Close calls


Lex sits high, looking out at traffic on Nine Mile.

Death is fickle.

I learned this last year while caring for my grandfather. For the last several months he was alive, I experienced numerous close calls in which I was sure he would die.

My colleagues were more than gracious as I would drop my work and rush to his side. More than once I would return the next day and sheepishly report he had miraculously pulled through.

This absurd play on survivor’s guilt is where I find myself with Lexie. But the reality is that when someone is actively dying, nothing is predictable.

Hunger pangs

After Lex gave up dog food last week, I switched to a hard boiled egg/cottage cheese/brown rice mix that lasted one meal. The following morning she actually shot me a hurt look … how dare I offer her such a mess?

So she didn’t eat for a day. I wept, convinced this was the end.

Then Matt spotted an unopened package of lunch meat in the refrigerator, and offered a few slices to Lex. She dove in. She licked Matt’s fingers in gratitude.

Lex ate the cold cuts again this morning, but not as much. And she had to be hand-fed this time. While I’m reassured she’s eating something, I know ham is absolutely terrible for her renal failure. It’s all a dangerous game of give-and-take.

As the vet told me, just let her eat what she’s hungry for. Let hunger pangs lead the way. Honestly, I should consider it a miracle that she’s hungry at all.

The upside to these eating spurts is that occasionally she has a better energy level, and somehow her cloudy eyes have cleared up. She seems a bit more present. She rests her nose on my knee.

I know this won’t last forever. So for now, we play.

Treasuring time

Just as with my grandfather, living beings rarely die on a time table. Because of this, I rejoice.

Granddad celebrates his 94th birthday. He loved telling stories up until the day he died.

I had many treasured moments with my grandfather, especially near the end of his life. As hospice nurses became a fixture in his apartment, it never slowed the flow of conversation we shared.

Each day Granddad shared new stories that I somehow had never heard before. We ate goodies, and talked about how “they just don’t make things like they used to.” He marveled at my iPhone then told me about how trash pickup when he was a child was by horse-drawn carriage.

Granddad taught me to love fiercely, right to the end. He spoke to me just hours before he died, saying he was ready to go, and I was just feet away when he took his last breath. I wouldn’t have missed this moment for anything.

Granddad displayed nothing but grace and dignity in his death, lessons I let shape me as I move forward.

The days ahead with Lex will not be easy.

But I have no regrets as I walk this unpredictable road.

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13 thoughts on “Close calls

  1. For some reason, hand-feeding seems to really work! We make LInus his food and I’m bringing you some to try tomorrow. It’s chicken, rice, peas and carrots, a crushed multi-vitamin and bonemeal. If she likes it wonderful, if not, at least it’s something tried. Does that sound like something she’d eat? Lexie has a wonderful set of parents. You hear stories all the time of people hitting on “that thing,” and the dog just rebounds.

  2. Death does indeed feel fickle. And sneaky and unkind. By the same token, it is functional. It causes us to pause and consider the meaning others have brought to our lives, and the way they have left the world a better place than they found it. Through this, we are moved to be mindfiul of how we impact others, and our actions become guided by the memories of those we have loved. They become the mirror by which we are reflected upon the world. Lexie shows strength and compassion at this time; even with a simple act of gratitude for a special treat or quietly watching the traffic pass. Lexie’s presence will change the world through you, and her life will give countless blessings to others for many years to come. Somehwere, even in your greif, is courage and hope. Carry on, and know that others are supporting you as you support her.

    • Forgive my delay in response, I just found your comment caught up in the spam filter. Your words move me. Thanks so much for taking the time to share them. You are so right, especially about how death truly provides an opportunity to consider the meaning of life. Lex is such a special girl. And she has taught me so much. I’ll always be grateful for her companionship.

    • Thanks so much. My grandfather was a great man. I was honored to share a bit of his story. Today Lex seems to be feeling a bit better. I left her home and she slept all day. I have vacation this week, so I’m hoping me being around will make a difference. 🙂

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