Wistful week, reflective moments. While sitting outside with Charley last night, a neighbor walked by with her little dog. She wanted to greet him and he began barking his head off. As she pulled back on the lead, backing off from him in fear, her doggie lurched forward fearless of the dog outweighing him by well over 90 lbs. Thus began our conversation and the fears we face in life.
Maria was her name. Her husband was diagnosed with dementia 5 years ago. It was not that gut wrenching to her and the family at first as she had lived a rich full life with him and thought it would be a slow long progression downhill. She was fully committed to taking care of him herself, as so many are. Over the years, the dementia progressed and went somewhere over the line into Alzheimer’s and many thought she was nuts for taking care of him herself.
Maria had baby gates put up so he would not leave the house in the middle of the night. Living in a gated community surrounded by concerned neighbors helped. She slept on one side of a barricade to keep a constant vigil on him the last two years incase he awakened and needed her. Those years were full of late night walks when he felt he was called to duty by the police force and needed to patrol the streets again. When driving her car, to him everyone looked like a potential criminal and should be arrested. She would have to have him sit on his hands so he would not grab the steering wheel and pull over to make an arrest like he had for some 30+ years on the police force.
The day finally came, when diapers, speech and body functions were making it impossible to care for her beloved husband any longer so she was forced to put him in an assisted living center. Within days, he suffered 3 strokes, and within 2 weeks he was dead. She said, perhaps the way he wanted it. He preferred being at home with her. So now, he is waiting in heaven for her return, this time to greet her with his faculties all back in check.
Bob died May 17th, 18 days ago. Here we were, standing in the street, just beyond my driveway, talking at the sun was going down as if it was any other day. And yet, the conversation was heavy in some ways. I listened as she shared. When she learned I have a great deal of experience being around folks dying of cancer, she asked me questions. We discussed these together as it is more important she come to her own conclusions than mine.
Amazing how, in one conversation, you both can get a renewed faith in God, yourself and human resilience from others you barely know. Bonds are formed that quickly, by a human connection. We can change each other’s life that quickly and leave an indelible mark on each other in life. And life is short-lived. Life is a cycle and there is no denying part of life is dying. And then returning home.
Today, I was in a melancholy mood. As we sat waiting for the vet to see our dog, a man pulled out front with his car, right outside the front door. He came around to the passenger side and gently lifted his dog, a golden retriever mix out of the front seat gently laying her, on her front legs on the pavement. Someone opened the door and he picked his dog back up placing it inside and holding her.
Everyone watched and yet did not watch. The room was silent, the dog was silent, the man was motionless, his face was expressionless yet it was clear what was to come. The dog was in bad shape. No one said a word, not any of the dogs, or the office staff. We all sat there praying he was called back first, praying our dog wouldn’t ever be in that spot and yet knowing surely they all would, one day.
He was called back, and just as gently lifted his dog up and went into the room. You could have heard a pin drop. When he left, the door slowly opened. I caught a glimpse of his beloved pet lying on the soft blanket the vet had laying on a cushion to help make the floor softer. How thoughtful for the last bed the doggie would lay on. I couldn’t bear to give the doggie but a glance because I wanted to think in my mind of that gorgeous dog, jumping, barking, licking kids’ faces and such, as dogs are meant to do.
The man’s eyes caught mine, just for a split second, and then we both looked away from each other. He had been crying. He quickly wiped away a tear. And walked out of there ever so quickly, back to his car and then just sat there. I know a piece of his heart was breaking just as Maria was at the loss of her husband.
The cycle of life is hard to comprehend at times but teaches all of us about the mysteries of faith. Why it is important to savor the times we have with loved ones and not take them for granted. He started up his car and pulled away. He will start a new chapter. Maria said to me she is redoing parts of her house as she must rebuild her life, alone. We are given another day to live. Until we aren’t, embrace your life and those you love, fully and completely.