What I continue to discover is that I do have some amount of faith, but its really a faith in myself. I greet the day with confidence and sleep soundly at night because I know that I can and will accept whatever it is life throws my way. I am willing to suffer. I am willing to change. I don’t ever expect to understand what it is that powers life, but I do believe that there is something common to all creation/experience. We’re rain falling to the soil and growing to grain. We’re dough in the oven slowly baking to bread. We’re the shit and piss that comes out the other end. And soon enough, its raining again. We’re all simply little cogs in the process.
So yes, I’ve spent some time thinking about these things, and stumbled across some great teachers along the way. Recently I lost one of these teachers - my good friend Cody. He was well into his 17th year on the day he passed, and like many of our closest four legged compadres he was the embodiment of the sort of faith that I preach. The faithful dog was willing to be whatever he needed to be moment to moment.
As the quickest, loudest, and ferocious member of the family, he took on the role of house watchman, a task he undertook with enthusiasm day after day. Of course, he was also more than willing to double as the butler in his later years (with the recent budget cuts and all), greeting guests and catering to their needs as best he could. Sure, he was slow warming up to most, but hey, you can’t fault the guy for being selective in dallying out the love he shared with those within his inner circle.
Cody knew how to have a good time no matter the circumstance and accompanied me on many a fine bouldering session or hike up into the foothills. He never complained about my choice of destination or the problems I’d project. While he didn’t like it when the local test pieces would shut him down (I did try to explain to him that climbing barefoot is a sandbag), he often found a suitable route up the stone and we’d meet at the top to enjoy the small summits. He was never impressed by names or grades. For him, climbing was all about movement over stone. He was happy forging his own path.
When Cody was twelve he tore apart his back left leg while pursuing an invader on the property. We chose not to perform surgery on the leg, because of his age. The whole family wondered how much time our good friend had left. When one lives for running, how happy can they be without the use of a leg? Well shame on us for not having more faith in our dear friend. Sure, he put on some weight, and lost a bit of that footloose and free attitude, but Cody accepted his situation and rarely, if ever, lamented his fate. He knew how to suffer.
I wasn’t there to say goodbye that one last time, but I’m told he passed with dignity and little fear. It seems Cody was once again willing to accept whatever it was that was coming over him. In fact in the end, his only concern was our well being. Laying on the floor at the vet, blind and obviously in severe pain, he sought out my father’s hand and patiently licked as he drifted off.
I don’t know much about what happens next, and I don’t really care. Death is a shocking reminder of life’s fleeting nature. We are all incredibly fragile and the ride is damn quick. When thoughts turn to my old friend, they’re greeted with a smile. His memory stokes that inner fire which drives all that I do. He reminds me daily that there are many more mountains to climb and the hour glass is quickly draining. That percussive bark of his echoes in my head, “WOOF!”
I know buddy. I’m going.