April 16, 2020
After I finished up weekly paperwork this morning I noticed something felt off. So I ate my lunch…at 10:30 a.m. That wasn’t it. I drank some water. Then a Diet Coke. Still, not quite it. The only thing left was a Reese’s Easter Egg. Nope. That didn’t quite fix it. So I made a few phone calls and did a little work. Still, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off.
I took a break and decided to take Parker for a walk. We walked around the neighborhood for about 15 minutes and enjoyed the sunshine. She pulled with excitement at the squirrels. We played fetch for a few minutes and came back inside. I noticed Parker didn’t go straight to her usual spot to rest. As I got back to work I noticed Parker standing in the kitchen near Sadie’s bed. Sadie is my 17 year old beagle/corgi mix. She’s blind and deaf, arthritic, and has a number of health problems. She and Parker have an odd relationship. Parker has always wanted Sadie to play with her. Sadie has always wanted Parker to leave her alone.
So there was Parker, standing over Sadie and looking at me through the baby gate. Parker is big enough to jump the gate when she wants. It’s there to keep Sadie in the kitchen in case she has an accident and to keep her from bumping into walls. Sadie really just sleeps all day and never moves off her bed. Parker never really interacts with Sadie unless I’m taking them outside. So it was unsettling when I saw Parker just staring at me, standing over Sadie.
Then I realized the source of my uneasiness. Earlier this morning I called the vet to schedule Parker’s annual shots for May. While I was on the phone I asked the vet tech about Sadie’s health and asked for advice as it is getting close to time for Sadie to be given that final gift of comfort. She’s dying slowly. I know that she’s hurting. I know she has no quality of life. So I scheduled a vet visit for Saturday to talk about euthanasia. The vet gave me the details about what would take place if we decided it was time and gave me the option of making Saturday the day I send her across that rainbow bridge or wait a while longer. I decided it was time. We will send her on the next part of her journey in peace.
I did all of this from a rational perspective. It was almost transactional. We talked about fees and processes. We talked about symptoms and facts of life. Then I hung up and went back to work making patient care phone calls, charting, and care planning. It’s Thursday and there’s a lot to do.
That’s when I began to feel unsettled. Now that I am looking back I can see that Parker was feeling unsettled too. When we came back from our walk she climbed onto Sadie’s bed and has been sleeping beside her for the last couple of hours. It’s almost like she knows something is changing. Maybe she picked up on my energy change. Maybe she intuitively knows Sadie is sick and weak and ready. Maybe she just has the capacity to love beyond my understanding.
That’s exactly what Parker is doing. She’s loving her sister. She’s standing in solidarity with her sister, making sure that she knows she won’t have to die alone. Maybe I’m just deep in my feels right now and all of this is just me looking for peace and comfort in anything I can grab onto. But I’m going with the thought that it’s just love. Either Parker needing to love Sadie or me needing to be loved.
Whatever the case may be love is on my mind today. Love is one of those things that many of us talk about giving others. We love our families, our pets, our partners, our children, our friends. We love patients and families and coworkers. I can remember the first time I said “I love you” to someone. I remember the last time I told my grandmother I loved her. I remember the last time I told a friend she was loved. I remember every time I’ve ever verbally said “I love you” to another being. It’s not something I just throw out there willy-nilly. When I say it, I mean it.
What I also remember with great detail is every time I’ve heard someone tell me they loved me. Those are precious. I remember each and every time because it always came as a shock that it was being said. I always get uncomfortable hearing someone say they love me. Why? Are you sure? Have you been drinking? I’ve never really felt worthy of love and as much as I crave it from others I still feel like its undeserved and definitely unreliable. It’s part of my life work to be trusting of others when they say “I love you.”
I’m sure I’m not alone here. I see you out there loving the world with gentleness and compassion. You suffer with the vulnerable and dying. You grieve with those who mourn. You invest all of your heart and soul into your care. But have you considered that you, too, are worthy of gentleness and compassion? Have you considered that you, too, deserve someone to sit with you in solidarity? Have you considered that you, too, deserve someone to invest themselves in your wellbeing? Have you considered you are deserving of another’s heart and soul?
It's ok if this makes you uncomfortable. Learning to feel deserving of another’s love is life long work. When my fiancé and I first moved in together I tried to do everything myself. I made dinner, I cleaned the house, I cared for the dogs. I pay the bills and manage the household mostly on my own. I’m independent that way. I don’t’ feel deserving of assistance. And I realized that assistance, that help, felt like love.
I do remember, however, the first time I truly trusted my fiancé loved me. On the morning of September 11, 2017 I woke up early for my first day of orientation at Four Seasons. I had just moved to Asheville 3 weeks before and we were still setting up our first home together. That morning, as I made my way nervously through my closet trying to find the right outfit for my first day of work I smelled coffee brewing from the kitchen. I didn’t make coffee…My fiancé, who was still sleeping, had set the pot up to start just in time for me to grab a cup and rush down I-26 to Flat Rock.
Every workday morning since (with a few exceptions of course) I have woken up to a fresh pot of coffee. There’s no ceremony. There’s no romantic musical score. There are no grand proclamations from gilded balconies. It’s just warm and dark roast love swirling in a cup, and I deserve it! I don’t demand it. I don’t expect it. I don’t throw a tantrum when I don’t get it. But I do deserve it. I deserve it because it is the object behind my existence. It is the purpose for which I came into this world. It is the reason I am created.
I deserve love. You deserve love.
As I write this, Parker is still loving her big sister. She’ll get up soon and come drop her ball in my lap because she knows I deserve love too. When my fiancé gets home she’ll jump for joy and snuggle up on the couch and love him too. It’s what she does. It’s who she is. It’s what she deserves in return.
All of this love talk reminds me of a poem by artist Frida Kahlo. I leave you with her words about love:
You deserve a love that wants you disheveled,
with everything and all the reasons that wake you
up in haste, with everything and the demons that
won’t let you sleep.
You deserve a love that makes you feel secure,
able to take on the world when it walks behind you,
that feels your embraces are perfect for its skin.
You deserve a love that wants to dance with you,
that goes to paradise every time it looks into your eyes
and never gets tired of studying your expressions.
You deserve a love that listens when you sing,
that supports you wen you act like a fool,
that respects your freedom;
that accompanies you when you fly
and isn’t afraid to fall.
You deserve a love that takes away the lies
and brings you illusion, coffee, and poetry.
Love and Light