“Sorry. I have to ask,” she said. “I mean … no offense, but why does it matter? What difference does it make at this point?”
I stopped petting Micron to look up at her. The question got my attention, not only for her courage to ask, but also for her earnestness in wanting to understand. You see, in another person, this could have been merely an opinion being offered up cold. No response to the rhetoric expected. Or even welcome, as such oratory announcements tend to go.
But not this young woman. We’d just met, both of us as volunteers for a youth group event. She shared that she’s finishing her courses at Wright State University in social work and I talked about my efforts in pet therapy with the mighty Micron always by my side. Our polite small talk had taken a side step from “so, where y’all from” to the stuff of life that needs attention. Things like social justice, at-risk children, and dysfunctional family situations.
And the topic that brought us to this point.
Quality at the end of life.
“What difference does it make?” she had asked.
You know, I’ve never had to answer this question before. Not so directly, anyway. And I didn’t have a rehearsed answer, so this was one of those times it was going to have to be coming from the heart.
Full on truth, people.
I suppose I could have said something like “all life matters.” But doesn’t that sound, oh I don’t know … benign or something? Like a quote you’d see on a meme in Pinterest. You can picture it, can’t you? A close up of two hands. One elder hand being held by a younger one with a script font sentiment.
And anyway, that’s not it. Well, but it is. All human life is a precious thing. All the time. But it doesn’t answer why Micron and I spend time visiting with patients of Hospice of Dayton.
“What difference does it make?”
I get it. I do. Really, unless you’re involved with pet therapy, you couldn’t know how the air changes when you walk in a room with a dog. It’s more than seeing the smile, the outstretched hand, and knowing your arrival is oh so much welcome.
Micron and me? Well, we’re a distraction to the day. It’s what we do.
My dog – a lover of life and licker of people – opens those mentally taped-up boxes holding the memories of beloved dogs from long ago. And these memories show up holding hands with other stories of those glorious and robust days of youth.
By merely crossing the threshold into a room this dog can stop the spiral of negative thoughts, if only for a little while. He brings a feeling of relief of burdensome troubles, he encourages a sense of well-being.
You can’t touch these wonderful gifts. Nor can you buy them. Yet you can help to make them happen.
And as every life is precious, all the time, we have no need of criteria to tell us who is in need. Even those who are facing the end of their own story.
Especially those. Actually, I can think of no one more deserving of dignity, positive energy, and a big, shedding four-legged distraction.
“What difference does it make?” you ask.
All the difference the two of us can make, that’s what.
We only wish we had the power to do more.