She barks several hours per day. It’s the new thing in a long list of things that come with aging. She forgets where we are. Bark. It hurts to sit down; she circles in her bed. Bark. She wants to follow us but can’t. Bark. She’s confused by her bowels. Bark. Poop. She waits for us to carry her upstairs. Bark. She wanders around in the middle of the night and gets lost. Bark. She’s thirsty. Bark. Uncomfortable. Bark. Lonely. Bark. Bored. Bark. Not sure what day or what time it is. Bark.
I wish I could say I am fine with hours of barking. That it’s time for me to give back all the incredible love and loyalty and pure joy she’s given to us for 16 years (we acquired her as a 1 yr old). That it is a thrill and an honor to care for her in her last season of life. A gift I am happy to give back. But I must be honest.
I hear myself complaining about the barking. I find myself training my ear and my brain to split sounds; to disregard the barking and to regard the thing I’m trying to concentrate on. I feel the selfishness in my heart when I have to get up twenty times an hour to keep her quiet. People are sleeping. People are on Zoom meetings. People are attempting to have a conversation. People need a break from the barking. I am not thrilled or honored to pick up her poop after I just let her outside 15 times. I am frustrated.
“Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not seek it’s own.” (1 Cor 13:4-5)
Do I love Ginger? Of course I do. Am I patient, kind, or un-selfish with her in her dementia? Not so much. Then what is my love for her? Enjoyment when she is enjoyable?
Love is not simply an atmosphere, a feeling, an activity, or an expression. Love is a choice to serve with a joyful heart. It is the recognition for what I have been given and choosing to pass it on. Choosing to give because I have been given to. Not because she has earned it or deserves it. But because I have been given the grace to “bark and poop,” as it were, throughout my life as I mature.
I can’t give what I don’t have. Transversely, I can give abundantly through the abundance I have been given. And I have been given a lot.
There is a catch. Love doesn’t reach its fullest measure until it costs me something: time, patience, money, schedules, humility, agenda, etc. Real love is expensive.
“Thank you, Father, for reminding me that true love requires me to spend from my heart account. And that my words are a reflection of my heart. I’m grateful for the opportunity to choose a different path. One that is cohesive, where my heart and my words are in alignment with the fruit of your spirit. I’m grateful for this gentle correction to quit complaining and start appreciating; for the awareness of the discrepancy of what I teach in the macro and how I behave on the street. Keep the lessons coming…Bark.
Thank you for Ginger, for all the love she has freely given us. Thank you that she has “nine lives” and has lived through 17 of them. I am grateful that I GET to serve her in her last season of life. #notetoself It is a joy and an honor and a privilege to serve.”