Brought to my knees by personal crisis, I think about what would be the best possible outcome. It’s a way to deal with the crushing weight of emotion and try to get through, one day at a time.
What would a miracle look like?
The thing about a crisis is that it’s up to you what feels like one and what doesn’t. What is pure sorrow to one person might be easily shrugged off by someone else, and vice versa. We aren’t very good at understanding sadness in our culture, and I don’t think we like it when we’re forced to acknowledge it in another person.
Grievance, not trauma!
It’s anger that we understand and find energizing. Sorrow seems selfish. Get past it, get past it.
If I told you I was sad about my little parrot because she had a stroke and she is in the veterinary hospital, some of you would be sad for me. If you have met her, you might be sad for her and for yourself. The rest of you might think, What, that’s it??
Translate, if you’re a pet person. Think of your dog or your cat. Most of us do understand, at least, how devastating it can be to mourn a pet. Our relationships with them are so much less complicated than our relationships with other people. Often we’re a little concerned, wondering if it’s okay that we’re crying harder over our animals than maybe we did for our relatives.
The reason we keep pets is because they teach us unconditional love in its purest form.
This particular creature is one of a kind. I’ve loved other birds in my life, and had the wind knocked out of me when they died, but this one - little Noelle - there will never be another one like her. I can’t bear it to think that there will be a day when her consciousness and presence are deleted from this world.
This is where the bargaining part of grief comes in. Please, what can I do to make the inevitable go away and leave us alone?
This is where my selfishness rears up.
This is where what probably seems like a puerile story reveals itself as an example of a more universal moment: the choice point when we find ourselves asking for a miracle. Whatever that might mean.
The question is not whether miracles are real. The question is, how would that be demonstrated? What would a miracle look like in any given situation?
First off, it’s uncommon for a bird to survive a stroke. Was it a miracle that she has lived for two weeks so far?
Second, the fact that there is a veterinary hospital equipped with isolettes and an expert avian vet in our area - is that related in some way? Miracle-adjacent?
When someone is on a deathbed, the mind rebels. NO, this cannot be happening. I refuse to allow this. Death is absolutely not an option. This negotiation is going to have to shift to something else because it is not on the table. If I can’t speak to your manager then I’m calling my lawyer.
Our impulse is probably to beg, let it not be death. Let it be - something else, not that.
This is not helped in the veterinary world, where I have come to suspect that they are formally educated never to bring up the topic of euthanasia. They have to flirt around it, hinting and suggesting until you come out and speak the words.
They assume that we know. They assume we know the procedure and understand what is required of us, because they’ve been doing this on a daily basis for years. To them it is the most ordinary thing in the world.
I brought it up with my vet - we were communicating via text - and she never responded. Communication shifted to my poor husband at that point.
You know what? I hate the rainbow bridge. Just because you know when something is the right thing to do, does not make it fun to do.
Is it the right thing to do, though?
We know we can’t make them suffer. It’s not okay. The reason we love them so much is that they are always there for us when we need them. They ask for so little. Finally the time comes when they do ask for something - release - and all we have to do is nod and let them go.
Even though we’re not ready. We know we can never really be ready.
When we ask for a miracle - is mere survival that miracle?
If they live on in some sort of frail, reduced form, is that a miracle?
What I’m asking is that this experience is a... “rough patch.” That with a few days of oxygen therapy, the blood clot will dissolve or whatever stroke recovery actually would look like. That she can bounce back and emerge relatively unchanged by the experience.
Can this happen?
Is what I would want physically possible?
If a miracle is something that can physically exist, is it then really a miracle? Is it maybe that miracles are more common than we give them credit for, and we are just too cynical and hardened to appreciate it?
Human lifespan has doubled in the past two hundred years. If that is not a miracle, then I don’t know what is. If I lived a thousand years ago, it’s entirely possible that I would not have reached the age of 45. I work with a guy who is over eighty, and a thousand years ago, would a fellow like that still be coming in to work every day? Twenty years ago, for that matter?
I continue to believe that miracles happen every day, and that often they are there for the asking. We have only to open our eyes and acknowledge them. Miracles can be found if we are actively looking, awake and aware.
Sometimes, though, the miracle is that we can be overcome by grief and sorrow, and then carry on regardless, somehow carrying the heaviest of hearts.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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