Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Value of a Life



Ole Lou is 15 years old, and he's been a great dog. Someone had found a dozen puppies in a big blue rubbermaid box at the dump and carried them to the animal shelter. I was at the shelter when they came in, looking for a puppy, and I took him straight from the dump box. We adopted him from the pound the same day. He was so little that he rode in my jacket pocket. 

We'd only had him a few days when he started coughing and vomiting. He had Parvo. Two weeks in puppy ICU and lots of good vet care brought him through. He's been a trooper ever since.

Lou's big and imposing, with a deep, intimidating bark, but the sweetest dog you'll ever meet. He's gentle with children and other animals, loves me, and loves his human, Ryan.

At 15, his health has declined dramatically. His teeth aren't in good shape, he won't eat well most of the time, and he wheezes when he exerts himself. He's dying and it's obvious to anyone who looks at him.

I intended to "put him down". I've already dug his grave and have his shroud (the sheet he slept on for years) ready. The sensible thing to do, in my foolish mind, was to "take care of it" while Ryan was home. 

Lou is still too big for me to carry, so the Hired Hand came to help. He looked at Lou for a long moment, then back at me. "I don't see how you can put down a dog that's smiling and wagging his tail."

His words stunned me, and I looked past the frail body to Lou's face. He was right. Lou's eyes were still bright. His tail was still wagging. He still looked at me with all the trust and love he's ever shown.

"His life still has value," The Hired Hand said, and I was cut to the core.

I, who have been an advocate for life for decades, had looked at this life and devalued it. I was ready to end his life before it was over, and shame flooded through me. I repented on the spot.

It was not just about suffering; it was also about inconvenience. I had crawled on my belly through the azaleas with a spoon in one hand and a can of dog food in another until I couldn't stand it any more. I wanted the crawling and the dying to be done.

I looked at Ryan and shook my head. "He's right. Lou's life still has value. All life has value."

"But he's suffering, Mom."

"I know. He's suffering some, but he's still enjoying life some, too. Life and death are issues best left in God's hands, not mine."

"He looks bad."

"Yeah. But look at those eyes. Look at his wagging tail. Suffering's not all bad, Ryan." I knew that from experience. Some of the hardest times in my life had been used to change me in ways I never expected. Lou's hard times are changing me, too.

In the midst of his poor health, Lou still finds joy every day. He still gives joy. He still wags his tail and smiles in a way only he can do.

There may be a time when we end his suffering, but it is not today. 

I'm still feeding him with a spoon, but Lou and I have reached a compromise. He's coming out from his cool resting place at least twice a day. He still walks with me, if I don't walk far. He still wags his tail. We still love each other.

When Ryan looks back on Lou's poor health, I want him to remember that Lou's life had value all the way to the end. I know some people will say, "He's just a dog. Why let him suffer?" I've felt that way, too. 

But... life is precious in all its forms. The breath of life comes straight from God for all His creatures, even dogs. 

One day, I'll be the one who's old and frail and suffering. One day, Physician Assisted Suicide, already becoming acceptable in a few states, may be acceptable here. Years from now, I want Ryan to remember that all life has value, no matter how difficult it might be. 

That's why we carried Sam down the Tanglefoot Trail in a wheelchair. He could've walked a few feet, but not the entire way. His life, though frail, has infinite value.

That's why I stop writing at 4:00 to throw bread to the fish with Sam. It's one of his favorite things to do, and the joy he has in that simple pleasure matters.

We've not more valuable to God when we're young and strong. Every day of our life matters to Him. Even when we're old, and frail, and dying.

If God values our most difficult days, so should we. No matter how hard it is, let's do more than live like we're dying. Let's live until we die, with all the fervor and enthusiasm we can muster, even on the hardest days. In that same way, let's celebrate the value of all life, no matter how difficult.

"Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written they days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them." Psalm 139:16 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Soil Samples

#life #alllivesmatter #disciple