I’ve been having some challenging times recently.

Returning home from a reasonably successful viva voce for my doctoral studies in the UK, the first thing I learned was that my mother had been diagnosed with a serious illness, and was beginning treatment immediately.

Over the week that followed, she became progressively worse and was taken to the emergency department in the middle of the night by my father and brother.  I stayed with my dad for several days, and was startled to witness my mom, quite honestly one of the most intelligent women I’ve ever known, unable to recognize her husband or children.

She is hopefully on the mend now, and her mental faculties are improving, but this incident was a reminder of important work I haven’t yet completed in terms of my own spiritual growth.

In December, I put my little canine girl, Gini, to sleep after struggling for months to improve her health based on a false diagnosis.  A second opinion proved that she had cancer, and was never going to get better.  Although we were able to keep her comfortable for a short time, I promised myself that when she had three bad days in a row, it would be the sign that I should release her from mortal suffering, and that day came on December 13th.

I don’t know if every reader has had, or will have, the kind of relationship some of us have with animals.  I can only say that Gini was truly a part of me … a piece of my soul that lived outside my body, like the ‘daemons’ which were linked to the humans in the film The Golden Compass. I still feel her loss acutely, as in her presence, I never felt either lonely or alone.

Now, when forced to confront my mother’s age and medical condition, it struck me that there are some individuals, either human or non-human, who are so real to us, so integral to our personal reality, it seems impossible that they should ever not ‘be’.  There are days when I think of Gini and am honestly surprised that I am still alive and walking on this earth, and she is not.

I know that life is transitory.  I know it intellectually, in my head.  But obviously I have not completely let the idea into my soul.  This is something I will be opening myself to in the coming months, as I attempt to understand and accept this important piece in life’s puzzle.

While this has all been going on, I’ve been driving and walking through this beautiful countryside, marveling that the trees are still green and supple, that the earth is bringing forth its riches, that the sun still beats down warm and friendly on my arms.  As my family has been embroiled in a human drama, life has still gone on around us, not uncaring, but simply present.  It reminds me that there is still joy to be had, even in the midst of anguish.

During an early morning stroll on the beach with my remaining beloved canine, I came across the message pictured above, lovingly placed in the sand by someone who had walked there before me.  It seemed to sum up so much.

After all, in this transitory journey we call life, the only thing that really lasts, that really matters, is love.