Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's A Matter Of Life And Death

I was talking to my friend Peter today about the experience of life and death and how one begets the other. When Otis got sick I couldn't help but remember when my Mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor. We found out only weeks after it was learned Alice was pregnant and I was going to be a dad for the first time. My mom was given 3 to 18 months to live. Our goal was to get Sam born before she passed on. Thankfully, we made it and my mom was able to hold Sam in her arms for the first couple months of his life. I remember it feeling like a sort of hand off, as if my mom was saying, "your turn." Peter's point to me was that one life replaces another. Now, I realize Otis isn't a human. Yes, he's a dog. But he is a life. An extremely important life. He is family. In fact, in these past heavy days, Sam has referred to Otis as his only brother. So I find it not so surprising that Otis is getting ready to say goodbye now that Stella has arrived. And it's probably pretty obvious to him that it's "Stella's turn." 

A little story about Monday night when we thought Otis was leaving us. He was lying in his spot at the end of Sam's bed. He was laboring to breath. His eyes were heavy and rolling back in his head. Sam was certain Otis was dying and gave him permission to "let go." He was distraught. Then, alarmingly, he said to me, "Daddy who's that? Who's that?!" He was pointing toward the wall to the right of his bed. 

"Where," I asked from my position to his left.

"Right there," he pointed, "Who is that sparkly man? Is he coming to take Otis?"

I saw nothing before he disappeared from Sam's sight too. But Sam quickly grabbed his drawing pad and feverishly drew the figure pictured above. It was truly amazing to watch it take shape. It was almost as if it drew itself. The man was holding a staff which turned out to be a harp. And then there was the leash that wrapped it's way up his arm. The man's eyes were closed. 

Now hear me out. I actually think Sam saw something. Just before my mom passed away I saw something very similar. She was lying in her bed at the hospice house. It was 6am and my dad was sleeping in a reclining chair next to her. One of my brother's was asleep on the floor, and I was lying in the window sill on top of an air conditioning vent. We'd been at my mom's bedside for two or three days. We'd all given her permission to leave but she held on a little longer than they thought she might. Suddenly, I shot up out of my sleep and looked across the dark room towards the open door to where I saw a beautiful flowing feminine figure floating in the hallway looking toward me. After a beat, she gracefully floated away. I jumped down from my position and raced to the door. I looked down the long, dimly lit corridor to see absolutely nothing. As I stood there wondering what I saw, my dad softly spoke the words, "She's leaving us."

My dad and brother got up and we all gathered around her bedside. She took three more breaths and stopped. At once, there was this palpable presence hovering above us. It was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced. And to this day I 100% believe that the figure I saw was either my mom giving us one last look, or some type of angel coming to take her away. You'll never convince me otherwise. 

And so when Sam saw this sparkly man, I couldn't doubt that what he saw was true. All signs pointed to Otis leaving in that moment, but Sam prayed hard for "just one more day." I think both that angel and Otis(and maybe the steroid) conspired to answer Sam's prayer. 

Otis has given Sam two days now and he's seeming to gain more and more strength. When I got home from work tonight he even wagged his tail. 

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