A very wise woman shared simple insights with me many years ago, on a day when it was widely reported in broadcast and print media that heart attack & heart disease were no longer the number one cause of death in the USA. She said, “That only rearranges the mortality statistics. Everyone dies of something.” Further along in that conversation, which ranged across probability theory, Mark Twain, and basic statistics, she gave me an example of just how one can make a true statement that gives a completely accurate single statistic which nonetheless implies a huge lie:
Very few people die over the age of 100.
Yep. Very few do. Very few live to the age of 100, either. But it’s a clear instance of the truth in Mark Twain’s famous quote:
There’s lies, damn lies, and statistics.
What brings all this up, you may ask? Simple—the intersection of two events: the recent celebration of Candlemas, one of the Traditional Wiccan fire festivals overseen by our Horned Lord of Death and Rebirth—January 31–February 2; and, the annual World Cancer Day on February 4 together with its media coverage on assorted outlets.*
*Compounded by the possibility that my companion animal and retired service dog Molly was reaching her virtual expiry date. More on that below.
About 45 years ago, I wrote a matched pair of epigrams:
Life is a death sentence. Death is a life sentence.
Think about it. Everyone dies. Humans have the dubious honor of consciousness and foresight, so that they may know, and perhaps fear, what happens to them in the next moment or day or year or century. Thus, being alive is to have been sentenced to death from the outset. That’s the first sentence.
The second sentence? We live our lives with death. The death of others we do not know, the death of others we do know, and the death, eventually, of our own being.
About Molly. She’s a 14-year-old Bichon Frisé, my long-retired service dog, and sufferer of Cushing’s disease (people get it too, look it up if you care). And rather slowly, in the past four months, she has been reducing her activity and changing some habits and demanding more of me…and being less able to tolerate any absence of *me* from being the Molly-mommy. When she first had to retire as service dog (illness), she’d pine when I left her for a few days’ travel, but would begin eating after the first 24 hours or so. Last fall, when I spent a three-day visit with Craft family, she would not eat for my entire absence. Which meant she didn’t get her medication either, given it’s routinely dispensed atop her meals. Other behaviors stressed me (and I’m still recovering from a surgerythree months back) as well as her. I was preparing myself to decide that the kindest thing would to be to put her down (I travel out of state for a week mid-month)—because she is painful even asleep, by the yips and whimpers.
When awake, Molly still enjoys her food, processes it appropriately, solicits tummy rubs from her occasional visitors, and spends a lot of time on our ever-shorter walks being noseblind while she “reads the bulletin boards” at every tree, telephone pole, lamppost, and rock garden along our way. Tail-wagging still happens a couple of times a day. And her personality is still pretty durn perky. Ouch.
Yesterday, a wonderful woman who loves her, too, has volunteered for the caretaking—whimpers and meds and pee pads and all—enabling me to attend the conference I was forced to miss a year ago. And today her vet says if doubling up on the current arthritis med doesn’t improve matters, Molly can have an actual pain scrip…and recommended fish oil (equal EPA & DHA) for her to improve the joints and maybe her mild dottiness…subtle stuff like forgetting how to unwind from those poles and trees on our ever-shorter walks.
So. My friends have been told that “the governor called, and Molly’s been reprieved.” And I slowly recover from the stress of believing that the only way out, this time, was final. No one here gets out alive, her nor me, but both of us have time together for a while yet.