“If we are not in contact with pain, we cannot know what real happiness is.” Thich Nhat Hanh
It’s fall and Halloween is on its way so I got a pumpkin. Well to be honest, I didn’t even buy it. I got it from our uncle’s pumpkin patch. But I do have some festive spirit.
Our sister, Lisa, told me about using your pumpkin as a gratitude reminder by writing something you are grateful for on it each day. I haven’t managed to do it every day even though it is on my desk and I look at it all the time. But over the weekend we were sitting at the emergency vet waiting to hear what was going on with our wise old feline, Basil and there was an 8-month old yellow lab bounding around the waiting room, even though we’d already overheard he had eaten a plastic toy.
I thought this dog has to have a serious stomach ache and he’s still choosing to be happy. Further, he’s so sweet and he’s letting me love on him. The very least I can do is let the love in. That’s what resistance does to you. When you are resisting something you don’t want in one area of your life you tend to be resistant period. If things aren’t exactly the way I want I am resisting goodness as a blanket choice.
Not the best option but I do it. I see that I have done it and am slowly starting to catch it in time to stop.
So while the day with our cat didn’t end as we had hoped it really ended as we deep down knew it likely would. Our sweet Basil had reached the sage-like age of 17. He’d lived a long life. Of our three cats, he’s the only one we’ve ever brought home as a kitten. He’s been with us almost as long as we’ve been married. Many times I was sure Basil might outlive us all. I have seen him rally, rise and restore himself time and again and I was optimistic he would once more. However, this time there would be no rising, he used up his last Phoenix experience, this time he was taking a different route. I was resistant. I heard myself starting to balk at all the agreements John and I had made a couple of years before when he was knocking on kitty heaven’s door. We said no more heroic interventions, never again a feeding tube, no more hospitalizations. And yet I heard myself questioning those decisions in an effort to stop the pain that I felt welling up inside.
It was a familiar feeling. It felt unfair we’d have to endure this again so soon. We said goodbye to Parsley nearly two years ago and while the pain of that has healed this felt like an end of an era. Basil and Parsley, our herb-ish animals, were much like their names.
Basil had a strong personality and grew with wild abandon. Parsley, on the other hand, was mild, good for nearly any person (or dish) and took a little more finesse to grow.
They have been like our children and I have loved them and cared for them like I would a human. In fact, I probably had more patience and kindness for them than humans at times.
But Sunday morning I walked into the vet with two longtime friends: — my husband and Basil — and I left with only one. But as I move through this process I see that isn’t exactly true. Basil and Parsley are still with us. We have so many great memories with them both. They have taught me compassion and kindness. I learned how to be selfless, sacrifice and do really difficult things in the service of another. And I learned how to love without any promise of it being returned. And with Basil that was always a good plan. He was a cat after all.
John and I went out to the park for a run later on Sunday and there were tears and more tears but it felt good to be outside in the fresh air and warm sun. It was a beautiful fall day. And I felt at peace with the decision even if the pain was still acute. And I thought to myself, even on a day like this there is the possibility of joy. And so I asked John about all his best memories of Basil. And there are many. He was a wild banshee in his early years. He left a string of broken lamps, spray bottles, dishes, candlesticks and Christmas trees in his wake.
When I got home later that day I realized I hadn’t written on my pumpkin in a few days so I wrote that I was thankful he was at peace. Then I got out my journal and wrote down every positive thing I could think of that happened that day and I easily wrote 10. And then I added a few more. I decided I was going to stop resisting both the pain and the joy. I was going to let it all in.
Plenty of people left the vet that day with relief and their pet or the promise they would come home soon. We’ve been those people many, many times. This time we were the people who had to feel the heartbreak.
Lowi and I have both had our share of adversity lately. She, too, recently said farewell to her pup, Samson. And as you read last week, a personal challenge to traverse. There will be tears, there will be difficulties, but if we stay the course we’ll find the possibility for joy whether we write it on our pumpkin or not.
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G