I’ve paid more attention to Merlin this week than I have in a long time. I hadn’t been ignoring him before. He hasn’t done anything to require more attention. But I’ve been painfully aware that he won’t be with me forever.
I’m sitting in my bedroom floor Thursday night and Merlin is sleeping on the bed just inches from me. Lucy is in the floor next to me on my other side. (Thomas is off doing his own thing in the office.)
Molly’s death last Friday had the same effect on me that all of my cat and dog deaths have had. The pain of losing one of them reminds me to love and appreciate the ones I still have — while I still can.
Merlin has been with me for about 14 years. (I don’t remember for sure.) He was already several years old when I brought him in from the streets. When I put those together, I realize that my wise old man might not be with me too much longer — and it makes me want to appreciate whatever time he has left with me.
If you want to love and appreciate something you love — or someone you love — just remember that you can lose this cherished person or thing. There comes a time when it will be too late.
One of the strangest things about human life is that we tend to lose appreciation for the ones we need the most. The people and things we love the most come to seem routine, as though they’ll always be there.
If you’ve ever lost something or someone, you might know what I mean. Even though you might have said you loved someone or cared about a thing before, its loss can leave a hole far bigger than you might have expected.
You suddenly realize what you’ve lost. You feel guilty for not valuing this person or thing more dearly before the sudden loss. And the hole is your life is bigger than other people can understand. The loss is almost too much for you to bear.
We take members of our family for granted. We can take a loving spouse for granted. And we can even take for granted that someone who loves us will always be there, even if we don’t choose to invest in that person.
I’ve lost six dogs and maybe 15 cats over the years. They all hurt in some ways, but some are worse than others.
In 2008, I lost a German shepherd mix named Maggie who was an amazing dog. I was very close to her and she was an important part of my life. Then one night, with no warning, she couldn’t stand. After a long and sleepless night at an emergency animal clinic, she died the next morning during surgery.
She had had cancer and I’d never had any idea. And as much as I had already loved her and cherished my time with her, I realized as soon as she was gone that I would have given anything for a few more days or weeks with her. Every moment that I’d chosen to waste on frivolous things suddenly seemed to have been a terrible choice — because I thought of the time I could have spent with Maggie instead.
It can be the same with people. You can think someone will always be with you — or that you’ll always have the choice of making that person a part of your life — and then the person can suddenly be gone.
Merlin isn’t as strong and muscular as he once was. He’s skinnier. His fur isn’t as healthy as it once was. And Molly’s death last week has me paranoid about losing him, so I’m spending more time with him and giving him more attention — which he might or might not want anyway. (He’s a cat, after all.)
If there’s someone you love, remember that you might very well lose him or her. Be grateful for the time you have and make sure that person understands that he or she is genuinely loved.
The time will come when it will be too late to say, “I love you.” It will be too late to let someone know how very much he or she means to you.
So do something about it. Right now. Before it’s too late.