Pain and Privilege

February 19, 2017
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Beginning on the first day of this week, I had rushed through Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with days so full that by Thursday night I cancelled my plans for the evening because my body just couldn’t move any more. Now it was Friday and – again – I was in a rush. I had to walk the dogs, pack them up, then drive from the coast of Bandon, back to my home in Coquille, in order to be on time for a 4-hour rehearsal. Reserves depleted, I honestly didn’t know where the energy was going to come from.
   Starting the dogs’ walk, they automatically pulled toward the bay for a walk on the boardwalk and coincidentally, past all the little seafood shops and diners with luscious smells to tantalize their sensitive noses. It was low tide and I could see the water rushing back in from all the little inlets that fed back into the bay. As I watched, I spotted at least 5 or 6 seals at the mouth of the channel, feeding on the small sea life being carried along by the current. Again, my heart soared as my eyes took in the beautiful symphony of life being played out before me. I relaxed as I sent out a thank you to the universe for allowing me this amazing time in my life.
   We walked to the end of the boardwalk, then as the rest of the day came back into my consciousness, I turned the dogs homeward as I walked over one block so I could walk by all the little gift shops and coffee houses just opening up for the day.
Up ahead I saw a young woman looking my way, having just come out of a little café. In a sling against her chest was a little boy about 5 months of age. Walking toward her, I thought, “What a soft, pretty face she has. And such a sweet smile.” I recognized the look as she waited for me to approach, as she just gazed at my two greyhounds, Alex and Bea. Bea, sensing that this was another human who was going to give her attention, started pulling on her leash, tail wagging.
   “Oh, those are such beautiful dogs. And they’re so well behaved. I just had to see them up close. Actually, I was just going to get my service dog out of the car. May I bring her over too?”
   “Of course,” I replied.”
   “She’s being trained as a service dog for the hospital.”
   “Wow, I admire you. All of that, plus a baby to take care of?”
   “Well, I spend most of my days in the hospital and I just thought it would bring a lot of comfort to some of the patients on the oncology ward, especially the children. You see, my husband is there right now for a round of radiation, then surgery, before he moves on into hospice.” She teared up, looked me directly in the eyes and said, “He has colon cancer.”
I just looked at her as she held my gaze. My mind raced as I struggled to come up with the perfect thing to say. Of course, I came up short.
“Oh! I wish I had words to express how sorry I am. There just aren’t any. I don’t know what to say. You are a strong woman. How old is your husband?”
   “He just had a birthday. He’s 31. He was diagnosed when I was 10 weeks pregnant.”
   I looked at that gurgling, drooling, smiling little boy, realizing he would never know his dad. I looked at that soft, pretty woman with the honest, direct blue eyes – a perfect stranger who had decided to trust me with her pain – and I just wanted to gather her up and hold her close and comfort her.
   We said our goodbyes and I walked on, my mind reeling. What had just happened? What had put her in that place at that time? What had put me in that place at that time?
   I thought about the strength and trust of a young mother, just starting out in her adult life, having been full of joy and hope for a life together with her husband, raising a family, buying their first home, maturing in their love as they changed and grew and shared life’s experiences.
I thought about the countless times my dogs have been the catalyst for amazing new experiences and amazing stories from people on the street who have stopped me to pet the dogs. There’s something about animals that just open people up. I feel privileged to own these creatures who elicit such responses from people.
   I walked home with my greyhounds, feeling so thankful for the fullness of my life as I age and my days speed by. I walked on, wondering why? Why this young woman and this new baby on this planet? I wondered how this experience would change who they are, as they grow in ways they never expected to experience so young. I sent up another prayer to the universe, tears in my eyes, asking that they be loved and nourished and held up in this time of great sorrow. I thanked the universe for putting me in their path and prayed that she had received whatever she needed from me.
I thanked the universe for being so good to me. I made a pledge that I will inevitably break, to stop whining about the small stuff and just be grateful for every minute.

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