Saturday, October 8, 2011

Who'd have thought?

I am not a huge "dog lover". In fact, I used to wonder why people would get so upset when their dog died. Then it happened. Several years ago , on a cold, snowy Saturday morning (a couple days before Christmas) our golden retriever, Cody, was hit by a car. Our vet was not open, so I had to drive 45 minutes to the "emergency" clinic. I cannot remember why I was the one elected to take a dog, one that I didn't even like, to the "doggie doctor", but there I was, alone in my car with the injured dog.

I carried Cody, all 80 pounds of him, into the vet's. He was whisked into the back for x-rays and an examination. When that was complete, the vet explained that his hip was dislocated. They had attempted to manipulate it back in place, but it popped out the back. They then put it back in place again, only to have it pop out the front. Bottom line, he would need a $5,000 surgery to fix it, but there was no guarantee that would even work. There was no way that we could afford the surgery, so I asked what would happen if Cody was not operated on. The vet informed me, in a very disapproving tone, that there was a good chance we would have to "put him down". As I thanked him for his help and paid the $800 bill, tears began rolling down my face. When I picked Cody up, to take him to the car, he looked at me with his puppy dog eyes and my heart ached. While driving home all I could think was, "I don't even like the stupid dog and I'm the one bawling my eyes out. What's up with that?"

We truly thought we were going to have to put Cody down. Mike was heading out of town right after Christmas, so with the dog by his side, Mike dug a hole. Sometime during the "digging" my then 6 or 7 year old middle son preceded to give Cody a pep talk, "I'm sorry Cody, but we're going to have to kill you." Meanwhile, I continued to shed tears (more, might I add, than all the others in my family put together). Between watching his grave being dug and the "pep talk" Cody figured he'd show us' there was no way he was going into that hole... He lived another several years, during which I became very fond of that "puppy-eyed" golden retriever. When his time eventually came, it was me, once again, carrying him into the vet's and saying one last good-bye, all while tears streamed down my face. I now understood why people are so sad when they have to say good-bye to "man's best friend".
Man's (aka Austin's) Best Friend...
Why am I sharing this? Because I realize more every day that until we've experienced certain things in life we just don't always understand. We're quick to cast judgement and say, "I'd never do that," or "I don't know what the big deal is." I've been guilty of doing this myself, more times than I'd like to admit.

What made me think of this story? The other day I was signing a card from myself, Mike and the boys and I realized that I don't know if I'll ever be able to sign a card again by writing out all of our names. Until I had experienced losing Austin, I would never have understood why a person, after losing a child (or spouse or best friend or ...), is unable to do something, even as simple as signing a card without that person's name on it.

A couple of week's ago it was my mom's birthday (which happens to also be the same day as Austin's). She loves daisies, so I decided to surprise her with a special delivery from all of us. I called the local florist in her area and put in my request. The florist asked what I wanted to say on the card and I said, "Happy Birthday!", but then I paused, as thoughts ran through my mind...

How should I sign the card? It's from all of us, so should I list all our names? But, what about Austin? Will it be "freaky" to include his name. If I do that, will it upset my mom, being an in-your-face reminder that he is not here. That from here on out she will, after 21 years, be celebrating her birthday without sharing the special day with him? But, I can't leave his name off, because even though he's not here with us, it really is from him too. I just can't do that.... Oh boy, how should I sign it. What should I do?

When Austin was alive and I signed cards (Christmas cards, birthday cards, graduation cards,...) from all of us I would sign them one of two ways: (1) list all of our names individually, or (2) sign Mike's and my name, then put "the boys"...

I decided to go with the latter, "Mike, Lori and the Boys". Wow! Who would have thought that ordering flowers would create such thoughtful agony? Sixteen months ago, I never would have. Hmmm...

"Who would've thought!?!"

"You have not walked in my footsteps, danced in my shoes, or lived in my world. Do not judge me, point fingers at me, or become experts on my life. Instead, celebrate with me in times of joy and cry with me in times of pain. Only then will we begin to understand each other."  ~Kate Baker 

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