Today is December 23rd. A date with much significance for me. It was December 23, 2004, when Beezer was given 90 days to live. I’ll always remember that day. A cold concrete floor, a bit of white noise in my ears, no windows. The doctor delivered the news with some brutal blood tests. I came home, canceled Christmas, canceled New Years, shut the blinds, and closed off the world. It was the beginning of my downward spiral as I battled the universe over my perceived control. It didn’t go well.
Two years later, Boomer was diagnosed with bone cancer at the same time of the year. My Big Dog was given 120 days to live. This would be the last Christmas we’d spend together, but my attitude was 100% different. With Beezer, my emotions were running rampant. My thoughts followed along dutifully after my emotions. Little wonder that my thoughts were so self destructive and negative.
By 2006, I had learned that by changing my thoughts, my emotions followed. I was sad that Boomer was critically ill, but I stopped the emotions in their tracks right there. My dogs had taught me that guilt resides in the past, fear resides in the future, and my safety zone was today–the here and now. So I channeled all my thoughts into remaining present on today. It worked! My emotions followed suit and I felt gratitude and appreciation.
In fact, as we celebrate the holidays in 2010, my emotions remain full of gratitude, love and appreciation. It’s sad that the fellas are gone, but I’m so darn appreciative of their contribution in my life. Every facet of my life is improved because of their teachings. Two lives well lived.
The blow is a book excerpt that applies especially today. Cherish one more Christmas with you old or sick animal. Think about the lessons, meaning of events, and your ability to shape and frame your thoughts if your dear animal has departed. It’s never too late to look back and give new meaning to these events!
Most of all, I wish each of you a Merry Christmas.
A Christmas Letter to Boomer
It’s Christmas morning. My gift to myself is to write a letter to you. We are so lucky to have each other today. The winter morning in Colorado is cold, crisp and a trackless expanse of white. Everyone else is busy inside with presents, so we will have the whole neighborhood to ourselves. I like that. I will read this letter to you as we walk.
I’m not going to wish for a Christmas present of cancer remission, a cure or even a miracle. Those would be future events and you know how I try to stay out of there. I’ve learned that these things are out of my hands, and, in fact, never were in my hands. I’ll try my absolute best to give you quality care but will release the outcome. It’s not for me to decide or control.
In this way, I can live with balance. I will embrace your illness in order to fight it on my terms, not the disease’s terms. I will invite it into my heart and soul. Only there can I defeat its progeny: fear. All outcomes are good when I walk without fear.
I will wish for one special moment each and every day, a moment so seemingly innocuous that only you and I recognize that brief second. A moment where we both look at each other and say, “This is why I love you today; this moment makes today special.” You see, my dear friend, I know that I might easily miss these treasures if I’m not looking for each one. The snapshots simply pass too quickly in the movie we call life.
I also wish for a Christmas present of continuing to place your best interests first. It’s not about the quantity of life, it’s about the quality. You are so much about fun and lightheartedness, my Big Dog. You are about the silly things that make me laugh and enjoy your company. I wish for a few more of those moments and the objective eye to see when they slow down and cease altogether.
I wish for you to have control and participation in the daily events in your life. It’s not about me, it’s about you. I will speak to you in frank terms about your condition and request your counsel and instruction. I pledge to respect your Christmas wishes as well.
Also on the list is a guilt-free journey. I know this is your wish for me as well. I remind myself that I don’t have a crystal ball and there isn’t going to be any way to pick the exact 100 percent correct solution to take care of you. What I can do is weigh each option that is available, discuss it with you, and make the best combined election. What matters is that the decision comes from a place of love and compassion. Under these circumstances, the outcome is irrelevant.
Most of all, my dear brother, I wish for a happy day. We are intertwined in each other’s lives today and nothing else matters. I am grateful for the gift of today and all the magnificent times we have had and the adventures to come, both here and beyond. You and your brother and now Coral are the best things ever to come into my life and I’m so very, very lucky to have you in my life this day.
Thank you, my best friend, and Merry Christmas!
With much love, your brother, Doug