…to accept what is.
My old dog, Sandy, is almost thirteen. We walk together nearly every day on the trails at the base of the Sandia Mountains for which he is named. These days his walk can wobble. When a jackrabbit crosses his path, he speeds up to a teetering trot, still on the chase. In those moments, I think of his younger days when he could almost catch the racing rabbits, his strides long and fluid and so, so fast. But he doesn’t turn to me and lament the bygone days. He seems to love every minute of every walk we take. He doesn’t fret over his evermore frequent stumbles along the path. He just rights himself and goes on. And his joy makes me joyful. Such important lessons this wise, furry teacher has for me – take pleasure in every walk, savor every meal like it was the best I ever tasted, and lean into every sweet caress from someone who loves me.
My father suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a long, slow journey that he and our family have taken for years, with him progressively getting farther from us. My mother struggled hard against it, against the reality of losing the man she’d spent almost 60 years with, even though his body was still present. She was angry. All the time. Until she found out she was terminally ill. When that news hit her, she looked up at me from her hospital bed and said, “This won’t be so hard on Daddy, will it? He won’t really know.” And just like that, the anger that had consumed her for years, flowed away. She accepted what was, even embraced it, both his reality and hers. Weeks later, she died at peace.
I knew a couple, married long and loved each other deeply, but lived largely separate lives under the same roof. There was an unspoken, mutual agreement not to talk about the disappointments in their past, the barriers to closeness in their present. Until they found out she was terminally ill. Though it was a time of great physical pain for her and emotional pain for him, they opened their hearts to each other in a way they had not been willing to risk before. The last years of her life were a time of richness in their relationship. She died at peace, and some years later, he did too.
But do we have to wait to know our days are numbered before we accept what is? After all, our days are numbered. We just don’t know what that number is. I’m going to try to live my life more like Sandy. Not wait.
What are you waiting for?