am I going, Mommy?" the Princess would answer.

And Judi would answer, "England, Princess. You're going to England. You can meet the Queen."

After a hug, or even just a scratch-behind-the-ears, Sunni would always shake herself all over. Judi would accuse her of trying to shake off Mommy's love, but I told her that the Princess was just making sure all her furs were arranged the way they should be.

And the brain tumor did not return. The Princess beat the odds. She remained sharp and strong right up until Friday, January 16th.

Anyway, I thought I should provide a little more information about Princess Sunni's goodbye, for anyone who might care to know.

The Princess came home triumphantly from her surgery on Wednesday, the 14th. On Thursday she has a fantastic day: She scarfed hot dogs for breakfast, and played her "nose in the bamboo curtain" game to get lots of Arby's bites for lunch. It was a happy day for all of us.

Then, late Thursday night her breathing became a little heavier, and the color disappeared from her gums. We knew what this meant: That one of the tumors in her liver had ruptured, and there was nothing that could be done.

She spent the entire night in Judi's arms, under the blankets, warm and peaceful and loved, seeming content.

Just after 9:00 AM Friday morning she was placed up on her front legs and she gave one final shake of her head and ears and neck. It wasn't a strong shake, but it was enough to get her furs were arranged just the way they should be. It was her final act using on her own strength: Arrange her furs just so. She lay back in Judi's arms, and at around 9:20 AM she was gone.

Judi has butterflies emerging from chrysalises almost every day, usually many per day. That Friday, she had eleven Monarch butterflies, and they were released, one by one. "We need twelve," Judi said, "one to remember each year of Sunni's life." But only eleven Monarchs came out. Then, later in the day, we had a big surprise: A solitary Black Swallowtail emerged, after having been in chrysalis literally for months -- so long that we has given it up as not being viable. But a big, strong, incredibly beautiful Black Swallowtail came out and Judi released it and it flew away, number twelve for the day, one to remember each year of the Princess's life.

Godspeed, sweet Princess. Oh, and one more thing: When you get to England?

Say hello to the Queen for me.

The Princess Steps Out
The Princess Steps Out


I am so sorry Princess Sunni is gone. My thoughts are with you both.
what a great memorial - butterflies and all!

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