March 2012: Being There
My dog is dying of cancer. That is not normally how I would open a blog entry, but it is uppermost on my mind these days. This may be her last week. Someday, maybe I will be able to share all that I have learned through this experience. For now, one key lesson it was important for me to be taught is that it takes a team of people to ‘be there’ for a person. No single person can ever completely ‘be there’ for another—it is physically impossible.
I learned this the hard way when one vet simply could not always be there when my dog had a crisis. It took more than one vet to address her needs—and mine. It also took a very kind team of support staff to deal with me both before and after vet visits. If it were not for all these people working together, it would have been a totally different experience.
I imagine it would have been much more isolating. As it happened, it was a connective experience instead. Which had its own challenges given my tendency to withdraw or shut down when overwhelmed. This connective experience broadens once I include the network of kind and caring people surrounding me—some whom I hardly knew, others that became even stronger friendships, and others tried and true at supporting me.
Sometimes the support came in physical form—hugs and personal presence. Other times it was virtual through the web of social media (Facebook and email). Either way, words of compassion were expressed and received. As these last days with my dog approach, I am confident in the knowledge that I will not go through it alone. The webbing of support already around me will hold me up when I least expect it. I am finding, even sharing this with you now, to be a release of sorts. Eventually the grief will lesson, life will return to a routine—albeit a different one—and the days will gradually find a rhythm to soothe the dull ache.
I am even hopeful that the cavernous hole left behind will eventually close over. It has been exposed and raw for a while now, but I know from experience it will not stay that way forever. It may not close over the way I would like; but if I do not allow it to, it will consume me—preventing me from experiencing rays of hope and those little surprises that make life special. I will also have to make a conscious effort to allow others into that cavernous hole if I am ever to find healing. That in itself is terrifying, but something tells me it will be worth the risk.
If there is a second key lesson I have learned, it is that people can ‘shine’ when you least expect it. Opening one’s heart to receive care and compassion is terrifying to those who have been burned in the past. However, if we paint all people with the same brush, we miss out on the healing experience of connecting with other people who are also familiar with pain. To allow people to be with me in my pain is a new and frightening experience. It will take baby steps—and only a special few will be allowed a peek into my cavernous hole, but I’m already seeing that being open has its benefits as well as its risks. With great pain can come great joy. I’ll let you know when my joy returns.
In the meantime, I hope I can ‘be there’ for the people that cross my path—professionally or personally—as well as the vast team of people have ‘been there’ for me these past two and half months. That alone has had a profound effect upon openness—knowing it takes a team. If one person can’t ‘be there’, I know there are others waiting in the wings.
May you experience the presence of another ‘being there’ for you that you in turn can ‘be there’ for others. And if the one you expect to ‘be there’ is unable to, look around—there may be someone just waiting for the opportunity to shine for you.