Bittersweet Aging

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It’s been almost 3 years since my beloved boy passed on and life has not been easy for my pack and I.  We have had serious life threatening health issues , some that are chronic.  I have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars.  I have stayed up many many nights with worry. I have cried so many tears that there was no more to cry, yet amidst all the heartache and worry- my dogs continue to point me toward  life’s deepest revelations.

Lucille is in a wheel chair now.  She cannot walk really without it.  She has degenerative disc disease and her neurological function is diminishing.  She is also fully incontinent.  I have to clean her up to 20 times a day.  She also wears diapers.  I move her from one bed to the other. She takes 10 pills a day and I ice her aching muscles and give her deep tissue massage daily. I wake up 2-3 times a night to check on her.  Yet- you would not know she is so fragile.  She still rules the home.  She still keeps the others in line.  She still demands her meals on time, her walks on time and even her belly rubs on time.  Physicality does not determine spirit.  Physical strength does not determine might and will to live.

Madeline, my ever incorrigible and stubborn old Pitty girl has been at death’s door 4 times in the last 1.5 years.   Hit and stuck under a car in July 2012 and  2 surgeries followed to fix the broken femur bone.  After her second surgery- she came down with aspirate pneumonia which had to be quickly treated so the infection would not spread to her healing bone.   Then in Nov. 2012- she stopped eating for 14 days.. Many many tests later revealed she has Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  A few months after we got that disease under control , her mast cell cancer came back and it was a higher grade and in the lymph node.  I opted for surgery and chemotherapy.  Before we could start the chemo- she collapsed and I rushed her to the hospital-  she was going into DIC- what vets nickname ” Death is coming”- her platelets were not clotting- basically she was going to bleed to death.  3 days later- she was out of the hospital and chemotherapy began.  In August 2013-  she stopped eating and had massive bowel and stomach issues.  She was hospitalized for 3 days because bones were found in her intestine and stomach and there was a high risk of perforation which would mean death.  My girl survived this and here we are today-  9 months of chemotherapy and her cancer is in remission . She takes 16 pills a day which I have to shove down her throat because there is no amount of hiding them in food that she will not realize and then spit them all out.  That is what I love about her- her willfulness to have it her way. Her IBD is in remission and she continues to amaze me.  She continues to be so stubborn . She continues to do things her own damn way.  She continues to have this persistent spirit that knows what she wants and finds any way to achieve her mission. She also has this quiet tenderness that only a few know.  She appears aloof to many but when you are in her inside circle of people to trust- she will look at you right in the eyes-  like a human – and just stare – as though she has such important things to share with you and desperately wants you to understand her, beyond the limited verbal language we  have.

Both these girls have shown me that I am stronger than I thought.  I thought I would fall apart so many times in anguish and worry yet the power of Love pulled me up and onward. They have revealed my nature- which is everyone’s true nature- Unconditional Abiding Love.  This Love is constant through sickness, weakness, vulnerability and aging.   Love is devotion amidst hardship. Love does not leave when things get hard. Love sees fragility and wants to  honor and protect it.  Love sees the strength in all beings, not matter how old, feeble or unsteady they are.  I may not be married but I certainly have come to know what ” In sickness and in health ” really means.

I readily admit there are days of great frustration and overwhelm.  I see myself as a mom for 4 special needs children and  there are many days I am pushed too thin.  I have cursed at my dogs for their stubbornness , their willfulness and even their neediness but in the very next moment- I forgive myself and recognize I am  just tired. Love never left us in these hard moments, it just waited for me to recharge and love myself too through it all.   That is another thing- these years of tending to my old girls has done for me-  I love myself more. I accept myself more. I recognize my gifts through their eyes. I see my mothering and so appreciate this aspect of me.

One day, my girls will leave me to journey on . Those will be such sad sad  days. Letting go of my beloveds  is the hardest thing I have ever done.  But when I look back on these later years- I will see clearly that my devotion to their care made me a kinder more patient human being.  What a gift , what a gift.  Thank you my Madeline, Thank you My Lucille.