A furry I never met helped me conquer my fear of death.

Video

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Tony Barrett, aka “Dogbomb”

On the morning of April 5th, a beloved, longtime member of the furry community, Tony Barrett, aka “Dogbomb,” who had been diagnosed with ALS ( amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) over a year earlier, made the difficult decision to end his own life via physician assisted suicide (he lives in Arizona, where assisted suicide is legal for sufferers of terminal illnesses).

ALS is 100 percent fatal, and “Dogbomb” (as I will be referring to him here) had been experiencing a rapid decline in his quality of life. He was having difficulty walking, and even breathing and swallowing. ALS is a devastating and disfiguring disease that currently has no cure. It normally kills within a few years (2 to 10 years being average), although in rare cases, it can take much longer (astrophysicist Stephen Hawking was first diagnosed with ALS in 1963, and he didn’t succumb to it for 55 years!)

I never met Dogbomb, but he’s a member of the same furry community my son has been active in since about 2009. He’s evidently hugely popular within the community because of his positive, upbeat attitude, even in the face of such a devastating diagnosis and grim prognosis. Since Dogbomb was first diagnosed in early 2018, he has organized marches and walks to raise funds for ALS research and has become a huge inspiration to people both within and outside of the furry community. He’s older than most of his fellow furries, who tend to be mostly Millennials, and has taken on a kind of older brother or mentoring role to many of them, who are in turn inspired by his love of life, enthusiasm, positive attitude, and passion for activities that help find a cure for ALS.

That’s enough background.  I read Dogbomb’s story on Twitter the other night completely by accident, and then I stumbled on this short animation created by one of Dogbomb’s close friends (“Jib Kodi”), made just after Dogbomb publicly announced he would be ending his life. I don’t think there’s any need to explain what this video means, other than that it’s about the power of friendship and the furry community’s unwavering support as Dogbomb commences his journey out of this world and into the next. Notice the “Run to Fight ALS” shirts some of the characters are wearing.

 

This little animation made me totally lose it for almost an hour. Not just a few tears, but full blown sobbing. This wasn’t actually unpleasant at all, but cathartic. Like a good emotional enema, I felt like my soul had been cleansed.

Later, I tried to figure out why I had reacted so intensely. I didn’t know this man, I never fought ALS or knew anyone who had, I’m not a member of the furry community, and yet…this little video grabbed my heart, turned it inside out, and twisted it hard!

For years I’ve been terrified of dying. Not just the suffering and pain that often precedes death, but a fear of death itself. It’s really a fear of the unknown. No matter how strong one’s faith, no one knows for certain what will happen after they die. I don’t have all that many years left, maybe two or three decades at most. Maybe less than that. My fear of death, rather than dissipating as I grow older as it seems to do for most people, has intensified. This is a real problem, since death isn’t something that I can avoid. I can delay it, but one day it’s going to happen whether I want it to or not.

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Dogbomb’s Twitter icon (artist unknown)

Dogbomb was a man who, though not very old, did not fear death. He stared his own mortality in the face and said fuck you to it, and then grabbed its icy hand and told it some jokes. Dogbomb was a man who I have been told always smiled at everyone, and was always willing to listen to others’ troubles, even when he had much worse problems of his own and knew his illness was terminal.

Rather than sink into self pity, crawl into his bed, and wait for death to take him, he stayed active, organized events and marches to raise funds to find cures and new treatments for the disease that was killing him. He got countless others involved and did a lot of good for sufferers of ALS. At the very least, he gave them hope and inspired them.

And finally, he decided he was going to die his own way, not ALS’s way. He died willingly in a loving and supportive environment among his closest family and friends. If dying joyfully is a thing, Dogbomb did it.

And now, after being so inspired and moved by Dogbomb’s story, I can finally understand those who say that death can be a beautiful and uplifting thing, a beginning rather than an end, the start of a new journey — and not something dark and morbid that we should fear.  For someone with ALS or another painful or physically crippling disease, death also means freedom for a soul that had been  trapped in what had become nothing more than a burdensome flesh prison.

Dogbomb wrote one last tweet on the morning of his death:

“Dogbomb has left the building. I love y’all!”

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Screenshot of Dogbomb riding into the sunset from an animation by Jib Kodi

I can’t say my fear of death is cured, but I’m getting there. Dogbomb’s beautiful life of service to others, and courageous (and joyful) passing has helped me with that.

Here is where you can make a donation to the ALS Association.

*****

Further reading:

My Son is “Furry” — Got a Problem With That?  (posted 9/20/14)

Fear of Death

The Ultimate Dissociative Experience

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My ex might be dying.

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My MN ex may have cancer.   He’s been coughing up blood a lot and has been a heavy smoker for years, and also smokes a lot of weed too.  He’s also been losing a lot of weight.  He tells my daughter he doesn’t think he has much time left.

He’s covered by Medicare (SSDI), but he’s terrified to go see a doctor.    I don’t blame him actually.  I’d be terrified too.

He told my daughter if he has cancer, he just wants to let nature take its course and doesn’t want treatment.  He’s a very high spectrum malignant narcissist, but he hates himself and his life.  What he lives is not a life, it’s an existence.   He’s just marking time until death, and he’s not even that old (he’s 55, but looks 70).

Although I can’t stand him anymore and refuse to have further contact with him, this development makes me feel very sad.   It makes me sad that he allowed his own narcissism to destroy him (as well as almost destroy the people who loved him, including our children).  It makes me sad that he’s isolated himself from his family by driving the people who loved him away, one by one–and will probably die all alone with no one to really care.  His parents are both dead and he has no other close relatives.

It makes me sad that he, like my mother, will most likely die without ever being free of his narcissistic prison.    I am praying for him because although I don’t like him, I know he’s living in a self imposed hell of his own making and his life is without any joy or lightness or love or hope.  He’s the most negative person I’ve ever met.

I would love to see him at least become self aware enough to make amends to both his children, and realize that what’s happened to him is his own doing, not the fault of those who were close to him.    Not because I want to see him suffer the pain of self-discovery (I’m not a spiteful person seeking revenge), but because I feel like that could possibly redeem him in God’s eyes, even if it’s at the 11th hour.

No, he doesn’t have enough time to be cured of NPD (or ASPD, or whatever he actually has), because that can take years that I don’t think he has, but at least some kind of redemption may be possible and he can have a moment to reconcile with his family before he finally shucks off this mortal coil.

I would also love to see him accept the love of Christ and allow himself to be comforted in His arms during his last moments.   He needs that so badly.  I’ve felt the love of Christ very keenly lately, and when I feel overwhelmed or discouraged or depressed, I ask Him to take me in his arms, and I can feel that he really does and that brings me great comfort.   I felt his presence strongly during my spiritual awakening (of sorts) in the Gulf of Mexico a couple of weeks ago.   I feel it whenever I fall onto my bed and weep after therapy, and he just rocks me and holds me like the parent I always wanted and tells me everything will be alright.  He was always there but I refused to see.

My daughter does still speak to her father sometimes, but after stealing all her money last month, there’s definitely a rift between them now, and she’s starting to realize what sort of person he really is and that he’s utterly incapable of loving anyone.   He told her he wants her to have a baby before he dies so he can have a grandchild for a short time, but she’s smart enough to not do that until she’s actually married (she’s with a very good man now who I think might be “the one”–and there are no red flags that I can see).

Maybe this man, being so physically ill (even though there’s no proof it’s cancer it probably is), will begin to look at himself in a different light and begin to develop some self-awareness.  I’m praying, and I know God listens.  So I’m not without hope that at least that could happen.