By Rae Lewis-Thornton
July 15, 2014
This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
Two weeks ago today, I stopped living after I put my baby girl Sophie down. Like for real, for real. Honest to God, I have never felt grief on this magnitude. While I still had breath in my body, my life stood still. Sophie was a special dog that left a foot print on everyone she encountered. For a moment I didn't think that I could go on. The grief was all consuming but like with most things in my life, I kept going in spite of the pain. So here I am, still missing my baby girl and adjusting to life without her.
The last time I blogged was to tell you that Sophie had liver cancer. I thought that I had a week to find a solution but Sophie took a turn for the worst that night within hours of posting that blog. She didn't want to eat or walk and her breathing became erratic. I felt so helpless as the night progressed. The only thing I knew to do was to be as close to her as I could. She didn't want to sleep in the bed, so I made a pallet on the hardwood floor next to the big chair in my living room that she laid under. It was one of the longest nights of my life. She was restless and breathless. Every time she moved, I moved. When she got water I watched her until she was back under the chair resting. A few times she laid under my arms and then on the pallet, but mostly under the chair was her comfort zone.
By day break with almost no sleep Sophie was struggling just to breathe. My baby girl was slipping before my eyes and I didn't know how to save her. It's still hard to believe that less than a week before this day, she was barking for bacon. Determined to make the plan Dr. Gill and I agreed on work, Tiara held Sophie in her lap as I gave her each medication. She looked up with sad eyes, "No, Mommie I don't want it," but it was all I could think to do.
In the two hours waiting on the animal clinic to open I prayed for a miracle as Sophie precious eyes cried, "Help me Mommie, help me." I was asking for God's help and she was asking for my help. When I finally reached Dr. Gill and filled her in on the night, I was still hoping for a solution; a way to help my baby girl. After I finished, Dr. Gill said, "You know there are only two choices and I'm not sure that she can make it through surgery. "I know, I know" I said defeated and filled with agony, with my baby girl next to me looking up at me, "Help me, Mommie, help me." There was a pause, "Are you ready?" Dr. Gill asked. Through my tears came, "Yes."
Tiara and I rode in silence to the clinic while baby girl laid in my arms trying her best to catch her breath. "I'm sorry baby girl, Mommie loves you," I whispered to her. Once we arrived, Tiara and I took pictures with Sophie before I handed her to Dr. Gill to place the catheter.
She was in so much distress, Dr. Gill looked at her, "That baby can't get her breath," she said to Sophie. Tiara stood in the corner tears flowing. I stood over Sophie lying on the table still trying to get her breath. I was so overwhelmed with grief. "Thank you Sophie for eight wonderful years," I whispered to her, "Mommie will always love you."
Watching my baby girl die was one of the hardest things I've had to do, but yet at the same time I knew it was the best thing, most humane thing. It was the last good thing that I could do for her.
Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
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November 7, 2014 - One Day at a Time: A Blog Entry by Rae Lewis-Thornton
August 6, 2014 - Online Dating, Huh? A Blog Entry by Rae Lewis-Thornton
August 4, 2014 - Drowning in Depression, Part Two: A Blog Entry by Rae Lewis-Thornton
July 29, 2014 - Drowning in Depression, Part One: A Blog Entry by Rae Lewis-Thornton
July 22, 2014 - Tackling Grief and Depression After Death: A Blog Entry by Rae Lewis-Thornton
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