Love lives in places and ways often missed for love only needs an open heart to thrive. Such is the story of Harriet and Hal, a human and a Chihuahua.
They shared food and constant companionship as they spent their days in a well-worn, overstuffed recliner not far from a medium-sized, flat-screen television. Sometimes they watched current events and other times they just left the television on “for the noise.”
They did not care for quiet so when they tired of the background noise, they talked to each other. Hal seemed to take sound seriously. When they walked outdoors, Hal greeted neighbors with a steady stream of squeaks and yips that had a lower and upper register. He always had a lot to say. Harriet translated, if she felt it necessary.
Harriet is older, mid-70s, and Hal was in the middle of his eighth year. He put on weight but Harriet did not. Her health is in decline—congestive heart failure and significant vascular issues—she is a smoker, although she has tried to stop and prays every day she will. Other than a steady increase in weight, Hal’s health was remarkably good.
Harriet often worried that Hal might outlive her. From time to time, she would formulate a plan to provide for Hal but each idea faded. She seemed to recognize their way of life was unique to them. It was as if she decided she would just have to outlive Hal. And so she has.
On the second day in October, Hal’s health went into decline. Like Harriet, he developed congestive heart failure and there was fluid in his lungs; then, he had trouble walking and finally, could no longer stand.
Harriet rearranged their lives as best as she was able, including securing a new veterinarian who makes house calls. Hal did spend just over 24 hours at the animal hospital but his need for Harriet was greater than his need for better nutrition, a smoke-free environment or medical care.
Upon Hal’s return home, he yipped and squeaked until he had told Harriet all he had to say. They spent their last night together in their chair with Harriet doing most of the talking. The next day, Harriet held him in her arms as he died.
In Hal’s last two weeks I was a part of their world more than I had ever been for we only saw each other in the way that neighbors do these days, fleetingly. I was aware and not aware of how they lived.
Once inside their home, I struggled to keep judgment at bay. At times, my compassion left me, and I should have followed. I was trying to change the outcome as well as the story line, neither of which was mine to do.
It was only in embracing the pain of two friends saying goodbye–living as they had always lived—that I was able to help them, which is all they had asked. In letting go, another way of living began.
We are pure awareness experiencing life in all its appearances. In breaking open, all the labels and judgments spill out, leaving only the raw, pure energy of being alive. It is then we touch what is deepest in us and extend it to another.
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