We Didn’t Start the Fire . . .

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Tennessee is on fire and Donald Trump is the President-Elect.  The haze that hangs over Knoxville matches the haze in my head and my heart.  It’s hard to think and hard to breathe.

On Election Day  many of us headed off to the polls excited about a bright new world full of promise and possibility and without glass ceilings.

The next morning we awakened to an America we didn’t recognize, a country we used to love but feel that we don’t even know any more.

We are grieving and we are discouraged and the conservatives I know (translation: almost EVERYONE I know, here in red East Tennessee) think we are crybabies and want us to get over it.

In October, I cleared out our fire pit, planning for crisp November evenings.

The pit remains empty and cold.  My bonfire dreams are dead like so many other dreams seem to be. Most of East Tennessee is under a burn ban, and this will continue until just a few days before winter begins.  Tempers are flaring too, and those flames may be harder to dampen.

I am intimately aware of the destructive power of fire.

But fire, controlled, also warms and illumines.

I love candles and every evening before we sit down to watch our show I light several.  I wait for the moment when the flame from the lighter catches the wick and the candle begins to burn on its own, its flame swelling to life.

My family visited Mammoth Cave recently. After gathering us in a large room, our guide turned off every light and left us to wait in complete, impenetrable darkness.   Then he lit just one match and the entire cave was illuminated.  Our eyes can grow accustomed to the deepest darkness.  One small flame becomes enough to see by.

Dark nights of the soul are steps along the journey to spiritual enlightenment.  By all means we SHOULD curse the darkness we see in the world around us right now.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t light candles.  We can burn. We can shine.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light . . .  (Ephesians 5:8)

 

Giving the Gift of a Good Death to a Good Friend.

Today I had the honor to stand by the deathbed of a dear and loyal friend.  Today I had the privilege of being with him to ease him out of this life.  And today I also had the responsibility of deciding that it was time for that life to end.
Today we put our dog to sleep. Over 20 years of pet owning, two dogs and eight (at least) cats, and I’ve never had to do this before.  We’ve lost cats, but they’ve had a way of just disappearing.  By the time we realized they were never coming back, we had grown at least somewhat used to their absence.  We’ve never known in advance that today would be the day we would say good-bye forever. Anyone can tell you that I’m no animal lover.  But I loved OUR dog.
Balthazar
We got Balthazar from the pound almost 12 years ago, when he was about eight months old, because Jake begged for a dog.  We named him for the first Sholly to come to the New World.  We thought he was part German Shepherd, part Shiba Inu, maybe part Collie.
It was a good mix, whatever it was.  He was strong and gentle, smart and stubborn, protective and loyal. Once I had him tied up on the porch while some men were cutting trees in his yard.  When they were done I heard them knocking on the side of the house, because he was so threatening that they were afraid to come to the door so I could pay them.  Half an hour later, I heard him whimpering.  I came out to find this vicious beast crying as he patiently allowed our three-year-old to pull on his ears.
He loved to run away so much that we designed an “airlock” on our fence to prevent it, but he always came back.  He loved chicken so deeply that he jumped a three-foot-high baby gate to steal some once. But last night he lay in front of an open door and would not get up to go out.  And this morning he turned his head away from the piece of rotisserie chicken I offered him.
We always said that we never wanted our dogs to suffer, that we would never put them through anything just to keep them alive because we would miss them, that we would let them go when it was time. It was time. They could try to stabilize him, the doctor said.  They could try a transfusion.  But after it was over he told us he was so glad we didn’t try to save him, that we had done the right thing.
Lorelei and William came with me.  John is out of town, Emily was working, Jake was too upset.  They were brave.  We hugged him and petted him, and William patted me.  Lorelei told him he was going to a better place. It was peaceful.  It was easy.  It was quick.  His suffering was over as ours was beginning.  Lorelei sobbed all the way home.
Dogs are naturally good, Lorelei said later.  They must go to some kind of Heaven, maybe not the same one we go to.  I’ve never been one to assert that all dogs go to Heaven, but now I find my theology is uncertain where MY dog is concerned.
RIP Balthazar
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