Memory came calling like a souvenir postcard tucked away in the back of a drawer, that is found and read only to be discarded again.
Memory came calling in the form of a bird, A pheasant hen scuttling about our backyard. Beaumont and I spied her at the same time as we came out the back door. I stopped to wonder what it was. Beaumont raced across the yard to get a closer look.
Not too close. He wasn’t quite sure what this alien being was on his territory.
The pheasant scurried under the edge of the back hedge, darting as quickly as it could into deeper cover.
Beaumont stood poised at the edge where lawn meets hedge, tail wagging, his entire being fixated on figuring out this trespasser’s purpose or maybe just trying to convince her to play with him.
It was not his first choice to come to me when I called, but I was insistent and he heeded my command. I put him in the house, made sure Marley the Great Cat was also locked inside as well and went back outside to check on ‘the bird’.
I knew she couldn’t fly. She tried that when Beaumont had first approached.
I called 3-1-1, the City’s information line. They told me to call the Alberta Wildlife Conservation Institute (AWIC).
The lady on the other end of the telephone line suggested ‘the bird’ might have flown into the side of the house and broken its collar bone. Not unusual, she said. Sometimes we can heal them and rehabilitate them.
But first, I had to catch her.
Easier said than done.
When C.C arrived home, I stood in the backyard, armed with towels, trying to fence in ‘the bird’.
Finally, between the two of house and a half hour of moving cautiously, slowly and patiently around the edges of the yard, stalking the wounded bird, he managed to throw a towel over her head and grab her.
“Birds will go completely still if you can get a towel over her head,” the woman at AWIC had told me.
She was right.
There were no volunteers available to come and pick her up so C.C. and I drove her to the animal hospital where someone from AWIC would come and get her later.
And that’s where memory snuck out of the drawer.
It was the same animal hospital where a year ago, C.C. and I took Ellie the Wunder Pooch on her final day.
My eyes still well up at the memory of that day. I still feel the sadness, and the fear.
I didn’t know for sure it would be her last day. I didn’t know for sure what was going to happen when we got there. And I was afraid.
This visit, fear did not accompany me, though sadness crept in for a few moments to remind me of Ellie’s loss.
Time (and the joy of Beaumont) has healed most of the sadness and, it has erased the fear I carried with me on that day.
What I hadn’t realized, until it crept in to taunt me with its unanswerable question, is that it has not been able to vanish all the regret. The regret of ‘what if I’d… reacted sooner, done something else, seen what was wrong…’ The regret that comes with losing a loved one and not being able to change anything that lead up to their leaving.
My rational mind knows, I could not have known, I could not have done, anything different.
My heart still carries some regret and walking into that place where I handed the leash over to a veterinary assistant and watched her walk Ellie into the back nethers of the place, only for her never to come out again, my mind still wonders, ‘what if?’
Carrying the unasnwerable questions silently in my heart, C.C. and filled out the paper work at the desk, left ‘the bird’ and came home.
Beaumont greeted us with his squirms and loving cuddles and in his soft fur and puppy breath laden licks I remembered, ‘what if I’d…’ is just a trick of my mind, a slight of hand of memories thrall calling me to let go of what is so I can be consumed by the past.
There is no room for ‘what if I’d..’ ruminations or visiting the past in the present. There is only room for celebrating the now, for living in the ‘what is’ and joyfully embracing the love that is ever present when I let go of wishing I could change the past.
There is not one moment of the past that I can change. There is only now.
And in this now, C.C. and I took care of a wounded bird. We took her to safety and gave her over to people who will do their best to care for her.
And when we came home, we were greeted by the present of Beaumont’s love squirming in our arms and reminding us as he does every moment of every day, living in the past, regretting what was, does not create more love and joy in the now. It only takes me back to what I cannot change.
I cannot change the joy Ellie brought into my life for almost 14 years.
I cannot change the memories of her love.
I can change how I see that final day, that last good-bye. I can celebrate the truth of what we had and what we did to care for her when she was no longer able to be in this world with us.
And in those memories are the boundless love, the endless joy and the path to being present with Beaumont today. Because in that joy is the knowing, the past is just a memory. I choose whether it’s a trap, or a gateway to living free of its burden and in Love today.