In celebration of spring I grabbed my rake, the dogs, something to drink and walked out the door and into my backyard to the leaves from last fall. Leaves that didn't make it into a compost pile before the snow fell. The dogs, contented themselves by taking a sunbath with eyes more or less closed. I say more or less because they consider themselves to be the guards of the yard and as far as their eyes can see.
Just as I was about to come into the house for a little break I noticed the tree branches my son had cut off an interloping tree near my house. There they were, a tangled mess leaning on the fence and against the garage. I walked over intending to drag them to the side-yard so Jeff could load them in his truck and haul them off. But something caught my eye and stopped me short.
Branches that were cut at the end of last summer were sprouting buds - new life. No roots, no soil, no care and there they were - optimistically bringing new life into the world. My son and I may have decided that they should be cut from the safety of their food source and tossed aside, but those branches had a different idea and plan. They weren't going to whither and die quietly - with no ceremony - without producing leaves and celebrating spring for their last time.
Months ago Maxmom was told that her beloved friend would die soon. She was informed that there was no help for dear Max that modern medicine could provide. Despondent, she went home with Max, the dog who had been at her side for ten years. A friend that never left her side through thick or through thin - in dark and light and in joy and sadness. Maxmom was determined that her beloved companion should have a good quality of life regardless of how long that life would go on. Like the branches in my yard, Max's time on earth was drawing to a close.
But like those branches, Max didn't realize that he was supposed to be sad and that he should just give up and "let go". So, the following morning Max woke up and faced his day the best he could with the body he had and made the best of his day - not asking for more, just that day. One paw in front of the other - that's how Max had always lived his life and that is how Max would live his life going forward. Max and my branches are tenacious. Why give up when there was life to live?
Things are getting rough for Max. His appetite comes and goes and sometimes he just doesn't feel like his old self, but that's OK with Max. After all, there are walks to walk and balls to catch and cuddling to get and when he can he enjoys them all. The branches in my yard felt winter's snow fall without the comfort of their familiar roots to remind them that they were a part of something larger than themselves but they, too endured, one day after the next. Both Max and the branches were consistent and content with what life presented to them as a gift each day.
With an early Spring in Michigan the lonely branches left to die began to do what they always did best - celebrate life and create new life. Little buds began to form within the recesses of the branches and with the warmth of the sun - one by one they began to peek out into the big world. Each day when Max wakes up Maxmom observes that it is a bit more difficult for him to maneuver through his day. His appetite comes and goes and he sleeps more soundly - often causing Maxmom distress. But when Max is out in the sun - he beams and Maxmom sees the dog she has loved and known for years blossom once again. The warmth of the sun can be a powerful elixir - even when the Circle of Life may be calling in the distance.
Both the branches and dear Max face each day with optimism and with hope and with courage. Neither knows what the next day will hold so they do what they do best - they LIVE in the here and now. And, they do that living without complaint or sorrow or worry. They take the day given to them. They don't look back and they don't look forward - THEY LIVE in the moment - knowing that is all any of us can possess.
Sadly, both Max and the cut branches are running out of time. Every living thing is born with an internal clock that begins to tick from the moment of creation. None of us knows when our time will run out, but as human beings, we do know that it will - and that is not to our liking. But, Max and the cut branches don't know that life has a limit. All they know is the here and the now and they live in the here and now and they leave tomorrow to take care of itself.
One day the branches in my yard will be rendered into smaller pieces and taken away. There will be no remnants of their existence left. One day our darling Max will leave this earth journeying into the heavens - fulfilling his destiny with The Circle of Life. However, Max, being a living, breathing, warm and loving creature of the Divine will leave much behind.
His family will mourn deeply as they work through their grief. They will wake in the morning and be forced to travel throughout their day without the physical Max following along. In the distance they will hear a familiar jingle of collar tags and look around expecting to see Max at their heels. Over time the empty space Max leaves in their lives will fill with happy memories - memories of the bond that grew between a family and the pup they brought home so long ago. Not one of us exits this earth leaving nothing behind and Max has much to leave.
One day Max's family will see what he saw and they will know what Max knew. They will know that the Circle of Life is not something to fear or to cower from in your dreams. The Circle of Life should be as welcome an experience as our next breath. After all, it is the Circle of Life that leads the way to make room for new beginnings and new days and new loves to cherish.
Yes, we can learn much from our companions on paws. They live in dignity. They hold no grudge. They enjoy each moment. They embrace each kindness. And, like Max, they live in the now. I ♥ you Max from the top of my head all the way down to my toes. You have made an impact on my life that I will never forget.