By Terri Smith –
As I write this, Amadeus is dying. That’s not how I wanted to begin, but there it is. I just wanted you to know. If you are reading this, chances are he has touched your life in some way and it’s good to be able to say goodbye.
He’s gone now. He left late last night. I stayed with him in his nest of hay and blankets and hot water bottles for two days. Our beloved dog, Kasha, stayed with him at night. He was never uncomfortable. He was warm and he slept a lot and when he wasn’t sleeping he was alert, lying comfortably upright, cuddling with me and keeping me warm as I napped and woke with him in our nest as the rain poured down outside almost ceaselessly for two days and nights. I told him the story of “The Last Battle,” from the Narnia series. It has always been one of my favourites and it talks about what comes after the old Narnia ends and everyone is together in the New Narnia, which is just like the old Narnia only better. “It’s like looking out the window of an old house and seeing beautiful green rolling hills and meadows and forest. It’s so incredibly beautiful, and then you turn around and catch a glimpse of the same scene in a mirror, and it is somehow even more beautiful and more perfect than what you were just seeing.”
Yesterday afternoon I told Mom she could go home. She had come to be with me and him. She is so wonderful, my mom. She understands so much how I love him; we are a lot alike. But after a day and a night and with him still hanging on, I found the look of sympathy from Mom made my own pain harder to bear because I didn’t want her to have to hurt for me. I told Mom I was fine, that I just needed to be alone now, and she understood. We hugged goodbye. She kissed his forehead and she left. I stayed curled up in the hay with him as she drove away. I knew she understood. Some things you need to go through alone.
After she left I stayed with him for another three hours. I read a bit. I tried to sleep. I held him and I cried and I tried to not cry. I talked to him about so many things, about all the joy he has brought to me and to so many others.
Like when he was still a tiny baby and I brought him a few times to see Grandma at the Senior’s Village near the end of her life. She thought he was a lamb. I told her, “He’s a goat, Grandma,” and she stroked his fur and looked down at him in her lap and laughed, “Why, you are just like a little goat, aren’t you?” (I think she still didn’t believe me he wasn’t a sheep; a sheep made the most sense. After all, who in their right mind raises goats?). She seemed happy holding him, and not only did she love his visits, everyone there who saw him, loved him, completely and immediately. In Williams Lake so many of our elders were ranchers when they were younger and I think many of them missed that connection to animals. Amadeus caused quite a stir every time we came in together, and he happily soaked up all the cuddles as he was passed from person to person, and the smiles and the laughter warmed my heart.
Another time as I carried him in my arms down the street in town, a group of five teenage boys came across our paths. Before we reached them they were jostling each other and trying to act cool. But as they approached us they saw him and asked, “What is that?!” I said, “He’s a little goat. His mom didn’t want him so he’s a bottle baby. Do you want to hold him?” And I watched, amazed, as all of them dropped all pretenses and became delighted like little children again. They exclaimed and laughed over him, taking turns holding him and stroking his soft fur.
There are many more examples like this. Amadeus brought love and delight, and now he is teaching me to let go.
Eventually, as the day turned towards night and he still seemed the same, I wondered what to do. I was beginning to be really cold. He was warm, but I had gotten wet coming and going from his shed, and I was stiff from being curled up in the hay for so long. I cried into his fur and asked aloud, “What do I do?”
And the feeling I had was that he wanted me to go. I thought of my own mother, and how when I am really going through something I don’t really want her with me because to see her in pain over me is harder than dealing with my pain. Earlier in the day our friend Leigh had been out, and she told me that Amadeus was ready to go, but he needed me to let him go. She said he was tired of the sadness. She was right. He is an animal, and I have put too much humanity onto him. Animals are often better at dying than we are, and they often want to be alone to die. I looked at him and at Kasha and Kasha looked sad and subdued, her oh-so-expressive eyebrows raised at me, and she lay her head on her paws with her nose at Amadeus’ and sighed. I knew she would stay with him and that he needed to go through this final journey without me.
I kissed his forehead, “I love you, Amadeus, meinekleineziege,”(it means, “my little goat” in German, and has been my ‘pet’ name for him since he was tiny). I walked back to the house crying and wondering if leaving really was the right thing to do. I came inside and saw a message from earlier from my wonderful friend, Angela, who told me, “Sometimes people, and I’m guessing animals, die at that right moment. Sometimes it’s when no one is there… perhaps he wants to be alone.” It felt right. I had a bath to warm up and I cried and I wrote and I thought about how as much as this hurts I wouldn’t give up one second of the moments I had with him.
He is gone now. But he feels closer to me than ever. He taught us all to love wholeheartedly, and to live in and for the moment. He taught me to appreciate the little things, like the immense happiness that filled me every time I watched him take a drink of water! He won’t hurt anymore, and I won’t have to worry for him anymore.
Mark checked on him a few more times. The second time he was asleep. At around 10 p.m. Mark went out one final time and he was gone.
I went out to him. I kissed his forehead and stroked his fur and said goodbye, and Kasha laid her head against his and I left.
Thank you for being here on this journey with us. Remember him, and be happy with me that we had a silly little goat who was never meant to live as part of our community for six years!
Terri Smith considers herself lucky to have been Amadeus’ human mother for these six years. Animals teach us so much and she thanks all of you for taking this journey with her and Amadeus.