We’re taking a break from our normal programming at BRBdoingstuff to share our personal heartbreak with you, and a lesson that we’ve learned along the way.
Transition has been a central theme of the past few months. After a year and a half in Austin I missed Canada (and all of the beautiful things that comes with it — especially nature and community) and decided the timing was right to return north. Despite my best efforts to secure housing in Vancouver before arriving, the universe had other things in mind and I’ve been hopping between friends, short-term rentals, hotels and tents for the last while. Usually this type of adventure is thrilling, but without the sense of routine I desire at the moment — fitness, cooking and location — it’s been tough.
I’ve been actively reminding myself that everything is temporary. Homes, jobs, and situations all change over time. Life, despite all of its joys, also has an expiry date.
Tim Ferriss interviewed bay area palliative care physician Dr. BJ Miller for a podcast titled The man who studied 1,000 deaths to learn how to live the other day. He asked BJ what purchase that was $100 or less most positively impacted his life. His answer? “A beautiful pinot noir […] the fact that it’s perishable and goes away […] I enjoy it not just for the taste or the buzz, but in the symbolism of delighting in something that goes away.“
Oh ya, and this guy lost three limbs in a freak accident and retrofitted a motorcycle so he could realize his dream of riding. He caught my attention and held onto it for the full two hours.
As it turns out, BJ’s lesson was timely. I had no idea I’d need it so soon.
Five days ago Lt. Dan, my beloved dog and loyal pack member, died. It was traumatic and desperately sad for all involved. We shared the experience of his accident with a community of strangers — 10 or 12 in number — who gathered around to lend support, offer assistance, and cry with us. People are inherently good. I’m grateful that we weren’t alone.
As the night progressed a team of veterinarians and nurses worked tirelessly to save him but it wasn’t in the cards for young Dan. We said goodbye to our sweet boy and left empty-handed and broken.
I’ve been struggling to come to terms with a quiet house and empty heart, but as I slowly emerge from the cloudy depths I’ve found solace in how Dan lived his last week. He sailed around bays in Cowichan and Genoa, climbed Mount Tzouhalem, chased around new dog pals, and hiked through the woods for hours on end. Dan snuggled with his humans, rested in the sun and outflanked other pets in order to steal their kibble. He always packed in a lot of action, that Dan.
Which got me thinking… Quotes like ‘Live each day like it was your last‘ and ‘Live like you were dying,’ don’t sit quite right. Dan didn’t do what he loved because he knew he was going to die. He did what he loved because he wanted to experience all life had to offer.
I feel great comfort that if Dan understood the concept of future, beginnings or ends, he wouldn’t have changed a damn thing about his last week.
Of course humans have the unique luxury of understanding the temporary nature of our own lives. As my tears begin to dry and I return to the reality of my situation at the moment — transitional and at times challenging — I choose to channel Dan’s attitude and approach to life. Savor what’s there, maximize time doing what brings you joy, and be present in the moment.
If you find yourself grieving, remember that you’re not alone. Delight in what goes away while it’s still with you. Savor a bottle of wine. Bask in joyful activities with your loved ones. Permanence is the enemy of living. Now, go out there and enjoy life!
Cheers to you, Lt. Dan. You’re missed so much, little pal.
PS — some photos below of Dan being a badass sailor + mountaineer, enjoying life during his final days.