My Friend is Dying

My friend is dying.  Nothing dramatic, no teams of surgeons frantically and heroically working over her body, no crowds of people crying and wailing about what a tragedy it is, nothing that would garner a headline in the news.  Just a sweet woman in the process of passing away, on what the hospital calls “comfort care”, which means she’s on strong pain medication to keep her comfortable, but nothing else — no food, no drink, no tests, and no medications.  Her heart and lungs are strong, not ready to give up nourishing her body as it wastes away, but her organ systems are failing her, one by one,  as the process continues.

My friend is dying.  We’ve been assured that she’s no longer feeling pain, but her family and friends are all hurting.  We remember all the shared moments, we remember her accomplishments, we remember her kindness, and we know each of us is richer for having known her.  We’re coming to terms with the reality that there will be no more shared moments with her, and the understanding that her passing will leave a void in the lives of everybody who knows her.

My friend is dying.  I spend time with her each day because it feels like the right thing to do.  She’s unable to respond with her body, but I’ve felt her spirit each time.  At first she was frantic, afraid, full of guilt for the things that she was leaving undone.  She sensed her failing body, but was unable to accept that she couldn’t go back to solve problems left behind.  All I could do for her was to let her know that her family would be okay, that all problems left behind were no longer her responsibility or concern.  Her path is forward, her spirit should be focused on the next world.  I reminded her that leaving her physical body is not an end, but rather just stepping through a door to the next phase, much like birth.

My friend is dying, but the death of her body is not the end of her existence.  One day, when I knelt beside the bed holding her hand, her spirit felt excited and happy.  I felt and heard her voice telling me that she was young and strong again!  I saw her clearly in my mind, her body no longer silver haired, stooped over a cane, every step full of pain.  Instead, dark hair swung around her face as she ran on strong legs, bare feet flying over green grass, until she plopped down to sit cross-legged and laughing in the sunlight.  She was lovely and full of joy, and I knew she was okay.

My friend is dying.  I’ll keep going every day until her tired body stops, simply because it feels like the right thing to do.  When it happens, I hope someone who loves her is there to ease the way.  When it happens, the healing can begin for her family and friends.  When it happens, everyone who knows her will remember and miss her, but also will be grateful that the process is over for her.

My friend is dying, but her life was well lived!  She made a difference to many, many people and to  many, many animals she was able to rescue.  May God bless her, and the ones who loved her, as he takes her home.

 

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Truth, Justice ….. and the American way?

                          JUSTICE….?

settlement_law_justice_clip_art_9525         Justice

 

Justice is such a noble ideal, and is considered part of the bedrock foundation of our society.  From our founding documents to our pop culture, Americans feel confident that we have the finest system of justice in the world.  We know that sometimes our courts fall short, but as a people we want to believe that fairness, or justice, is the ultimate goal.  If someone is accused of a crime and can’t afford a lawyer, we even provide a public defender, because our society says that money shouldn’t stand in the way of justice.  Again, a noble ideal, but what of those accused who aren’t wealthy, but can’t quite qualify as poor?  Too bad for them.  Our system leaves them hanging, and all too often they must choose between bankrupting their family and risking jail or prison time, or accepting a plea bargain even if they’re innocent.  The choice can clear out a crowded court docket, improve the prosecutor’s case clearance numbers, and keep the legal costs down for the accused, but now a life is ruined because of a conviction obtained purely for expediency.  Justice?  Doesn’t sound like it!

And what about Family Law Court?  No public defenders here.  Ideally, justice in Family Court is supposed to be what’s best for the children and fair for the parents.  Again, lofty goals that we as a society believe in.  But those goals are not what Family Court is actually about.  A retired Family Law judge, who still serves as a mediator in Family Law Settlement conferences, recently said that Family Law Court is not about justice, not about fairness, not about what is best for the children, not even about the evidence.  It’s purely about playing by the rules.  And if you’re not represented by an experienced lawyer, or if you’re trying to represent yourself?  Well, too bad for you.  In truth, Family Law Court is about playing the game, and who plays it best.  Bottom line, the one with the most money to spend on a contentious lawyer is the one that wins.

Long ago, when the traditional family unit was the norm and children of divorced families were a small minority, perhaps this standard was ignored because so few people were hurt by it.  But today, the traditional family is becoming less and less common.  Check out any classroom of children and you’ll find that a majority of them have experienced the pain and inequities of divorce.  Courts don’t care, lawyers won’t touch a case without a hefty retainer, and family’s savings are decimated trying to pay legal bills that never seem to stop.  And if you think there are resources available to help people without money for attorneys, think again.  Pro bono legal help for Family Court just doesn’t exist in any appreciable amount.

Why should we as a society care?  Well, if the concept of justice is truly supposed to be one of the basic values of our society, perhaps we should reevaluate how justice might be achieved in Family Law Courts, rather than letting decisions be purchased by the highest bidder.  Our children aren’t stupid, and far too many of them become cynical after seeing it happen to their families every single day.   Americans are familiar with Superman, and his saying “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”  Perhaps there is more truth there than we thought — there’s truth and justice, and then there’s the American Way!  Maybe one day they will become the same in our court systems, but it won’t happen until enough people care about changing the system completely.

AN IRRESISTIBLE FACE, BEGGING FOR YOUR HELP

Gracie was a rescue puppy, so tiny when she was adopted that she had to be fed from a bottle for the first weeks.  The family was told that she was a chihuahua mix, and would be a very small dog, exactly what they were looking for.  Gracie thrived in her new, loving environment, and reached about 50 pounds at 11 months old.  So much for the chihuahua heritage!  Her size was a surprise, but her personality was everything they’d hoped for and more.

Like little kids, puppies explore their world by chewing.  Unfortunately, Gracie ate a hand-towel, and became very ill.  Her family pulled all their savings and credit card cash, nearly $4000, to pay for surgery to save the dog they all adored.  Gracie came through the surgery and seemed to be doing pretty well, but then her abdomen began to fill with fluid.  Luckily the vet that treated Gracie participates in a monthly volunteer cat spay and neuter clinic.  Dr. C knew how much the family loved Gracie, and wanted an opportunity to give her another chance. Dr. C also knew the other vet, Dr. McR, would provide another pair of experienced hands to try and save the puppy.

Gracie headGracie body

 

I took one look at this sweet face and fell in love, as did all the other volunteers.  Gracie was a very, very sick little girl, but we all wanted so much for her to pull through.  She was the last patient of the day, and everyone was sending up silent prayers as the two wonderful vets worked on her.  Gracie’s family was incredibly grateful for all the extra effort, but not surprised that their puppy had touched all our hearts.  The family’s two little girls didn’t really understand, but did their best to help their best friend recuperate when she came home.

kids loving Gracie

 

Unfortunately, Gracie began to fail once again.  My best friend was haunted by Gracie’s struggles, and made arrangements for one last try to save her.  She made arrangements with an amazing veterinarian surgeon to try to save Gracie.  The family agreed, and the cost was put on my friend’s personal charge account.  In spite of all the prayers and efforts, Gracie’s heart stopped on the operating table and they couldn’t bring her back.

This puppy touched so many lives, and her story still does.  We are now asking everyone to please donate anything you can towards my friend’s account at the vet office, so that her kindness doesn’t have to absorb all the cost of Gracie’s surgery.  We were unable to set up a bank account or PayPal account for the Gracie fund donations, since it’s a single animal rather than a certified charity.  You can send PayPal funds from your account to the  sharon@sharonsdarrow.com PayPal account, and indicate it’s for the Gracie fund.  The funds will then go to the vet hospital that performed the surgery, and I will be happy to provide documentation of all the funds received and forwarded to the vet hospital.  I’ve never done anything like this before, but would love to see many people share in this effort, rather than my friend having to handle it all herself.

Thank you so very much.  This is a wonderful family, and their memories of Gracie will be even more special if they can see a multitude of people taking part in this effort for Gracie’s memory.

Gracie, full face

Dear Mom, From Your Puppy

This is the letter my daughter, Sheryl Wilson, received recently from her puppy, Yogi.  He’s a 3- month-old australian shepherd, with quite a personality.  Sheryl’s other dog, mentioned in the letter, is Shante, a 7-year-old American Eskimo.  Just had to share:

Hey mom;

I wanted to write you a note to let you know I’m a little disapointed in your behavior this morning. You’re looking a little rough and acting like you did all the work yesterday. So I think you need a little reminding:
I was the one who went on their first walk yesterday. Let me tell you, it’s no easy feat to run circles around you and Shante and make sure that you two get tangled up and not me, all the while holding her leash in my mouth so I can lead her around.

Then I go home, expecting a little down time, but no, we were under attack. An assault came in the form of a huge stick. I went into puppy ninja mode and had to take it down. I growled, I bit, and I tore apart those bristles. No broom is gonna come into my house and threaten my family.

After this home invasion, I tried to lay down again, but what is that I hear? I can’t believe it, yep that damn vacuum has the nerve to show its face again. After last times beat down I was sure I’d seen the last of it. However, this time it came out with a vengeance. I attacked it over and over, but it wasn’t going down without a fight. I then saw the open closet and knew my best bet was to herd it in there. It was dicey for awhile, but I finally got the job done. I don’t think we’re going to see that damn thing for awhile.  Whew puppy saved the day again.

I guess you didn’t realize I was saving all of our lives because you brought out the mop and decided to clean. I knew you weren’t strong enough to push, so being the gallant puppy I am, I had to jump on top and push the mop for you. Next time, please ask me before you start a project you can’t do yourself!

Finally, after a long day it was time for bed. Don’t get me wrong, I love sleeping in your bed, but if you could keep your legs on your side I would really appreciate it.  I’d worked hard and needed my sleep.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it was my life- threatening altercations with the broom or the vacuum that gave me nightmares.  I just found myself crying and kicking out in my sleep.  Luckily, you heard the cries of your warrior and pulled me up next to you.  I felt myself calm down, go limp in slumber, and start to drift off….when wait!  What was that cool air ruffling my hair coming from? Oh, you have a fan, pointed directly at you so you can be cool and comfy.  I guess no consideration is given for your true life hero that saves you on a daily basis!  Well, in your slumber you forgot about my stealth ninja moves. It took a little maneuvering and, yes, a few swift kicks to the side of your face, but I was victorious in shoving you off the pillow and enjoying the benefits of my labor.

I had a wonderful night of sleep and woke up ready to defend your honor. But no! All you said was “it’s 5 am, go away!” The gall…..well, you enjoy your pitiful sleep and you better hope that ninja puppy takes pity on you and will save you again. Try to remember to honor and pamper those that save you every day.

Sincerely,

your puppy (Yogi)

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Marriage, Then and Now

Image

Ask someone their opinion about marriage today and you’ll not only get a variety of answers, but might even start an argument.  In many ways, marriage is simply a reflection of life in our society, so the changes in the way we view marriage simply reflect changes in society as a whole.

A hundred years ago, marriage was a contract with very clear-cut expectations and roles for each partner.  Society needed the institution of marriage to handle the raising of children and the care of the elderly and infirm.  The family unit established and defined an individual’s place in the social structure, and was also the basis for many legal guidelines in areas like inheritance.  If the partners loved each other it was nice, but love was neither a requirement nor an important reason for people to marry.  If people defied society’s expectations and did not get married, they were viewed with suspicion and never fully accepted.

Today marriage plays a much narrower role in society.  It’s can be either a legal or religious union, or both,  between two people who choose to be together.  Love is generally given as the reason for the decision, but people who are in love don’t feel the same type of societal pressure to legalize their union.  Marriage is no longer expected from everyone, nor are the partner’s roles within a marriage defined by society.  We are taught from childhood that we each have the right to pursue our own dreams and be individuals, which is very different from the expectations put upon our grandparents and great-grandparents.

In the past, marriage was viewed as the proper environment for raising children.  The number of children in a family was limited only by the parents’ fertility and periods of abstinence.  Children were supposed to be raised as productive members of society and hardworking members of the family unit.  All children were expected to do their chores, be respectful of their parents and other adults, and then to care for their parents and other elderly family members when they grew up.  In some ways children functioned like health insurance, stepping in and taking responsibility for their elders when necessary.

Today we teach our children to have fun, and tell them they have a right to be happy.   Parents focus on loving their children and giving them material things, but much less emphasis is placed on teaching them responsibility or a work ethic.  Modern parents often will sacrifice for their children in an attempt to avoid burdening them with family expectations.  Such sacrifice on the part of the parents can produce kids who feel no need or desire to provide for themselves, much less for others who might need help.  Instead of extended families living together as a unit, the elder members are shuffled off to nursing homes and cared for by paid aides.

The part of traditional marriage vows that said “till death do us part” was a serious part of the marriage picture.  Divorce was not viewed as an acceptable option, no matter the justification, and a divorced person was viewed with a very jaundiced eye.  Happiness might have been a pleasant bonus, but was not considered as a requirement in a marriage. Divorce is now so common that people who stay in long-term marriages are the exception, rather than the rule.  Multiple marriages, interspersed with unmarried relationships, are considered the norm for most people, with very few negative societal consequences.

Children born out of wedlock used to face discrimination their whole lives, right along with the parents.  No one cared that it wasn’t the child’s fault, but they were the visible result of defiance of societal rules, and made to pay the price along with their parents.  Today a child’s birth status makes no difference.  In fact, the phrases “baby daddy” and “baby momma” have become accepted parts of the language.  Many couples no longer consider marriage a prerequisite to producing children, and many weddings have multiple children of the partners participating in the ceremony.  Multiple sexual partners is no longer viewed as proof of low morals, and someone with children from multiple partners seldom feels judged by society.

Men and women were once expected to behave in very specific ways.  Men were the breadwinners, expected to provide financially for their family’s needs.  They were the head of their households in all ways, and were to be obeyed by their wives as well as their children.  Men were pressured to be successful, to choose a wife that could help them meet their goals, and produce well-mannered children that would be a credit to their roles as fathers.  Women were expected to keep the house clean, do the cooking, raise the children, defer to their husband’s wishes and be a helpful partner to him in public.  Even after women began pursuing higher education, the choice of college was frequently based, at least in part, on the potential for securing a valuable MRS degree.

In our current society, neither men nor women are pressured to fulfill gender based roles.  If men want to be househusbands, they’re free to do so.  If a woman wants to work in a male dominated career while her husband cares for the children, she’s free to do so.  Education is a highly prized goal for everyone, and each person is expected to use their education in choosing a career.

Our society values progress, independence, and freedom, which has been reflected by our marriages.  We no longer seem to value stability and commitment, but are we better off?  Perhaps the key is how we use our independence and freedom.  It’s hard to pursue your dreams when you don’t know what they are, or even who you really are inside.  Perhaps when we learn the value of introspection, we’ll be able to improve society by blending the best values throughout our history.  When we can honor independence and responsibility, as well as freedom and commitment, we’ll have something pretty special in our marriages and our society.

Room For a New Buddy? Or Two?

Serving as a kitten-mom can be an incredible joy, even though it’s hard work and completely takes over the household. I don’t do it anymore myself, but still serve as an unofficial “godmother” every year to orphan kittens lucky enough to be raised by caring people. Many of the kittens steal the hearts of their rescue families, and never have to leave. Others, like these two very special little guys, need to find an adoptive home as special as the one where they are being raised.

Mitzy and Fritz were found when they were just days old as tiny, helpless little mites.
Mitzy 1 Fritz 1

Kittens, like babies are incredibly entertaining. Watching them grow and explore their worlds is great fun, but makes it nearly impossible to not fall in love. Both of these babies has been cuddled and loved since day one, and have grown into loving, cuddly, independent individuals.

Mitzy’s favorite place to sleep is on her person’s lap or chest when they’re in bed trying to sleep.

Mitzy 2Mitzy 3

Fritz is a total love bug, enjoying nothing better than being cuddled, petted, and riding around on a pair of shoulders. He isn’t quite as adventuresome as his sister, but would love to be somebody’s snuggle baby.

Fritz 2 Fritz 3

Both kittens are in excellent health, litter trained, good eaters, gentle at play, and great with anyone. They were raised with dachshunds, but were utterly unimpressed when introduced to my Great Dane. They have started their shots, and will be fixed before going to an adoptive home. Do you have a place in your home for a very special little buddy? Or two? They’d love to go together, but should do just fine if they have to be separated. If you can open your home and heart to them, please contact me for further information.

kittens with Brutus