Since my diagnosis, I've heard many times how vital it is when you have cancer to have a positive attitude. I've been told that I have one, and most of the time, I think I do. But it's easier to be positive on some days than others.
My last post was very positive, because I felt that I had basically won a battle with winter when my lilacs survived so many storms. But today, I don't feel like I've won anything. After one glorious weekend, the lilacs are fading. And so is my positive mood. Actually, it isn't fading. It's pretty much shattered.
In the past month, we've lost two beloved pets at our house. We lost a cat we had had for 14 years a month ago, and I had to put down a dog we've had for 12 years today. Even what's left of my lilacs can't cheer me up.
Love and loss are two sides of the same coin. Anyone or anything you love in this life, you will eventually lose. And those who love you will also lose you. But not forever.
For those who don't have pets, the impact of the loss of a pet is impossible to communicate. It really is losing a member of the family. We raised the dog we lost today since he was eight weeks old. There is a big hole in our hearts and in our house now that he's gone. He was my wife's dog. She also lost her lap cat one month ago. It's been a rough month.
While I can't say that we've lost many close friends in terms of losing relationships, we've certainly lost the ability to see some of them with any regularity. Distance is no obstacle to love, but it's a big obstacle to intimacy. I've only had one close friend die so far, Galen Koch, five years ago. But I didn't lose him. I know exactly where he is.
And I am continually reminded of other losses like that to come, whether from distance or death. Having our closest friends move away in 2001 was hard when we were younger and in our prime. Now, I'm not sure how I'd recover from it.
I now have an unfortunate category in my life that all of us eventually obtain: The people who I only see at memorials. My standard line with many of my friends now is, "I hope the next time I see you, it isn't at a funeral!" I saw some friends I hadn't seen for a while last Monday, at a memorial service.
There's no avoiding it, is there? None of us gets to opt out of loss. Not if we love. If you never want to lose anyone, don't ever love anyone. But that's no way to live. Love is worth the price of loss. Especially when it's only temporary.
I am not one who believes in Dog Heaven, even though I wrote a song by that title once. I could be wrong, but I doubt that pets are included in the resurrection. I think I was with our dog today for the last time. But you and I will never be separated permanently. Love will eventually overcome loss.
Separation from those we love is hard. Even the thought of it can bring tears long before or after the event occurs. With each recent loss for me, whether real or anticipated, while I have been shattered by each, they have forced me to turn it around and see it from the point of view of those who love me. My wife, my family, and my friends. If I am upset by the loss of a dog or cat, or the thought of separation from close friends, how will they feel when they lose me? Not right away, (hopefully) but probably not that far away, either. What right do I have to expect everyone to stay by my side when I may soon be leaving them?
That's why I have to keep a positive attitude. I have to extend grace to those who leave. It would be hypocritical of me to do otherwise. If you love someone, set them free.
We loved our dog, and that's why we chose to be separated from him today. We didn't want him to have to keep on going in his declining state so we could continue to have him around a little while longer. Our love prompted our loss.
When the time comes for someone you love, remember that it won't be permanent. You will see them again. Love will overcome loss. And when the time comes for me, remember that you haven't lost me. You'll know exactly where to find me.