Thursday, August 28, 2008

Three encounters show three faces of death

Hump Day
Moncton Times & Transcript
August 27, 2008
Editorial Page (pg. D8)

This was an interesting week punctuated by changes in three lives around me: one that ended; one that nearly ended; and one that seems like it's near the end.

Last Thursday evening, my work colleague David and his wife Lorrie made the painful decision to put their beloved dog to sleep. Scout was a popular pup who was brought to work every day when David and Lorrie ran another company they used to own. At nearly 15 years old, however, Scout's health started to go swiftly downhill recently, ending in that final act of love that many people face with their elderly pets.

Many former employees sent condolences to David and Lorrie following the announcement of Scout's passing. Since Scout's masters used to bring him to work with them every day, many felt like they'd lost their own pet.

When I saw Lorrie in the office the day after Scout passed, I told her, "I won't say anything!" since I'd already sent condolences via e-mail and knew that any discussion regarding him would likely end with Lorrie in tears, which she readily admitted would likely be the case. David, too, was quite honest in talking about Scout. "I'm OK as long as I don't think about it."
We changed the subject quickly.

How else could two people feel after a pet who'd been like a child to them went into the great beyond? Scout led an active life. He was a faithful companion. He travelled with them often and there was rarely a problem finding someone to care for him when they couldn't take him with them. A social dog, he loved being around people.

Scout had a lot of friends and I was glad to have met him when he was brought to our office, although he was noticeably aging. On a recent business trip, I held him on my lap for a time in the car and he was relaxed and happy, falling asleep in my arms as the car drove down the highway, the vibrations of the road lulling him into a snooze. And despite Lorrie's warnings of his bad breath, I never minded getting kisses from him.

Last Thursday evening, it was time for Scout to go. It was a sad, emotional time for David and Lorrie and they will miss him forever, but I know that when it's their time to go, there'll be a little curly haired beige dog wagging his stubby tail furiously on the other side to welcome them as they cross over. (And, might I add, likely with much better breath, too.)

Last Friday morning, I was turning right onto a busy street when out of nowhere I was shocked to hear a bang on my front passenger-side fender. All I saw was a helmet peeking above the fender as I felt my car drive over a bicycle. To say that my heart sank would be the understatement of the century.

I slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the car. By this time, the driver of the bicycle had righted himself slightly and was motioning for me to back up. I knew I was on top of the bicycle, but was I on top of him, too? I jumped back into the car and backed up, giving the 19-year-old young man (I'll call him "Tommy") who'd driven into my car an opportunity to pull his bike out from under my tire. My heart was pounding as I jumped out again to see if he was injured. A passerby ran over to see if the rider was OK and to call the police.

Thankfully, Tommy was not hurt -- not even scratched. His front tire, however, was now shaped like the letter "V", not exactly conducive to a smooth ride.

I wasn't sure what I was going to find when I jumped out -- either someone with their innards squirted across the street like a stepped-on ketchup packet, or someone with a mangled leg.

Tommy's brakes had failed and he ran into the side of my vehicle, leaving himself unhurt, his front tire bent, and a rather large dent in my fender, but otherwise everyone was OK.

The police came, everyone stayed calm and we apologized to each other several times before Tommy continued on his merry way with a manually straightened out wheel that was surprisingly useful.

I subsequently bought him a new rim even though the accident was his fault. He lives in a group home and has no money to speak of and he was so polite and remorseful that I wanted to give the kid a break.

Scout's life decision was (rightfully) made for him -- purposely. Tommy's life decision was nearly made for him, too -- accidentally. And now, there's another person in my life whose life is hanging precariously in the balance.

My great aunt Marie is in the hospital after breaking her hip. She's 96 and incredibly frail. Although I don't want to bury her before she's gone, it honestly doesn't look good. I'm not so sure that's a bad thing, either. Her quality of life is not that great, in my opinion, and I don't see a big chance of it improving much.

She's sleeping most of the time -- at least 22 hours per day if not more -- yet usually remains surprisingly cheerful when I visit her with my cousin. Marie has a pacemaker and only one kidney. She's just gone through major surgery and is drifting in and out of lucidity.

I realize that nature must take its course, but I hope that she gets dramatically better soon or that she goes to heaven. A devoted nun for more than 75 years who's never hurt a flea, she's earned her place in heaven and doesn't deserve to linger on like this.

Scout died with dignity and love. Tommy was saved by the grace of God. And Marie -- well, I hope that whatever happens will be dignified, loving and with grace, too.

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