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Seasons don’t fear the reaper.

August 17, 2010 \pm\31 4:16 pm

Have you ever watched a creature die?

I never watched a creature die (other than a bug) until I witnessed my beloved guinea pig Peaches passing last Friday morning from 5 am until 8 am. In the background Bob Marley played softly.

Ordinarily my apartment is a Bob-free zone but guinea pigs love reggae; it sounds like a heartbeat. All Bob aside, the experience was like sitting vigil in a 19th Century novel.

Peaches was not under the influence of any lethal injection, painkillers or anti-anxiety medications. Her transition was the real deal. Until last Friday, I’d only read about what dying looks like: death rattles, delirium, seizures, twitches.

Bearing witness to Peaches’ last moments also awakened the reality of my own death. The past few days I find myself obsessed with death endorphins, death sensations, the experience of dying. Nobody really knows what the end feels like, but I’m googling anyway.

I must assume that there are at least a few morbid, angsty folk among you who think about these things. Given our blog’s title,  it doesn’t seem wholly inappropriate to post my research findings (and some other death-y tidbits) here.

The near-death experience research foundation

Physical stages of dying

Nice to be dead – Iggy Pop

Bright lights and angels – National Geographic

Swami Satchidananda on death

George Carlin on death

Death and dying in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition

Where were you when Tupac died?

Death yoga

The white light – Slate

Led Zeppelin In My Time of Dying

Jung on death

Advice from the Dalai Lama


Osho’s death meditation

Ego death, ego death, ego death and more ego death

Flatliners in five minutes

Advice for the moment of death – Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Blue Oyster Cult – Don’t Fear the Reaper

  1. August 17, 2010 \pm\31 7:50 pm 7:50 pm

    interesting info, thanks melissa. i know it doesn’t mean much, but i’m sorry about peaches. watching anything you love die is, um, something fucked.

  2. Robin Elizabeth Sampson permalink
    August 17, 2010 \pm\31 10:09 pm 10:09 pm

    My 22 year-old-daughter’s first guinea pig was named Peaches. She had to leave him behind when we moved east (when she was 5). We’ve had many guinea pigs since then. They are wonderful creatures. My condolences.

    In my years I have watched many critters die, most by natural causes (illness, old age). Those, for me, were the easiest to deal with, though none of them were “easy”. I’ve sat vigil many days and nights. Held some in their last moments. One very ill cat had to be “put down” and I was allowed to hold him when it was done. Many people think that more “humane” but I found it vaguely unsettling. Another cat I didn’t stay with though I’d had her for many years. I regret that. I don’t ponder death much (maybe out of a sense of “tempting fate”) – I’ve lost family and friends – and wish for different endings in most cases. But living things die. Plants, animals, people. I will someday. Hopefully not soon.

    I didn’t click on any of the links before responding. Think I’ll click on the George Carlin one first.

    • August 17, 2010 \pm\31 11:11 pm 11:11 pm

      Thanks for your thoughtful response, Robin.

      Yes, most guinea pig owners are in the 5-year-old age bracket, except in the UK where cavies (as they call them) are quite popular amongst people of all ages. This man, Peter Gurney, was somewhat of a celebrity in the “guinea pig community.” He was a bus driver until he found his true calling in the piggie realm.

      For us, the piggies started as an impulse buy that kept on giving. They are exceptionally gentle creatures: vegetarians, fragile as bone china and butter-soft.

      I’ve experienced the deaths of family and friends, but I’ve never sat with another being as he or she took those last breaths. Witnessing the process of dying has awakened a fear of my own end. I’m going to start meditating on it, and write some poems, which will perhaps alleviate some of the anxiety (or turn me into Lydia from Beetlejuice).

  3. Keith S. Wilson permalink
    August 18, 2010 \pm\31 4:54 pm 4:54 pm

    Interesting. I’ve had many pets die, but I don’t know that I ever saw them die.

    This post reminds me of my first pet, a hamster named “Super Mario Brothers 3.” Which, coincidentally was my favorite video game. My brother’s hamster’s name was “Code Name: Viper.”

    Also, missing the first pet I remember actually caring for (sorry SMB3), Miss Piggy. She was a guinea pig as well.

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