It is with a heavy heart, that I write this. My sweet princess, Her Highness Benny, passed away on Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 8:52pm, taking her last breath as I held her in the cup of my hands.
She came to us, fifteen years ago, in my arms, and she left us, in my arms. She was surrounded by all her flock mates (my father, mother and I).
It has been a while since I've posted on this site, and, reminiscing about Benny, I decided to revisit my last and only thread about her, on this site.
This was the thread I had created, two years ago:
And, it turns out, I had created that thread two years ago, to the exact date that I last saw my baby, as we buried her in the garden, right behind my room. March 8, 2015 we buried her. March 8, 2013, I posted that thread. Life can be so serendipitous if we search for meaning.
Benny was showing signs of aging for a while. Her left wing wasn't growing back its feather, and she had long stopped being able to fly. Recently, in December, 2014, her arthritis took a turn for the worse, and one of her back toes on her right foot, had lost its sensation, and would sometimes come to the front when she perched. It was harder for her to scratch her head with one foot, as the other didn't always support her balance.
We had tried to accommodated her house to her condition. Putting moleskin on all perches, binding two perches together so they gave a wider area, putting layers of bubblewrap underneath her changing sheets, so that the height to the bottom of the cage was raised, and if she fell (which was happening more frequently), it would be a soft cushion to fall on.
Her vet said we couldn't do much for her, except adding flax seed to her food, and prescribed vitamins to her water, because there is no cure for arthritis.
Our main concern was her quality of life. And, in that front, for those last few months, she was still her lively self. Chirping with us, yelling at us if we were out of her sight, being included in all flock activities (eating, sleeping, socializing, watching TV, listening to music, even coming out of her cage, although she now needed help going back in). She did everything she had always done, and with the same lively spirit and spunk that was her trademark. Even her famous budgietude was intact.
But, we did see that she was slowing down. Her spirit was young and lively, but her body was slowly turning against her. It was harder to move around for her. She stopped exploring all areas of her cage, choosing to stay in one section, where we had moved all her food, water, toys, favourite perches, and sleeping area.
For years now, we, as a family, didn't take vacation together, because once, almost a decade ago, we left her with a friend, on an overnight trip, and returned to find she had not eaten at all. Feeling abandoned by her flock. We promised that as long as Benny was with us, at least one of us would be home, so she could stay home.
The things she taught us about being a flock. The responsibility it holds. The price of unconditional love. It was a beautiful and humbling lesson.
On Friday, March 6th, she was her same old self, and even had her favourite treats, millets, with me, during dinner time. Part-way through, it seemed like she didn't swallow right, and was trying to adjust her crop. So, I stopped giving her treats, brought water right to her, so she can drink, and it continued. I spent part of the night sleeping beside her, listening to her trying to clear her throat, and my parents slept with her the rest of the night (as they have always done). She slept through the night okay.
She woke up, as usual, with my father, and since it was the weekend, she woke up later, at 10:30am. My father brought her down to her place, right by the window overlooking the birdfeeder, so she could watch her friends gathering for their daily breakfast. She loved watching the sparrows at our birdfeeder, and used to imitate them by going to the bottom of her cage, pretending to "forage" for food like them. Silly birdie!
But, this morning, although she slept fine, and didn't fall throughout the night, she woke up, and started screeching, like she was scared and in pain. She was having a stroke (or at least, that is what it looked like).
We rushed her to her avian vet. She was twitching and spasming every so often, and seemed to break down on her right side. They gave her steroids for anti-inflammation and some pain medication for me to take home, to give her the next day if she didn't recover. They gave me the option of hospitalizing her, but I adamantly refused. Benny would not have wanted to be left alone, in a foreign vet's office, but in the comfort of her own home, with her flock. I could tell, she was nearing her end. And she wanted her last moments with her flock. They told us to monitor her, and if her quality of life was not improving, that we had to make that tough decision to do right by her.
So, we took her home. I picked her up, and she seemed to find great comfort in that (when, usually, being a spirited, independent budgie, she never liked being held!). I cupped her in my hands, while her favourite music played in the background. She was either in my hands or on my chest. The spasms would rock her little body, and I would soothe her with words and gentle headrubs, feeling torn because I couldn't take her pain away, and completely bereft as to what we should do. Do we make THE CALL? I called an Emergency 24/7 vet clinic, because her vet office had closed by then, and they said that if ready to make that decision, they are open, even overnight. The kind vet explained the process of euthanasia to me.
I asked Benny to tell me what I should do. In the end, we decided to keep her home, and give her a chance. And if she didn't get better overnight, we would take her. It was heartbreaking watching that tiny body go through the spasms, hearing her little grunts only to then stop, leaving her exhausted, her head bowed to my hands, biting me when the pain got too much, while my fingers served as a perch, as a comfort, which she gripped so tight through her spasms.
It was like she was telling me, "Do not let me go. Just stay. It'll be over soon."
So, we all stayed with her. Telling her how much we loved her, that it was okay to leave, that her flock would be fine, we would be fine, because she had taken such good care of us, as the fearless flock leader that she was. We told her that it was okay to let go, and thanking her for all that she brought to our lives, including the lessons she taught, in unconditional love, in nurturing, in patience, in responsibility, in innocence, in forgiveness. And all the wonderful memories she gave us. I asked her to forgive me if we ever did any wrong by her, and she squeezed my fingers tight, as if to say, "All is forgiven."
We knew, it was time. That day, after coming back from the vet, she was pooping black, tar-like feces, a sign of internal bleeding. We asked the emergency vet clinic's vet if that was a side-effect of the steroids, and he said, 'no.' Her body was internally breaking down. Wings, arthritis, all external body deficiencies,we knew and saw, that she could adapt, and keep her spirit. But once the internal organs starts breaking, then, there is no quality of life for much longer. So, we knew: the pain would end soon.
We poured words of love and I held her. During her last hour, her body would go rigid, and her whole body would flop, as if she was having cardiac arrest. I held her so she wouldn't fall, allowing her body to go through the motions. I cuddled and kissed her. We have never cuddled, body to body, for that long.
She smelled as she always had. Of sweet oatmeal. The best smell in the world, that of a fluffy budgie.
My dad asked me if I needed a bathroom break, as I had been holding her throughout. I made him promise me to not let her go, to hold her until I came back. It was as if she heard me, as if she said, "Don't leave, I'm almost done." Right before I was going to hand her to my father, her tiny little body had its last spasm, and she took her last breath. It was as if a great sigh, that whispered, "Goodbye. I love you all. Now you can let me go." She wanted to die as she came, in my arms, and no one else's. She, we, all got that wish.
Her body was rigid by rigor mortis, and no signs of our lively, spunky ol' lady was left in her pretty big, black eyes.
Our Benny had left her body. Surrounded by all her flock.
We are overcome with grief, but we are at peace. She didn't suffer for too long. She was her spunky ol' self until the last day. And, her will, her determination to carve her own way, shone through right until the end. It was less than 12 hours, from the first point when her stroke hit, to when she left us and the world.
She woke up that last day, with her flock, and she passed away, right before her bedtime (which is 9:30pm), for her last final sleep.
I am glad I gave her a chance to make her own final journey, that I listened to her that she wanted to be home, surrounded by all her flock. That decision is not right for everybody. Sometimes, the decision to euthanize, especially if in prolonged suffering is the kindest act we can do for our loved ones. It's hard to know what the right decision is. It must be guided by your loved one. If you listen with your heart, leaving aside your own pain, your own grief, your own confusion, the answer is whispered by them.
It was as if she chose the perfect day. She knew her flock's routine by heart by then. Fifteen years. She chose a weekend. When she knew everyone was home. So that she wouldn't be alone in her final hours, only for us to come back from work, to find her at the bottom of the cage. She went away right before the first day of Spring, so she could enjoy the warm, spring air, filled with sunshine and clear blue skies, without pain. What a good little bird she was, so considerate of not causing her flock any pain, even in the way she left, right until the end.
The next morning, Sunday, we buried her. I painted a wooden box, just for her. We all painted messages and pictures for her, on the box. We lay her in a bed of her favourite treats, millets, covered by the softest cotton cloth, in blue and white (in memory of her wonderful colouring). We put her unfinished cuttlebone, photos of her with each of us, her flock, and a letter I'd written, tucked underneath her little head. Amongst all those mementos, and surrounded by flowers, and her favourite leaf (basil) that she loved to eat (and it would stay on her breath), we laid her to rest.
In the garden at the back of the house, right outside my room. She had always loved to stay by my side, and that is where she will rest. In the summer, we plan to plant a flowering plant where her grave now lies.
It seemed just like yesterday, that we said, 'hello', and fifteen years seems too short, to say 'goodbye'. But, it was time. She hung on because she loved us, in full fighting spirit right until the end, when her body and pain said, it was time to let go. And she did. We all did.
To me, she was and still remains, Benny. My baby Benny. The spunky young lady.
"But if you tame me, we shall need each other, to me you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world" - The Little Prince
, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” - Helen Keller.