Very recently I lost my dear, sweet little pug dog, Olivia, at age 14½. We had been together for more than 11 years. For nine of those years I’d been working from home, so we have essentially spent 9 plus years together 24/7.
Words can’t describe how special Olivia was, nor how unique and precious the bond was that we had. She came into my life at the lowest of low points, and I “rescued” her when her second owner sought a new forever home for her. She was gentle, sweet, full of personality, and she opened up my heart and mind in ways I never anticipated. We found each other at just the right time and forged an amazingly special connection. I am still deeply grieving her passing.
My grieving is somewhat similar to the grieving that we often experience in Third Age – for the end of a career, a relationship, or a routine that we’ve known for a long time. All of a sudden something that grounded us, gave us stability, identity, a sense of meaning – even love – is gone. Now what? How do we go on?
Nancy so eloquently spoke of realistic optimism – finding the best possible scenario without denying one’s current reality. I don’t yet know what the best possible outcome is for me with Olivia’s passing. I do know, however, that I could choose to wallow and give up, or I can keep my eyes open to the new possibilities available to me in life now that I am no longer serving as her “Mama” or, as was the case more recently, her intensive caregiver. I will continue to grieve her absence, but at the same time I will keep my eyes open to what else might await me to bring me new and unexpected joy and purpose.
Third Age isn’t always easy or pretty. Life is life – it has its sadness and its joy – but the degree of each is much dependent on the attitude and outlook we choose. So I will choose realistic optimism. At the moment it seems a bit difficult, yet I know that the alternative is simply unacceptable. I will take the love and joy that I was blessed to have from this unexpected relationship with my little “puppy” and find a new way to redirect it in service of all the many things that matter to me. That, I believe, is the true essence and opportunity of living in my Third Age.