Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Helpless But Not Defeated


When babies or animals are hurt or sick, everyone who cares about them suffers.  How can you explain what’s happening or why (if you know why)?  How can you give them hope—especially if you have very little yourself?

When my horse died, one of the greatest pains was seeing the plea in her eyes—a plea for me to make the hurt go away, to make everything all better.  I couldn’t do it no matter how much I wished I could.  I remember telling my husband’s horse, “Everything’s going to be okay.”  I was lying.  He knew it sooner than I did.

This week our dogs have both been in degrees of crisis affecting their digestive/excretory systems—odd because they’re different ages, different genders, and different breeds.  (We’ve been taking a hard look at their environment and food.)  The medicines we administered seemed to irritate them.  Why were we forcing them to swallow nasty tastes when they were already miserable?  I’m not a big believer in magic drugs, so I have mixed feelings about forcing them down anyone’s throat.  I flashed back to holding our baby daughter for her vaccinations.  Is there a loving parent anywhere who didn’t feel a twinge of guilty betrayal in that situation?  What if the medicines are secretly a part of the problem?

We had one dog who reached the end of her lifespan gradually.  When she finally realized no one was going to rescue her, she accepted her fate stoically.  At last she made herself comfortable in her favorite private spot and unceremoniously died.  Animals seem to accept the inevitable as being exactly that—inevitable.  If death has to be, it has to be.  They’d prefer to skip the pain and humiliation, of course, but dying is just another duty.

I wonder if I’ll be able to sigh and shrug when I see the end of my road coming—if I do.  I remember sitting with one of my husband’s elderly uncles as he passed.  He had been given the choice of undergoing an endless series of dialysis treatments—which he found painful and debilitating—or facing a hastened death.  He tried a couple of treatments and chose death.  He was a religious man, well prepared for the next chapter in his existence.  When he died, he was eating dinner.  He looked tremendously annoyed.  I suspected he was exasperated that he hadn’t lived to enjoy his dessert, but I could’ve been projecting.  He did love dessert.

I don’t know how the next couple of weeks will play out.  I realize the emotional strife over the tug of war with death belongs to the humans, not the dogs.  The dogs are content to put up their best fight and then accept the final score.  They don’t seem to agonize over the fact that the game eventually ends regardless of how well you’ve played.  Humans want to believe we won’t have to accept anything we don’t want to accept.  “No, I won’t and you can’t make me!”  We know better.  And we have the courage and grace when we dig deeply enough.  But we don’t have to like it.

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