Friday, January 29, 2010

Spiritual Lessons From Elvis

Elvis was a red-eared slider who graced our family with his presence until he died last September. He was almost 30 when he died, which is a long life for a turtle in captivity. He lived with us for not all, but many of those years, and in that time I grew to know Elvis as one of God's most extraordinary creatures.

Elvis was the epitome of what you'd expect from a creature whose type has been on the planet for upteen years; he was the wisest of all of us. He'd look at me with the kindest, most understanding eyes. He was also a great listener. I mean it, he was. Elvis was present. All of us in my family came to know Elvis this way, and expect it. Other people who came into the house, too, were drawn to walk over and speak to this amazing turtle, and feel his very strong and peaceful hello. Every morning when I opened the blinds behind his tank, and other times, too, I would bend down and say hello, telling him what a sweet and handsome turtle he was.

He was very social and very clear about what he wanted. He loved to get out of his tank, and I have great memories of him trying to keep up with me as I walked down the hallway with a load of folded laundry in arms. You haven't lived until you've been chased by a turtle. He also loved to have me hold his face up to my cheek; the warmth must have felt nice to him. He would go limp and his legs would sort of hang down, like he was just too comfortable to move. It was endearing, and probably would have won us $10,000 if someone had taken a video.

His death was really hard for me, but the spiritual lesson I learned from him as he made his transition is one I'll never forget, and certainly fitting one as amazing as Elvis. For months I had been noticing that he was slowing down, still eating and interested, and being his old self, but slowly becoming less vibrant. I knew he was getting old, and began to try to accept that, hard as it was. Over months it progressed very slowly, to the point where I started to consider whether I should take him to the vet. I was very torn because I didn't think there was anything they could do and I kept getting very strong messages from Elvie that he did not want to go to the vet; he wanted to die in peace, outside in the backyard grass.

I did end up taking him to the vet, despite what he kept telling me, because I had to. He was pretty chipper on the way. They kept him all day, took blood and did a number of tests, and when I picked him up I knew it had taken out of him all he had left. I found out that he had an infection. I hadn't even known it.

I got him home, lay him in the grass outside and lay next to him and told him goodbye. He opened his eyes once and looked directly into mine with that deep acknowledgement of everlasting life, then very peacefully closed them and stopped breathing.

In addition to alot of grief, I felt so much guilt and sadness over not realizing he had been sick. For all of the understanding of what he wanted and needed, I didn't pick that up. I felt so bad at having failed that amazing creature. One day, in my meditation, I said hello to him as spirit, and very bravely asked how he had experienced his turtle life. I was afraid to hear the answer. And he showed me a clear picture, without hesitation, from his perspective in his tank, looking up, of my own face above his, lovingly saying, "Hello Elvie, hello sweet turtle." And I cried as I remembered that life and love continually change form but never really die, and that my loving of him had been more than enough.

Love chose, for a time, to be a red-earned slider . . .

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