Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Circle of Life

I've been trying to wrap my head around the inevitable. One of my birds has a tumor.

In some ways, being in medicine makes you stronger - the first jaundiced, pancreatic cancer patient may take your breath away, and the first cachectic, dying patient may overwhelm with innumerable feelings, but eventually the feelings of ineptitude ebb to a level where one can function. After all, you learn what you can do for these patients and how you can make them comfortable. And most importantly, you can talk with them, and use the common language to help them through the difficult times. All things I cannot do with animals.

Finding the tumor on Ava's belly dredged up old feelings of inadequacy and helplessness. No matter how proficient at medicine I become, or how great my bedside manner, these are useless when I step outside the boundaries of the human race. In some ways, what is the use of more than 20 years of education and a lifetime in a healing profession if I don't have the slightest idea how to take care of my pets? And most heart-wrenching is to see suffering in a being smaller than the palm of a hand, knowing that they rely on you for nourishment and comfort, and knowing that you are not able to help.

I wonder at what goes through their minds as they experience discomfort and disease. I want to be able to tell her that things are as they should be, that disease and death are natural parts of the circle of life, and that they often bring us wisdom and acceptance. I want to be able to tell her that I love her very much, and that although I cannot change what may happen today, tomorrow, or in the future, I will always be here to take care of her basic needs. And I want to thank her, for shining light on the false sense of security that constantly creeps up and enshrouds our mortality, and for reminding us of the raw beauty and impermanence of this precious thing called life.

* Picture showing morning fog outside the log cabins in Yellowstone National Park. Reflects the current state of mind.


Anonymous Moof said...

I'm sorry about your bird is sick. I've had dozens of birds - lots of different types - and I've loved them all to distraction.

My birds seemed to know that they were loved ... and I have a feeling that your touch, and your voice have already done all of the speaking that you wish you could do ...

It's always hard to see something small and helpless hurt ...

{{{ comfort }}}

9:20 PM  
Blogger always learning said...

thanks moof. she's a tough cookie and has come a long way. When we got her from the pound, she was terrified of hands, humans, everything. Now, it's hard to tell that she hasn't always been around people. It's just amazing how accepting and resilient animals can be.

8:50 PM  

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