We were sure that last year would be our dog Lucy’s very last Christmas. She was fifteen years old, and had survived a couple of serious health issues. Signs of her aging were obvious: stiffness in her joints, hearing loss, and worst of all, a digestive system that obviously could no longer handle the variety of “food” she still found and insisted on eating. Lucy had been part of our family for over fourteen years, so our Christmas morning was a little bittersweet as all photographed and video-taped what we thought would be the last time she would ever help us open presents.
Clearly, Lucy had other ideas. Because Christmas is a week away, and she is still with us.
I’m not sure if it’s her competitive nature (her doggie sister lived to be sixteen and a half, and I think she has every intention of exceeding that goal), or just that she is still enjoys life. She turned sixteen last October. Lucy’s hearing is basically gone, her eyes are somewhat cloudy and she can no longer balance on three legs while I trim her nails. But she still has a healthy appetite, still trots briskly after the occasional squirrel, and still plays with her dog toys now and then. She can even still chase her tail a little bit when she gets really excited about something, such as her dinner being served.
I know that eventually my family will be facing a Christmas, and a life, without Lucy. She won’t be with us forever despite her best efforts. Time moves on and those we love, both human and otherwise, grow old and die…often before we are ready to let them go. And since Christmas is a time when the influence of the past seems to be stronger than usual, acknowledging that loss can be hard.
My father has been gone for eight years now, and both my mother-in-law and father-in-law have been gone for six years. And while my husband and I miss them all the time, we miss them especially during the Christmas season, when the memories of the holidays we celebrated together are especially strong. We didn’t live in the same state so we had to be flexible about when we got together, but they were always a part of our Christmas celebrations. And Christmas isn’t quite the same without them.
Yet Christmas is still a beautiful season. It’s a time to treasure the family and friends we still have and to appreciate the new people who join our family and enrich our lives. My mother may be in her late eighties, but she is still with us, and so is her elderly Chihuahua. My children and their spouses live close by and we are very much looking forward to the arrival of our first grandson in just a few weeks. Some change is good indeed.
And the fact that Lucy will get at least one more chance to find the special present that Santa Dog left under the tree will just make this Christmas that much sweeter.