As the first day of school is upon us, lots of kids will be writing this essay. However, if I was still teaching in classrooms, I think I'd change the title to, "What I learned this summer." I mean, anyone can list off things like: Wonderland x10, summer camp, and backpacking Europe. I'm more interested to know how a kid's education was furthered by the activities he/she took part in. It's not just because I'm a teacher, but because I learned a few things about myself this summer too. You see, for the past year and a half people have been telling me how "strong" I am for the things I have gone through, which I seem to always reply "Really? You think so?" I never feel like I'm so strong. I always feel like I'm just doing what I have to do. I mean, I guess I could lie down on the floor and never get up again, but what good would that do? In my opinion, when you are forced into a situation that is beyond your control, you'd be surprised how much strength you have. A lot of people have said "I don't know what I'd do if one of my parents died." The truth is, they'd do exactly what I've had to do. Keep going. What I do believe is that there is a difference between being strong and being brave. From what I have learned this summer, being brave takes a lot more strength than being strong does. Therefore, this summer I learned how brave I am. Not only did I make the decision to put my sixteen-year-old Lhasa Apso, Charlie, down. That took strength, but I also made BRAVE decision to not leave his side while it was done. I held him and hugged him while the vet put him to sleep in my parent's backyard by the swing. I really surprised myself with that one. At first, I didn't think I'd be able to be present to watch my best buddy die. I anticipated that I'd be screaming, crying, and to be honest, puking. I felt so much guilt that I was taking Charlie away from my two other dogs, Lucy and Molly, and was terrified over how they'd react over it. (they weren't present when Charlie was put to sleep) I'm not going to go into detail about the process of euthanasia, but to say that it is probably the most humane and peaceful way for a living being to die. The time frame from the injection to Charlie's final breath probably took twenty seconds at the most and within that last breath I could feel his sigh of relief. He fell asleep. Just like that. No more suffering. No more pain. Afterwards, my good friend Wendy directed me to a link that she thought would be helpful. It is the story of "Rainbow Bridge." I wanted to share this with you, and strongly encourage you to read it and definitely share it with anyone you know who has lost a pet. http://petloss.com/rainbowbridge.htm
I'll be honest, I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but I was really proud of myself that I went through with such a selfless act. I had gotten to a point where I knew that I was holding onto Charlie so that I didn't have to suffer another loss in my life.
I am so thankful to still have Lucy and Molly, who have been a huge comfort to me and have barely left my side. It makes me want to go storming back to that hoarder shrink that I went to see, Dr. NOT Oprah and say to her, "Hey Big Edie (that's a Grey Gardens joke). This is why I have so many dogs!!!"
A few days after Charlie passed away, I went with my cousin Marla and two of her three children to Centre Island. I am sure I hadn't been there in over twenty years. As we got off the ferry, I felt like I had stepped into a time warp. I don't think anything had changed since my last visit there, other than the fact that I no longer fit into those little fire engine cars that I used to drive on the tracks as a kid. However, I am happy to say that I still fit into the logs at the Log Flume Ride...and yes, I went on it three times, got soaked, and loved every second of it. I felt so nostalgic that day. I had spent a lot of time at Centre Island as a kid in the 70s. My dad used to take us there all the time. We even had a little sailboat docked there that we'd take a ride in, if my dad could remember where he had left it, or how to even sail it, but those are small details.
I learned something else while I was on the train ride that takes you around the island. The same train ride, that as a kid, seemed WAY longer and the island seemed WAY bigger. I was sitting with my little cousin Kaia, who's five-years-old, and as we went along the tracks, she pointed out other rides she wanted to go on. We both got excited as we saw all the animals on the little farm. As we went through the tunnel, all the little kids let out shrieking screams of excitement mixed with fear to be in the darkness. Kaia gave out a few little yelps and then poked me in the arm and said, "Look Cousin Andrea there's the light at the end of the tunnel!" Talk about an eye-opener. It was indeed the light at the end of the tunnel. The one I've been looking for, for the past eighteen months. Marla and I laughed over the irony of it, but something inside me finally clicked.
I was lying in bed last night thinking how my life has become so psycho. One day I'm putting my dog to sleep, the next day I'm doing an interview on Etalk Canada. One day I'm at my dad's unveiling, the next day I'm partying it up with Noah Wyle, Peter Shinkoda, and the rest of my "Fallen Skies" friends. So really what have I learned this summer? Life is full of many ups and downs. I can't have one without the other. However, when I accept the brave decisions I need to make, live in the moment and believe everything will work out eventually, maybe I won't need a five-year-old to point out the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe next time I'll be able to find it myself.
So as you all go back to school, back to work, or just get that same end of summer dread that you get every year, try to think about everything you learned this summer. Whether a teacher asks you to write it down, or not, somehow store it in your memory and keep on going.