Like many others, I’ve not had the best relationship with death. I’ve feared it. I’ve avoided it. I’ve not really been interested in understanding what it is. Because of a few ‘close calls’ with death in my younger days, I’m probably more familiar with death, especially in humans, than in any other species. But recently I’ve had to say goodbye to one of my animals. And I’m becoming intimately familiar with death in relation to shelter work.
But really what is death? Wikipedia says ‘Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism.’ Which is true right? Life is the physical functioning of an organism. An yea this is technically true, though a bit dry.
So what is life? We have branches upon branches of science that dedicate themselves to studying the various aspects of life. And us humans romanticize and write poetry on it. I personally used to see life and death as 2 sides of a coin. Neither one really having more importance than the other, but simply 2 different states of being on the physical plane. And perhaps touting my motto that the most important thing about life is ‘quality’ and not ‘quantity’. And though I still strongly believe this I’m realizing lately that so many beings don’t get a chance at ‘quality’ at ALL.
When I began my personal trek into rescue work, with dogs and cats, mostly dogs lately, I purposefully avoided the ‘death’ part of the job. Like not wanting to know how many animals had been euthanized at my local shelter that week or what was going to happen to that dog whose picture I just saw if he didn’t get into a foster home. It was just too painful, and now I’m realizing it was just too personal. Not feeling like I could ‘do something’ to help save them all stopped me dead in my tracks. Eventually, I got over, or at least slightly beyond, my fears to get more involved. Because I kept telling myself, not being able to help them all shouldn’t stop you from helping a few.
And now I’m at a wholly different point in the journey. I have one kitty gone, and several aging pups. My boy Nilo, a sassy MinPin, is in his senior citizen years. I’ve watched him go from a young attitude-filled bouncy boy to an attitude-filled, more grey hairs, eyesight challenged, more dental-cleanings-needed-a-year man. It’s a terrible burden and great honor to, hopefully, be there for the entirety of the life of your furry family members. Their clocks are running faster than mine and though it’s painful, I hope to outlive them all. …Death, or the cessation of life, is most painful to those left behind.
But this pain shouldn’t stop us. It should NOT stop us from doing good. Cause at some point the good starts outweighing the pain if you try hard enough. Go ahead and curse the heavens, be angry at the universe, and cry that it’s unfair! And then keep going. Because I think when you save a life, that being is just so grateful you did. They may not know what you went through to get there, and they may not even fear death, but they have a chance to experience happiness. And I think, through this, so do we.
So death still ain’t my BFF, but at least we’re on speaking terms.