Tonight, I will talk about 1000 Gifts: First Grace in our Devotional study by Ann Voskamp. On 11/19/16, we talked about choosing grace and the fact that God gave us freedom to choose. To choose to live with grace and glory as we live in God’s free and ready favor…living with the fullness that God offers us. Yet it is a choice…whether we live with God’s grace and glory or not. Continue to keep your list of One Thousand Gifts (graces). Let’s begin to discuss what Ann means when she speaks of “First Grace.”
Guinness Dying With Dignity and Me is what I have titled this blog post because I have learned in the last couple of weeks that Guinness has Cancer. It is under his skin in the form of lumps and spreading and growing. The vet offered surgery but didn’t guarantee that more lumps would not occur. He does not appear in pain although he seems to scratch and lick at a few. Dr. Coles, his vet, says it is because of histamine buildup from the mast cell tumors that make them itch and recommended Benadryl twice a day.
I decided not to do surgery because it is not a cure. Guinness is at least 12 years old. He was a rescue so I don’t know his exact age but I have had him for 6 years and he was at least 6 when he was adopted from the rescue. Guinness has taught me so many things and he is my best friend. Now, 30 years later, I still learn daily from Guinness how to live my life.
Guinness is now in a new stage of life as a senior dog who is dying and our goal is to keep him happy and comfortable for the time he has left whether that is two months or two years. I am observing him as he teaches me new things every day about aging, being sick and dying with dignity and grace. Some of the things I am learning from him are:
Live in the moment
Guinness teaches me daily to live for today. He doesn’t worry about the past or the future but only the moment he is in. When I let him out to go potty in the back yard, sometimes he goes and immediately does his business and comes right back in. Other times, he goes out and explores his surroundings and sniffs the grass, looks for bunnies by the birdfeeder, or just hold his head up toward the breeze blowing toward him. He is enjoying the moment. If I learn to do this depression (from living in the past) and anxiety (from worrying about the future) ceases to be a problem for me.
Guinness connects every day and even every minute that he is with me. He needs love and time from me and from the rest of the family. I need to learn to stay connected with others to feed my soul. When I disconnect from those that I love, that is when my depression and anxiety set in. Innately, Guinness already knows this in his soul.
Less fear and more love
Guinness started out a fearful dog as a rescue. When fearful, dogs tend to be either very shy or very aggressive, but they can be changed through love to be happy and well adjusted. I replaced Guinness’s insecurities (evidenced by fear) with love and acceptance and slowly he came out of his shell and became friendlier. He will always be on the shy side but that’s my Guinness.
Let go of grudges
Guinness doesn’t hold a grudge because he lives in the “now” not the past. That is very intelligent. I have learned to let go of resentments held about being hurt as a child by living in the “now” too. We are much happier that way.
Trust your instincts
Guinness lives by his intuition and instincts. He trusts his gut instinct for safety and for relationships with others. If he meets someone he does not trust, he stays away from them. If Guinness senses that something is unsafe, he will stay away from it. I need to pay more attention to my gut instinct leading me to trust my inner soul or self.
Seek balance in life
Guinness loves his daily routine and seeks balance daily in his routine. When he needs to rest, he does. When he wants to play, he does. He expects his meal at a certain time of day within an hour or so. He has taught me that balance and a daily routine is good for. Notice how a dog does best when he knows when he is going to be fed or exercised. Now that Guinness is sick he does much better with routine and knowing what to expect. The same holds true for me as I grow older. The less chaos and focus on the negatives in my life helps me to balance and to decrease my stress.
Self-acceptance is essential
Guinness doesn’t want to be something else. He is perfectly happy being who he is even with his illness. Have you ever seen a Pug wish he was a German Shepherd or a Poodle wish she was a Terrier? No. This is because they accept who they are without question. I need to accept myself rather than trying to change my looks, my features, my size, or who I am. We each are perfectly unique just as we are.
Loyalty and unconditional love are vital
Guinness is very loyal and his love is unconditional. He learned loyalty instinctively by being a pack animal. Unconditional love is evident from my dog by the wag of his tail, the enthusiastic greeting when I come home and the slobbery kisses he gives. Unfortunately, adults usually set conditions to our loving. “If you do this…I will love you.” is a common scenario with humans. I just need to love without setting conditions, period. Guinness is teaching me this.
Make each day special
Guinness finds life exciting. He finds excitement in the simplest things such as being fed, going for his walk, seeing me come home and even having visitors. Even on days when he doesn’t feel as well, Guinness still finds something to make each day special. I am learning how to be enthusiastic about the simple things in my life. I am also focusing on gratitude and enjoying life one day at a time.
Age and Die Gracefully
This is the biggest lesson that Guinness teaches me daily. Both of us are aging in years. He is about 12 and I am 65. Both of us are sick although one of us will leave this earth sooner. There is no guarantee how long we live and how we die. There is only the guarantee that we are passing through this life on a journey to somewhere else. Guinness will likely cross the Rainbow Bridge sooner than I will go to heaven, but I am sure we will meet again. The only way to grow older and to die is with grace…God’s grace and the unconditional love of those you leave behind.
May you share your loyalty and unconditional love,