I counsel my seniors not to write college-entry-essays about their first experiences with death. I know this might sound harsh, but I learned that universities and colleges are tired of reading the standard adolescent death experience. Now, in my defense, I also explain to my students that if they have dealt with extenuating circumstances (death of a parent), then this is completely different.
Many of the standard teenage-first-time-I-dealt-with-death-essay usually ends with talking about not taking loved ones for granted. Good.
Because dealing with death is exactly that. Understanding the temporality of life. Understanding that taking loved ones for granted is the wrong approach to life.
And I have sat on my plywood high horse and felt really strong and really wonderful because I generally don’t take my loved ones for granted.
But, you see, the joy of riding a plywood high horse is that it can be burned out from underneath me and I am then reminded of the reality that love truly is wonderful and truly is temporary.
As much as I love Paul’s I Corinthians Chapter 13 discussion of love, I wish he had referenced that mortal, human love is something we sling over our shoulders, tell the little one that lies on the axis of our spines that we’ll pay attention to it later.
I just need five more minutes. I have to get this one thing done and then I can pay attention to you.
Leia, my new little dog is at the vet’s office. She arrived yesterday around 9:00 in the morning. 30 hours later, I strapped her into the front seat of my husband’s car so he could take her back to the shelter. Because since she is a rescue-dog, her first round of shots and the spaying-surgery will be completed at a third of the cost.
Woo hoo for saving money.
The veterinarian wants her overnight, though, to ensure she doesn’t eat. Or to be nice. Or whatever. Regardless, tomorrow afternoon at 5:30, my Beloved, the Girl, and I will drive an hour north to retrieve our dog and will gently hold her still to keep her insides in and her pain under control.
For the last week, I have thought endlessly about Leia. I debated getting her. I debated the benefits of bringing another dog into my home. I argued with myself and my husband and the Girl over whether or not we were making a good decision by bringing another dog into our home.
But, you see, what I really am seeing now, though, is how much I have taken love for granted. I have taken for granted the daily sounds of my husband’s footsteps when he unfurls himself from our bed and comes downstairs for his morning cup of coffee. I have taken for granted the pressure of my daughter when she leans into the nook of my shoulder to get a hug, to feel the pressure of my arm pulling her close to me when she weeps because she is overwhelmed. I have taken for granted the sly smile my son will toss at me when we share an inside joke.
I have taken for granted so many different elements of my life, of the loves of my life.
I have given my Loki-dog as good of a life as I could. But I have also failed in so many ways. And as I type this, I can hear him snoring and I want to pull him back up on the couch next to me and back into my lap. But this is rather hard when my dog is 75 pounds and has long, arthritic legs.
I have taken my job for granted. For a while, I was seriously thinking about early retirement. I was tired. Of lots of things. Politics. Anger. Frustration that I hadn’t done everything everyone wanted me to do in the timeline that everyone wanted me to do. A sense of grief that I wasn’t as in love with my job as I wanted.
And then, some things happened, stories that I will not unfold here. They are my stories. But in these experiences, the subtle spark I was missing was ignited. And the joy flooded my system and I realized that I was just being stupid. I love what I am doing. I have always loved what I was doing. But I needed to have my emotional mirror shattered, reconstructed, and polished to a high gleam for me to recognize just what I was taking for granted.
I have taken my friends for granted. As I was skimming through Facebook, I saw the likes on my post from last night and saw the numbers of likes/loves growing. Friends from twenty years ago have stood beside me for so many years and though we don’t talk, they are still part of my memories, still part of my fingerprints.
To deny my friends, to take them for granted is to deny the emotional double helix that I climb day in and day out.
I wish this was my final stand, my final words that I will never, ever take anything for granted.
But that is a lie. Because I am human and I will continue to make mistakes like taking things for granted.
Leia will come home tomorrow. In 24 hours, I will be curled up around her on the floor, listening to her snort while she tries to play with her toy even though I know she shouldn’t. 24 hours from now, my family will be gathered around the television, ignoring the show on the screen while we talk about something. Or nothing.
We will be together. And I wonder if I will think about tonight’s post.
If I do, hopefully I will remember to look around at each of my family members and tell them I love them.
And if I don’t, I will still look at each of my family members and tell them that I love them.
I might take love for granted, but that doesn’t make me stop loving.