Monday, April 2, 2012

Loving Kindness

There was a dog at the dog park the other day that I admired and loved immediately.  She was overweight and needed more exercise.  She had a meaty head and was a breed I've never been really connected with, a Rottweiler.  Oh, I don't mind Rottweilers, but I just don't usually identify with them.  I truly believe the saying that people tend to look like their dogs.  If that's true, then I look like a pit bull and Labrador mix.  That's the dog that I picked over twenty years ago and that type of dog will still bring a tear to my eyes.  I'm gradually converting to loving a sweet white dog these days.  Teddy still doesn't quite fit the role, but he's growing into my heart the way I knew any dog would that lived in my house for more than a month or two.  Teddy is dorky, something like one of those tall, awkward boys in high school who will never be quite popular, who will always study too hard for tests, who will blush talking to a girl in the hallway, and who will be nice to everyone.  I think Teddy's personality is a good influence on our family.  This Rottweiler I met at the park was a good influence too, even after the short time that I was with her.

What I loved about this dog was the calm that emanated from her as I petted her.  It was as if the space around her was calming as well and got into my hands.  I liked that she sat on my foot and leaned into me and spread that feeling into my bones as I talked to her.  How can it be that a dog can have such a gift? 

I met one woman in my lifetime that also had that gift, just one.  When I was 23 years old, I had to go to the hospital because I couldn't walk.  I'd been having trouble with my back and just didn't get any help for it from the doctors I'd visited.  Eventually, I could stand, but I couldn't move my legs to walk, so I went to the emergency room.  They checked me in and immediately put me into traction.  It was awful.  I was prescribed strong pain meds, so much so that I was hallucinating a bit, but at night, everything hurt worse and being out of it made it frightening as well.  My family lived four states away and somehow I managed to sound cheerful with them on the phone during the days.  So I languished alone that way in the hospital for ten days and nights before I finally had surgery.  At night, I wanted to sing to myself for comfort, but I kept quiet out of respect for my roommate. 

The night hours were long.  Every night, there was a nurse who came in to give me more pain medication and sometimes to change my sheets.  She walked into the room in the dark, so I could only see that she was a tall black woman and nothing more.  I remember looking at the palms of her large hands and hearing her crooning voice tell me I needed to take these pills, that they would make me feel better.  She exuded this same calm that the Rottweiler had, along with a gift for loving care.  I think one night during that hospital stay, I asked if she was an angel because I can still remember her rumbling laughter.  Her hands were warm and gentle as she first rolled me one way to change my sheets, then rolled me the other, then tucked me in like I was her own beloved child.  More than once during those hard nights, and even afterward, I wished that she had been my mother. 

Every time I think of this woman now, someone I never even saw with my own eyes, I bless her, her children, and their children.  I hope she has lots of great-grandchildren and that even a few of them learned her gift of loving care.  The world will be a better place if they did. 

I thought of my angel nurse when I met this Rottweiler at the park and felt that calm emanating from her as well.  They had the same feeling surrounding them, that of deep patience and love.  Funny, how a person can get this feeling from a dog.  I hope to see her at the park again soon. 

Thank you for listening, jb

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