A Lesson in Grace
Grace is both noun and verb; a name, state of being, and action. Definitions from Webster include:
1) simple elegance or refinement of movement
2) the unmerited favor of God
3) do honor or credit by one's presence
You have all these things, my dear, and since all that grace embodies has been relegated to a name for our daughters, I give this name to you. Champagne Grace.
We are approaching a fork in our infinite journies. You will go where I cannot, where I have never been. What can I give you to help you move forward, and what can I save of you to help me walk alone? I am not ready to be without you. I will never be ready for that. Opportunities for grace occur when we meet circumstances that we do not control. They are windows of possibility wherein we see ourselves truly and can reshape our characters. I see you remaking yourself. You're kinder to others. You are more apt to let things go, as if you've recalled the answers to why we are here and what really matters. I see you shedding nuances of life. You always had an agenda; now you are not selfish, greedy, possessive, or sly. You and I have cleared away the world to spend these last weeks together. I lament that it took this for that to happen. I regret everything I prioritized ahead of you, and every day I took you for granted. You have honored me with your presence for almost twelve years.
I have loved you since the moment you were placed in my cupped hands, blind and squirming and deceptively quiet. I love your ingenuity, passion, and loyalty. I love how much you are like me. I love that you are clever enough to drive me crazy. I love the sadistic joy you get in hating everyone (although you're trying to get into heaven now - you'll let any stranger pet you and you allow me to trim your nails). I love how compassionate you are to creatures smaller than yourself. I love how easily you adapt, how remarkably versatile and eager you were in all your training. I love that you worm your way under the covers without waking me up. I love every Frisbee or piece of popcorn that ever hit you in the head because you couldn't learn to catch. I love the way you smell the ocean miles before we see it. You know how I feel before I do and you do your best to make it okay.
You depended on me to see for you, feed you, teach you, care for you, save you, find you, and keep you safe. I've done my utmost for twelve short years. You have, I'm sure, outlived your parents, your siblings, and any of their children. You have survived abuse, homelessness, poison, foreign objects, and smallpox. You are succumbing to a disease I know well, and partly understand. I can't protect you from this. My love is not impregnable. Knowledge is power, yet I am powerless.
I promised we wouldn't treat you like you were sick. I promised you could eat anything you wanted. I promised I wouldn't cry in front of you. I've broken all three promises, but not by much. I know how much you want sugar - if cancer is anything like my sinus infections, your body is craving it - but the doctors said sugar will make your tumor grow. The homemade food you get must suffice, and anyway you're getting more organic treats and rawhide now than you had your whole life. I've held it together fairly well, I think. I tear up now and then, but I save the waterworks for the shower, or in my car. Our time together should be joyful. It's getting harder not to treat you like a patient. You acquiesced to use the steps up to the bed. We've been lifting you in and out of the car for a month so you don't face plant. You won't eat kibble, so you get fancy-schmancy wet food, and duck flavored pill pockets. I even sit on the floor spoon feeding you in the mornings, princess. You can't roll over anymore, can hardly wiggle to scratch your back. You cough. You pant. You're so hot I have to sleep with the windows open and no blanket. You get tired easily and your balance is shaky. You have to know something is up. But you handle it all with such grace! Every time you fell out of the car, every time you stumble, you pick yourself up and smile at me. It exhausts you to follow the lawn mower so you find a vantage point and nap, putting me in mind of the Royal Guard passing before the Queen. You look forward to Champagne Fridays as much as I do, even though you can't sit up to look out the windows anymore. No matter what happens you smile at me. You wag your tail; your eyes say, "Hey, that's ok. We'll figure it out." And we do.
I am raging for us against the sunset of your life, as if the fire of my anguish could extend the days appointed to you. I know you know how much I need you; I don't think you will go as long as you think that's the case. For that I feel both relieved and deeply guilty. I want the best for you, and the best for you is to be with me so I can love you and take care of you and make it better. Mine is a deeply selfish love, heart of my heart. I want to expel everything bad from a world where I can watch you thrive. This is not an end I dreamed for you as I rocked you in my arms. No suffering, not the rift of betrayal having to choose when you will go. I see in your eyes that you aren't ready. We still have time. So my life can wait while yours ebbs, while we spend precious moments making pawprint art, walking in the park, and Being together. My spirit is made bigger by the presence of your grace. Like every dog, you are a divine being of pure love, but you are not like every dog to me. For the first four weeks of your extraordinary life I did not know you. My parents didn't meet me for ten days; are you any less my daughter? You are my teacher, my best friend, my smaller self with four legs but the same sardonic wit and capricious spirit. My better self. Teach me - we still have time - to accept. Give me a portion of your grace. Prepare me to write chapters of my life without you. You are the most obedient of my dogs. You know the difference between stay and wait. I won't ask you - I can't ask you - to stay. Wait, Champagne. A little longer. Please. Wait until my grace catches up to yours.