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The Fragility and Endurance of Life

A few days ago our dog Luna got seriously injured trying to jump over a fence in our backyard. She sliced one of her hind legs pretty badly with one of the metal sticks that held the fence in place, and was in much pain when my daughter and I rushed her to the animal hospital. I was not only in shock at the sight of her raw, bleeding leg, but also very concerned as to how deep her injury could be, and what would come from this unfortunate event. Since there was snow on the ground and I am not very good at driving in the snow, my stress level went up to the roof on the road to the hospital!

And then my energy collapsed, of course. I was sad and depressed, thinking about our beloved furry companion in pain, having to be knocked out and sewed up, away from home and the familiar faces of her human family while the vet would take care of her leg. As the anesthesia was wearing off, I sat next to her and tried to comfort her with my voice and gentle touch. She was in pain. Not only because of her wound, but also because the anesthetic was fading and she was disoriented and in fear. No ligaments or tendons were injured, but the cut was big and it happened where the skin is really tight. So she had to spend that night at the hospital, under the vet’s supervision, to make sure that the stitches would hold.

Post traumatic stress soon triggered my mind in the direction of fear, and I had to constantly keep it in check so as to not get dragged down by all the thoughts that bombarded me that night. Why this? Why now? What next? What if? I was certainly in shock at the fragility of life.

When we brought our dog home from the hospital, she was feeling much better. And so was I by looking at her, with her usual happy-go-lucky and loving attitude. She was in the moment and the past had faded quickly for her. Yet my mind was dwelling—on and off—on the shock of seeing her injured, on her pain, on trying to understand how it all happened, on the uncertainty of life and how things can radically change within a few moments. On what life has in store for each of us that we are not even remotely aware of until we’re taken on an unexpected and rocky ride, like this accident was for me.

As much as I tried to stay in the present, like Luna, my mind would take me back into the past. One of my brothers had Friedreich’s ataxia, which is one of those rare diseases caused by a recessive genetic pattern that affects muscular development and functionality. In other words, my brother lost control of his muscles over the years (due to decreasing nerve signals to the muscles) and eventually was completely paralyzed. His mind was not affected, though, so he always found a way to communicate with us and be part of the family, even as his speech was gradually impaired. I was very close to my brother, always took care of him, and felt very powerless as I was growing up. Yet I also was able to observe how he managed to surrender to his disease so completely that there was no suffering involved for him. It was the rest of us who suffered seeing his body slowly fall apart like that.

Luna’s absolute being in the present reminded me of that incredible capacity to surrender that my brother had. Like him, she was completely surrendered to what had happened to her. No ego, no thoughts, and no attachment involved in her accident. When she was in pain she would clearly express her pain, but when the pain was gone it was gone for good. It didn’t linger in her mind like it did in mine.

The legacy of my brother was to teach me the power of acceptance and endurance; of fully embracing your destiny, with absolute faith and the unfathomable certainty that everything happens for a reason even if that reason may not be readily obvious in the moment. He was able to endure 20 years of a progressive muscular disease, tied down to a wheel chair and a bed for most of his life, with a child-like, peaceful temperament and a loving attitude toward those around him. His inner strength was certainly not based on the fragility of his physical body or his ego. It came from deep within. It was the power of surrendering to life, no matter what.

Our dog Luna with her affectionate and sweet disposition reminded me one more time of such an important lesson in my life. Life is fragile indeed, but true power comes from enduring the ups and downs as they come, in the moment, and then letting them go. Surrendering to life doesn’t mean that suffering is gone. It simply means that we embrace life as it is, with its share of pain, joy, obstacles, tests, lessons, love, karma, and everything else that it comes with. Yes, we embrace life with everything that it is, with our fragility and our resilience, and we accept and endure the tough times as much as we enjoy the happy ones.

Luna is recovering really well from her injury now. It is still inflamed, but she can walk, is happy and playful, and seems ready to go back to her life in the backyard. We are still keeping her inside, though, and making sure she takes it easy until that wound is completely healed. I am recovering from letting my busy mind make me forget how precious life is, even with its ups and downs, and how each moment—no matter how shocking—is yet a new opportunity to embrace life fully.

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