This past week has been one of goodbyes. As one goodbye piled upon another, I began to pay attention. I was reminded of a piece I wrote with another writer years ago called, “The Long Goodbye,” a wife’s farewell to her husband who lived more in the realm of Alzheimer’s and less in their sixty year marriage. For me, “The Long Goodbye” was always more about living than moving into another realm of existence.
Nowhere is that truer than at an animal sanctuary where I’ve been a volunteer for the last four years. Mostly, I send out monthly updates to animal sponsors–it’s easy and fun–I relay stories and pictures of animal antics, always a welcome email. As the sanctuary is for elderly and medically needy animals, goodbye is often on the horizon. At times, goodbye is said so often it is hard to catch one’s breath.
In the past two days, three sanctuary residents crossed the Rainbow Bridge, one goodbye after another. Two of the residents were elderly canines, Snapper and Rocky, and the other was a very human-friendly rabbit, Dudley. For the remainder of their lives, the sanctuary provided them the security of home, a daily routine they came to trust. Lives regained. No matter how long or short their stay at the sanctuary, each of their lives ended in arms of love. Would that every one of us lived a life with such a long goodbye.
As I have learned from Dr. Mac and the residents of the sanctuary, the long goodbye is unique to each and every being. On the very morning the long goodbyes played out at the sanctuary, Cooper reminded me the moment looms for us as well. Like his friends at the sanctuary, Cooper lives in the moment, devoted to routine. For now, he is still willing to accommodate the physical changes his body is undergoing but he will let me know when the end of the long goodbye is here. There won’t be much notice, just enough. Until then, we go on as if life has always been this way, and after a while, we believe what we tell ourselves.
For some time, Cooper and I have been witnessing a long goodbye between a woman and a canine that live in our apartment complex. Alice has Alzheimer’s and her hair is white just like Buddy’s, her West Highland Terrier. In the two years we’ve known them, the two have been the best of friends but for a while now, Alice hasn’t been able to remember their routine. While Buddy does his best to remind Alice, Alice remembers routines with other Westies. Buddy does his best to keep up.
We learned that Alice and Buddy are moving, and while we know it’s a fact, the actual date is never mentioned. At first, Alice told us that all of her sons were moving as well and the whole family would be living in the same state. First it was Colorado and then it was Connecticut but now the most frequent moving destination is an assisted living center in a small Florida town not too far away from us.
Of course, none of these moves involve Buddy living with Alice anymore. Alice’s sons have dogs of their own, and they seem genuinely fond of Buddy and he of them. He is a fairly young dog, smart, but he has had to fend for himself a lot lately, and he is not as trusting as he once was. Buddy and Alice have done the best they can for each other but the change they face may not involve a long goodbye, at least with one another.
I am reminded that the long goodbye is not a guarantee but a gift as I re-read the sponsor updates of Snapper with her tennis balls, of Rocky’s kiddie pool antics and his chomping at the hose water trying to fill his pool. Even little Dudley felt safe again after what seemed a hopeless situation. I cannot know what will be for Alice and Buddy but the long goodbye is often the reward of a life regained.
(AWARDS: Recently, this blog received some awards exchanged among bloggers, and I am humbled. Thank you, fellow bloggers. It is a true honor to have one’s work appreciated by one’s peers.)