And so, I find myself wondering what to write in this missive. The year has been good, full of love and learning, growth and understanding, and yet in this moment, we are sad, we are mourning, we are dancing with grief. It is strange how a recent event can colour the feelings that you carry for a year, how a single moment in time can mark that year in your mind, how a single event becomes the moment that may name that year. It happens all the time… oh, that was when Sam was born, that was the year I started medical school, that was the year we got married, the year when grandmother died, these single moments are large enough in our psyche that they colour the memory of the year. We are using that palate, those brush strokes as we look back upon this year, this year we lost a companion and teacher of 12 years, and we feel that loss deeply.
Twelve years ago, we got Isobel so that Nancy would have a companion, a friend to keep her company while I worked hard, too hard, in medicine. Nancy spent most of her days alone, and even when I was physically there, my mind was often on other things. In that loneliness, she wanted a companion, a dog, a small dog that could be her companion, and as we searched, we found Isobel, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a breed known for companionship, and she lived this character trait beautifully. She was always ready to tag along with any adventure, at your side, just glad to be a part of whatever was happening. This was not without some trouble, as she was there in the pasture when the horses got scared and stepped on her hind leg breaking it enough to require a surgical repair. It also increased the chances of tripping as you walked into the house after an errand, she greeted you so enthusiastically at the door. She travelled with Nancy on her expeditions to Texas, and would have gone with her to Scandinavia if that had been an option. We knew she had a tumour in her liver, and given her age, and her general health (her vision was failing, as was her hearing, and the joints had never been quiet the same since her bout with polyarthritis) we chose not to put her through a large surgery. Nothing lives forever, and we knew that our time with her was limited. She continued to enjoy going to work, and hanging out, but she was not really as keen on the longer walks on the trail, she seemed to be more easily fatigued, and she was sleeping longer and longer each day. We asked for a clear indication when it was time to say goodbye, and she gave that to us as we had asked. November 4th our view of 2017 changed, and that is where we are in this moment, we are watching this change.
Chögyam Trungpa Rimpoche talks of pain as the energy that fuels change, Pema Chöedron encourages us to step into our pain as a means of cultivating more compassion in this world, and Carl Jung reminds us that the only way out is through. When faced with the options of what to do, to zone out on entertainment or alcohol, to dive into work to deeply that nothing more can exist within us, or to rush to fill the emptiness with another animal, we have chosen instead to study this moment in time, to study this grief as it arises. It has been different for each of us, and yet it shares very similar qualities. We have seen the edges where our capacity to work, runs dry, where the need to withdraw from humanity arises, this need to sit and reflect on the sorrow. There are times when we simply want to be close, nothing more, nothing less. There are times when we desire solitude, and others where we desire companionship. We have seen where our compassion for each other has grown, and have seen hints of this growth in our compassion toward others. This pain has an energy to it, and it has a heat, and it seems to be changing the character of our beings in ways we had not expected. The suddenness of it all has provided us with the opportunity to study this so very clearly. There is no subtlety about when, or how it started, there is clarity in the event itself, in its sudden arrival. Unlike the subtle stresses of the world which layer upon us one small drip at a time, this was sharp and dramatic, it marked an end of one time and a beginning of another. It is in the endings and beginnings that this wonderful opportunity arises, the opportunity to choose. As something ends, you can choose what to carry forward into the future, you can choose the memories and lessons to bring with you, you have permission to release things that may have outlived their usefulness. And as something begins, you have permission to begin something new, you are without the old momentum, you are without the old commitments, the old promises, the old habits. You have a clean slate, an opportunity to begin anew, to choose a different pathway for the future. And, in this moment, we are in a time of letting go of what is old and a time of considering what is new. In the newness, we are seeing things in ways we have not seen them before, the beauty of nature as we walk along the trail, to joy of deep friendships, and the companions in this life we can lean upon without fear that they will collapse.
This is where we are now, as this year ends, we are in that place of limbo, between the night and the dawn, that place between wakefulness and sleep, that land of possibilities. We are sitting here and noticing what is happening and how we are changing, and allowing life to evolve as we watch the process. We are good, we are horrible, we are alive, and it is with this wish for aliveness that we send our love out to each of you. We wish for you to be alive in this moment, alive to the possibilities that are present, alive to the desire inside to make some change, alive to the love that burns in your heart for each other, and alive to love that we may take for granted.
With much love……
Gil and Nancy