a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Life and Death

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Life and Death

SUMMARY: Contemplating both.
Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year. I notice that I--and my posts--are a little on the down side. Sick. Ticks. Credit card problems. Furthermore, it has been wet and muddy and rainy in the yard all week and will be for the foreseeable future. Dogs are antsy and bored and I've been sore, tired, and grumpy with them. My second disk drive in as many months has failed. (Thank goodness for frequent backups.) Haven't done any Christmas shopping. None. The stress builds. I have ideas, but haven't gotten it together.

Still--last weekend I put up the tree and all except one string of lights. Last night for the first time since then, I had the energy to add the last string and a few ornaments. I can see it from my office. Or even--gasp--go to the living room and enjoy it.
But I have yet one more sad topic, as it's been on my mind lately.


I've thought about this post for a long time, and in fact I've repeatedly come to the conclusion that I don't really know what to say about it. I know how I feel, but (oddly for me), I'm not articulating it.

So, instead, I'll start by counting those whom I've known well enough to attend their memorial services [of the lot, three from agility]: Two with blood clots in bad places (both in their early 40s). Two from motorcycle accidents (40s and 50s). One from heart disease (80s). One from a brain aneurysm (early 60s). One from falling down while drunk and hitting his head (60s). And four from cancer (all in their 50s). On the other side, people I've known who've had cancer that seems to be in long-term remission: 3. And one who has just now been given a very close upcoming estimated closing date on her run with life by her doctor. I am so not liking the odds with cancer, and so not happy with it even existing in our universe.

My Friday Walkies partner has been fighting hers now for what seems, at times, an eternity, but has been only a couple of years.  She has continued to face life and cancer full-on and with perfectly directed humor in the face of the ongoing process of Getting Her Affairs In Order (although, as she notes, no one's around with her at 4 in the morning...):

But, as of yesterday, she knows specifically that it is only with great luck that she'll meet 2012 face to face, and even less likely that she'll need a 2013 calendar. So, she says: "Bucket list!" She has been planning and saving for her retirement and old age. Through her cancer, she has been unable to work most of the time, and when she was able, with this 11% unemployment rate, there've been no jobs. So she's been living with extreme frugality for these years--which, at times, seem like an eternity, too.

No more, she says. Sell the stocks! Empty the IRAs! Visit Hawaii, which she's always wanted to do. Replace the 20-year old carpets and the windows that have gaps where the wind blows through! Buy a tiny RV and tour as far and as fast as she can! So, yeah, OK, maybe everything will go amazingly right with the next type of chemo and she'll have such a boost to her immune system from having such a great time that it will go into remission and then she'll live for years and yet have emptied her cash reserves. She thinks it unlikely, and so does her doc. But, really, if she *doesn't* do it, then she doesn't have that chance to have those extra boosts to her sense of well being, enjoyment of life, and comfort. So she's gotta do it. She earned it! Cram that retirement into as few months as possible!

I'm thrilled about it. I'm scared about it. I'm happy for her to be able to try this. I'm more than sad about the reason for it. [As she says: "SUX!!!"] And I'm not her; I'm me. I can barely imagine what she's been going through, physically and emotionally, although she has shared a lot of it.

So here's the reason I'm doing this post--because of her determination, every step of the way, to get the most from life, to take some risks, to engage with others others around her, to continue taking care of the people who are important to her rather than focusing on her own situation, and finally to just say Wheeeee! This is it, I am going to have the time of my life while I still have a life with which to have it!

I think that's all that one can hope for in the inevitable face of death. Good for you, friend of many years!

Reminds me once again to not take things for granted, to stop focusing on colds and ticks and rain and stolen credit cards and dogs with cabin fever, and to work harder at crossing things off that Bucket List. So--

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care. Renter's bah humbug Scrooge, my wool stocking with my initial hand-knit with love by my mom when I was a mere babe, and those for my four most recent dogs, two still here and two gone but often remembered.

And try to remember more often this reminder, which sits at my computer terminal week in and week out:

Seize the day: Live. Love. Laugh. 


  1. Thanks. Made me cry.

    Did you know that tears (and sweat) are two of the best ways to get the toxic stress metabolites out of your system? :-)

    Gotta finish hanging my stockings and plug in the Christmas lights.

  2. Dang, just what you need, more reasons to cry. Or, OK, I'll accept your rationale. :-)

  3. I hope she has a wonderful time going for it! That would be a dream for me, to buy a little camper and just GO! There should even be some weekend trips that you could go together, dogs go with or not...and build some memories.

    I wish her the best. All the best in these months and years. And if she makes it past the doctor's end date..and runs out of money...well good for her! Something will come up money-wise..and she'll have had a wonderful time in the meantime.

  4. What an amazing attitude she has. And I'd like to ditto all that Dawn said so well.

  5. It takes so much courage to live fully in the face of that kind of prognosis. I wish her all the best in her journey.