The Black Rabbit of Inle

The Black Rabbit of Inle visited my house last week. My rabbit, Molly, died on Thursday, October 24.

If you ever read Watership Down, you’ll remember the Black Rabbit of Inle visits Hazel, the hero of the story, in the final pages and invites him to join his Owsla (the rabbit police). Think of the Black Rabbit as the bunny version of the Grim Reaper. Hazel consents and leaves his body behind.

You may remember from a previous post that Molly had a parasite called e.cuniculi, which attacks the brain and nervous system. She had lost her sight and was gradually losing control over other functions in her body. A couple months ago we had to retire from our pet therapy visits because Molly couldn’t stand up anymore.

Last week she had declined to the point where I took her to the vet to see if anything else could be done. The vet didn’t think she would live through the night. I decided to take Molly home so that she could pass surrounded by her family.

I made a death bed out of couch cushions laid on the floor, set up a heating pad, and placed Molly on her side. I spooned her from behind, while my other rabbit, Gilligan, lay on the other side. Making a “love sandwich” was something we often did in the evenings, and Molly always insisted on being in the middle.

For two hours we lay together in the peace. My rabbits have Sanskrit nicknames, and Molly’s was “Shanti”, which means “peace”. (Gilligan’s is “Ananda–joy”.) I chanted Om Shanti, pausing at times to tell her it was okay to leave her body behind, that Gilly and I would take care of each other, that she was only changing form and her soul would continue on its journey. I told her how much I loved her, how beautiful she was, and thanked her for the amazing gifts she had brought into my life with her presence. Her breathing was quiet and slow.

Then suddenly her body spasmed and she tried to breathe through her mouth (normally rabbits only breathe through the nose). Then, everything went quiet. Her breathing and her heartbeat had stopped. I knew the Black Rabbit had come. I kept chanting Om Shanti even though I was crying.

Black_rabbit

The Black Rabbit of Inle comes for Hazel.

Gilly and I kept a vigil over her body for another couple of hours. I wanted him to see and smell her so he could process what had happened. I combed out Molly’s fur, kissed her one last time, and wrapped her in a shroud I had made from some bunny-print fabric. I put her body in the freezer until I could take her to the crematorium.

The next day I went for a long walk on the beach. The fresh air felt good, and the wind dried my salty tears against my cheeks. At my turnaround point I sat on a rock and looked out to sea. I watched the waves rising, cresting, falling, and then a moment of calm before another set of waves. It was a perfect reflection of my emotions.

I felt gratitude for my boss, who had the understanding and empathy to let me take a few days off to grieve a pet. I felt gratitude for my girlfriends, who had brought pizza and wine so I didn’t have to cook. I felt gratitude for the open sky, where seagulls were soaring on the updrafts, as I knew Molly’s soul was doing.

I thought back to when I lost my first rabbit 10 years ago. It happened suddenly and in the midst of a very difficult time in my life. I understood that expression to be “beside yourself”, as I couldn’t bear to be in my body and feel my pain. I was hysterical and hyperventilating. A friend had to give me some Valium to calm me down enough to talk. I deeply resisted what had happened, and so I suffered.

And here I was again, but sitting on the rock I felt deeply calm. Sadness rose up again and again, but now I had a container big enough for it. Through my mindfulness practice I had gained awareness of how all things rise and fall: joys and sorrows, nations, people, animals… All things must pass. With awareness came an acceptance, and with acceptance, peace. Then I knew that Molly, Shanti, would always be there.

Molly--Shanti

Molly–Shanti

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2 Comments

  1. Judith said,

    October 29, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    Chandra, I’m so sorry to hear of the passing of Molly. She was such a special girl and I’m glad I had the opportunity to know her for a short while. She was blessed to have you and Gilligan as her family. Take care and my best wishes to Molly on her journey through the light.

  2. somaheal said,

    October 30, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Thank you, Judith. I may be contacting you in a few weeks about adopting a new companion for Gilligan. I’m interested in Sasha.


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