Stoffel was almost 25 years old, ancient for a Vervet Monkey which, in the wild, has a lifespan of about 9 to 14 years.
I had long been expecting her passing and tried to mentally prepare myself for this eventually - nothing could ready me for the circumstances and the reality of her death - I am devastated.
About two weeks after I returned home she suffered from Kidney failure - I had noticed that she was moving with difficulty and becoming incontinent, peeing wherever she was sitting, which was unusual because she was always very clean and hated being grimy or sticky.
One Saturday morning she stopped eating, refusing all food and liquids. She was obviously in pain because she was sitting and lying hunched-up in an unusual position.
I was unable to determine exactly where she was hurting but the signs were that internal organs were shutting-down. The weather was extremely hot and that afternoon, using a small feeding bottle, I started regularly forcing a solution into her mouth because she was dehydrating. I instinctively realised that her end was approaching.
Her illness was age-related and there was not much that could be done - in the oppressive heat I was loath to stress her out by driving 200 km to a Vet familiar with treating Primates. I hoped that she would just pass peacefully but, it was not to be.
By Tuesday she had perked-up a little and, though still refusing any food, she started drinking copious amounts of water on her own.
Disaster struck on Wednesday afternoon when she fell and, probably as a result of Osteoporosis, broke her spine - I found her lying paralysed on the floor like a rag doll. She was trying to drag herself along with her one remaining functional limb, her right arm.
I contacted Axel, the Vet who, so many years ago, had saved her life after her electrical accident. I asked him how long she could survive in her present condition. He did not answer my question and instead replied that my only consideration should be to 'be fair to Stoffel'.
My Soul was in turmoil - I was living a Nightmare, facing the most difficult decision of my life.
I don't often consciously Pray but, that night, I prayed for one thing only - Wisdom.
My waking awareness the next morning was crystal-clear, I Knew what my duty was, what I had to do.
Stoffel was lying tucked-up against my side - she was lying still, exhausted and in pain, she had given-up on trying to move. The bedsheets were wet beneath us.
I placed Stoffel on a duvet on the floor, facing the rising Sun and contacted the local Vet - I begged her to come to my house. She must have recognised my anguish and agreed to my request but due to other commitments, could only come late in the afternoon.
I sat with Stoffel throughout the day, feeding her an electrolyte solution, grooming her, talking, singing and weeping over her, desperate to convey my Love.
Stoffel had always been a pretty creature but that day, as she lay on her tummy staring at her hand, slowly opening and closing her fingers, she radiated a serenity such as I had not seen before - she had never looked more beautiful.
The Vet arrived shortly before Sunset.
I buried Stoffel in the Fern Garden in front of one of her favourite windows, together with her Brush, her only worldly possession.
I saw Stoffel everywhere in her favourite spots and was unable to release her Spirit - "Go Dear Stoffel" I kept saying, "you're Free now, go play" - and each time I would call her back, I could not let go.
I lay naked and quivering like a new-born babe before the Universe, screaming for relief - but the Universe is impartial, indifferent to my pain ... there are no Chosen Ones.
I've realized that my tears are not for Stoffel, she enjoyed a long and healthy life.
My tears are for me - I must live with the inescapable Truth that I, the person she loved and trusted most, ended her life.
Why was I placed in a position where I was forced to take such an awful decision? It seems so unfair.
In anger my mind dwelled much on the God of Abraham, a jealous God who requires Blood Sacrifice as appeasement; a God Omnipotent yet so insecure that He commanded a mere Mortal to slaughter his child in order to prove his love and obedience? - this is not my God - such a malicious Entity was conceived and exists only in the diabolical mind of Man.
I'd always considered it my Sacred, or Cosmic, duty to protect and care for Stoffel, a feeling amplified after the electrical accident in which she lost her left arm and tail. I believe that, in my imperfect way, I discharged that Duty - right until the bitter end.
Everyone I've spoken to, including Doctors and Vets, have assured me that the decision I took was the correct one - but still it hurts ... so badly.
How much worse would her suffering have been had I not been there when she fell ill? Could I have felt even worse than I do now had I not been with her at the end?
Perhaps, in a twisted kind of way, the Universe was merciful ...
We were her troop, the only family she knew - she was a defining influence and, life decisions were taken with Stoffel's welfare a priority.
When she was a babe, at night she wore new-born baby daipers with a hole in them for her tail, to prevent her from soiling the bed. In the mornings I would wash and dry her bum, just like a baby.
Her body was shaped much like that of a human and, after she lost her tail, this similarity became even more pronounced - she had long slender fingers and toes, with fingerprints, like us.
I was the Alpha Male in her life, the Troop Leader - the only person she ever deferred to.
Stoffel was no Angel - she had a quick and vicious temper and never hesitated to defend her perceived position as No 2 in the troop hierarchy. I was eventually obliged to ask Axel to remove her razor-sharp incisors because her bites were becoming dangerous.
She was mischievous and caused much property damage during her lifetime. Things like superglue and chewing gum were banned from the house - if she bit into a tube of glue it could have had disastrous consequences. Chewing gum was outlawed after she got hold of a piece and, while I was having a nap, she came and lay down against my neck and spat the gum out on my pillow ... when I awoke I had to cut a large chunk out of my hair.
In her later years Stoffel mellowed-out considerably. Though ever quick-tempered she did not bite as readily as she did when she was younger ... she never lost her jealousy though and always became highly agitated if anyone approached me, especially females.
She was madame of the House which was, in fact, built around her - I often had to confine her to one section while I worked on another.
My only regret about Stoffel's life is that she was not able to fulfil her true purpose and become a Mother - I would not allow her to mate as this would have meant more Monkeys in captivity.
It's difficult for me to adequately describe the magical bond which existed between us without the risk of being thought weird.
We met and interacted in a unique place that was between Human and Monkey.
She was my real Imaginary Friend, a furry visitor from a Parallel Dimension- we experienced Love free from the demands of ego or hope of reward.
It was a Blessing and a privilege to know and take care of her, the experience has shaped the way I think and who I am - She is in my Identity.
Goodbye dear Stoffel, we were good Buddies - we were Love
Go now Little Sister, you're Free, go play.