[UNLOCKED] Tattered (Luna) Moths
Or: It’s Called Disenfranchised Grief. Look it Up.
For the third and final day of my 50th birthday extravaganza, I’m unlocking this paid post from June. Why? Because I’m still figuring out an equitable model for NFUQ, because some of you are just joining us, and because when I think of what I want NFUQ to be - well, this is it. Writing straight from my little ol’ heart and mind, not leaving out the sad, messy, or mystical parts, and bang, sending it right into your inbox. Thank you so, so much for your support as I step into this next decade. Truly. Thank you.
For a few months now, we’ve known our time with Pepper was coming to an end. We treasured the weeks, days, moments. We relaxed all the rules and spoiled her rotten. We rolled out yoga mats and area rugs to help her walk with more stability. We slowed down to her pace until her daily walk dwindled to really just an assisted toodle around the front yard.
I hoped it would become fairly clear when it was time to say goodbye, and that we could give her a dignified death without much muss or fuss. Pepper was a lovebug but not one for dramatics.
It did become clear.
Pepper’s hind legs gave out last Wednesday morning. We helped her move, carried her outside to do her business, and gave it a little time - she’s bounced back from poor spells before.
Thursday morning her hind legs still weren’t working, and a front leg was giving out, too. She couldn’t move anywhere without help. It was time. We made an appointment with Lap of Love for in-home euthanasia.
We fixed Pepper a fancy salmon lunch. We let her eat all the stinky cheese and tortilla chips she could want.
All morning my prayers narrowed down to one: that Pep would pass peacefully and be welcomed to the other side with joy.
(Gentle reminder: I’m writing about my experiences and beliefs. I’m certainly not implying you must have them, too. But I mean. I’m not gonna not write about them. This is my Substack about being an unruly Quaker. Quakers aren’t dogmatic but we do believe some things.)
For me, that prayer focused into asking Pep’s guardian angels (or fairies, or the Great Cosmic Echidna’s puggles) to gather near, to welcome and comfort her as she transitioned.
I figure she must have *somebody* looking out for her, to have survived so much before we adopted her - being shot, abandoned, then kenneled for use as a blood-donation dog for over a year.
She held none of this against anyone.
For safety and good measure, I also threw in my fave mystics, including St. Francis (who loved animals) and St. Teresa of Avila.
When I pass, I hope to be welcomed by my God squad, and I’d like to be outside, under the big blue sky. We thought Pep would like that, too.
We carried Pepper into our backyard.
Lap of Love came. Their vet was wonderful. Compassionate yet matter-of-fact. She gave Pepper a sedative. As she injected it, something flitted in the air just above us, something like a butterfly but not quite.
The sedative relaxed Pepper; she slowly fell asleep as Noah, Sam, and I petted her and told her she is the best dog and to go romp in the fields and catch all the woodchucks and squirrels she wanted.
And then, when we were “as ready as you can be,” the vet gave her the drug that stopped her heart.
I felt a breeze lift when Pep's spirit left her body.
It was completely gentle. I only wish we could give this same choice to terminally ill humans.
Pepper’s last days and her death happened so fast and yet in slow motion.
Time is weird. Nonlinear.
Grief is weird. Nonlinear.
In my experience, there are moments when the veil between worlds becomes so thin you can feel or see the other side without even trying. Being near to the death process is one of those times.
Pepper’s spirit was released. Her body was unmoving. We talked with her. We covered her gently with the blanket we’d taken turns wearing under our shirts all day to make it smell like us.
There was the grave to dig.
Sam and Noah went inside for work gloves.
I stayed with her body.
Through my blurry, bleary tears, I noticed something land on the grass nearby.
It was a Luna moth.
If you don’t know Luna moths, they are hand-sized, lime green, luminous. Nocturnal. Also called silkworm moths, they live in the NC mountains. It’s rare to find them in our area, or in the daytime. I’ve certainly never seen one in our backyard.
I crawled over. So beautiful, and so beautifully imperfect, like me, like us, like Pepper, who had one blue and one brown eye, who had a wonky special paw and scars all over from being “peppered” with shotgun shot (thus her name).
The Luna moth’s wings were tattered.
Well, Christ on a bicycle.
St. Teresa, you cheeky mystic, you. She wrote about how we're all just silkworms turning into “moths with tattered wings,” flitting from bush to bush. It’s the first thing I think of when I think of her. You say “Teresa of Avila,” I say “tattered moths.”
I’ve always loved that imagery. It’s so comforting. We don’t have to be perfect. We are all enough. Tattered moths.
This tattered Luna moth let me pick it up. Let me take its picture. It then flew to the top of the back porch stairs.
Noah reemerged with the work gloves. The Luna stayed by him long enough for me to tell him about St. Teresa’s tattered moths. Noah regarded the Luna quietly.
Then up and away it flew, in that jangly, mothy way, like Snoopy’s friend Woodstock, flying zigzag and loop-de-loop, disappearing high into the treetops.
I believe our loved ones who’ve died remain in spirit on the other side of a veil. The spirit is their love, pure love, but their unique signature of love, distinct enough to recognize it fully. “That’s Dad!” “Aw, that’s Pepper.” And includes none of the annoying, nit-picky things. Just the good stuff. That’s my experience at least.
Does experiencing the beautiful and uplifting spiritual presence and eternal unmutable love make loss less painful? I don’t know. Maybe? A very, very little. But only in brief moments.
It sure doesn’t soothe the longing for the body - the embodied being. Their voice, their quirks, their snores, their snuggles, their hair, their smile, their smell. Those things are gone forever. And that is gutting. Because there’s just no getting it back.
There are subsets of spiritual, or New-Agey, or Evangelical, or (self-proclaimed) Enlightened people who will admonish your grief and sadness.
They will tell you that sadness and grief make no sense because your loved one is in a “better place” and you will be reunited and love is infinite and eternal and blah blah blah.
It’s my experience that some of that may be true but any judging, belittling, or chastising of grief is pure and utter horseshit.
Maybe five people on this pale blue dot can actually, honestly, be all Buddha or total Zen about loss. Maybe five.
For the rest of us, this is almost always a form of spiritual bypass (avoiding painful emotions by telling yourself you’re more enlightened or Godly than the average bear). OR it’s spiritual bullying (telling people their experiences are incorrect according to your own personal or religious dogma, including atheism).
Hard pass on all of that.
Give me messy grief, give me drizzly snot and wild tears, give me bereavement nausea and grief pukes. Give me a full embodied experience of loving to capacity and grieving like it’s the end of the world.
When I think of mystics, those are the ones I relate to - the fully human, messy drama queens who overturned tables of oppression and raged and grieved and also laughed and rejoiced and loved, loved, loved. And then wrote it down.
These messy ones are the ones for me. The tattered moths.
They are the ones I hope will welcome me when it’s my time to cross over.
Them, and Pepper.