Thursday, May 07, 2009

Of Life and Lacks (Some Ramblings on the Eve of a Dreaded Visit to the Vet's)

This thought popped into my head today, like some trite and simplistic revelation: I can finally understand one aspect of why people get so excited about welcoming grandchildren into their lives. The older we get, the more death we're dealt, so how could new life not be met with such joy? These additions spill over into the expanding lacks that were brought about by persons we love disappearing from our worlds -- persons who cease to "be".

And although years ago I would have thought that viewing death in terms of one's self is selfish, I now realize after been battered with it over the past two years that viewing it in terms of one's self and how it affects those around you who share that death with you -- who share that tremendous loss -- is pretty much it. My friend John used to say over and over to me: Death isn't about the dead; it's about the living. He was right. It's the living who are left to accumulate losses until their own turns come. Those who are dead... well, they're just dead.

I think of my life with companion animals and can't help but feel, for all of the goodness that's been reciprocated through sharing my years with them, that having those bonds has in one way ended up leaving me with more death than I'm ready to deal with at this point in my life. I have no regrets, though. I'm damn grateful to have been able to provide care and shelter for these magnificent others with whom I've shared my life. Some people scoff at the expressions of sadness and emptiness that are uttered by those who lose their beloved non-humans, but what greater lack can develop than one that stems from losing someone -- human or non-human -- who was a part of your daily life (as you were a part of his or hers), who accepted you unconditionally, who relied on you for all of his or her needs and who, in turn, sought you out to comfort you when he or she sensed that you were unhappy? I suspect that some will shrug and say that this just leads to the anthropomorphizing of non-humans. At the other end of it, some may shake their heads and assert that thinking about non-humans in terms of what they bring to your own life (i.e. as if they exist for your pleasure) is contrary to abolitionist principles. There's no shame in feeling emotional bonds, though, whether they be with humans or non-humans, and the species of the other with whom you share that bond should in no way qualify its weight, nor should it taint it.

The truth is that there's no need for anybody to justify the extent or profoundness of his or her sense of loss when a loved one ceases to be. And it's not about whether the loved one had two legs or four, or whether that loved one could discuss Heidegger's most dense points with you or share your enthusiasm for a good Coltrane record. It's not even about whether the beloved was good to you or to
anybody, really. You're the only one who can assess your own sense of loss -- who can measure the width of that big gaping hole left in your life after a loved one ceases to be. And thinking about loss in terms of it being "yours" is normal, regardless of the species of your loved one.

1 comment:

Mandee said...

Great post, as someone who worked in a vet clinic, we had to say goodbye to a lot of clients after knowing them since they were kittens/puppies.