Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Rippling Effect

As I discussed on Saturday, a member of our family -- Becca -- dies the previous day. For a family with so many animals, one might think that losing only 1 of 6 wouldn't have dramatic effects. But quite the opposite is true.

Becca was the leader of our pack. She was by far the most gregarious of the brood. She DEMANDED the most attention, both good and bad. She was always under foot -- if you were in a hurry, she was sure to be in your way!

When someone came to the front door, she was the first to greet them. Our other two dogs will bark up a storm and, if that doesn't work and a non-family members enters, both scurry for cover. But not Becca!! She would approach anybody as if to say, "Hi. How ya doing? I'm Becca. I like people. Pet me. Pet me. Pet me."

So, despite the fact our house is still filled with cats and dogs, it seems rather empty. The main vital spirit has gone. In time, we'll get used to this new energy and it will become the norm. For now, however, everything seems out of sorts.

In contemplating the last few days, I again recognized the mysterious ripple effects of life. Every action by each and every entity cause ripples that flow out into the world. Sometimes the ripples intersect and sometimes they clash. They form an invisible tapestry around us.

It is because of these trillions upon trillions of simultaneous ripples that we have no bona fide chance to truly comprehend this tapestry. The picture is far too broad and expansive for any of us to take in. So, we use terms like fate, chance or faith to define what we are unable rationally to define.

When something fortuitous happens to us, we say it was "the luck of the draw". When something bad happens to us, we say "the stars were aligned against us". We treat such things as random occurrences of chance.

I often find it interesting that when someone survives a tragedy that befell many others -- say a plane crash with only a few survivors -- we often hear that person exclaim, "God was watching out for me" or "an angel saved me." Whenever I hear such remarks, I always ask, "What about the others -- those who died. Why wasn't God watching out for them? What makes you think you're so special as to deserve this extraordinary treatment?"

In my humble opinion, it's not God or chance or fate that averts disaster or brings unexpected joy. It is something far more ordinary and pervasive -- the rippling effect.

If we had the ability to pull back to view the entirety of it all, we would be able to understand the ripples that led to the death of the man in Seat 4A and spared the life of the woman in Seat 4B.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bye Bye Becca

The one constant of life is death and my wife and I came face-to-face with this reality yesterday. Our beloved Becca (a Labrador-Collie mix) had to be euthanized. It's never an easy decision to end the life of a pet, but sometimes it's the most humane and compassionate thing to do.

Of course, we were there when she was "put to sleep". I would have rather skipped the procedure, but the reason for being there is to comfort your friend, not yourself. She had provided so much comfort to us for more than a decade that we couldn't turn our back on her when she needed our comfort the most.

It's an odd thing to see your beloved pet slowly lay her head down -- one last time -- then lay motionless. You stroke her head and she no longer responds. You say her name and she no longer wags her tail. She's laying there in front of you, yet she's no longer there.

We both cried, long and hard. I know a lot of people would say we were crying for Becca, but I think we were crying for ourselves. The pain of death is for the living, not the dead.

Our other animals seem out of kilter now. Becca's best friend, Heidi (a German Shepherd-Collie mix), keeps going from room-to-room looking for her pal. Becca's cat buddy, Dylan, isn't sure which dog to greet when he comes in from outside. Scruffy (dog) seems depressed and the other two cats (Little Bit and Mookie) sense that something's out of place.

Something IS out of place -- Becca's gone.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Reincarnation of the SUV

I've read several articles lately that have indicated that the market for SUVs, big trucks and mini-vans is waning. In the first 6 months of 2008, sales have fallen 50% from last year. With gas prices soaring to unfathomable levels in the US, it's understandable why middle and high income families are trading down, so to speak.

While it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the production of new SUVs and other gas guzzlers will ride off into the sunset, I think it's a big mistake to think such vehicles will disappear from America's highways. In fact, I'm fairly sure we'll continue to see them in very large numbers for decades to come.

The difference between then and the future will be who's behind the wheel!

The poor -- and I count myself among them -- drive the castoffs of upper class society. Over the past 20 years, it's been quite easy for those of us of limited means to purchase and drive vehicles that get good gas mileage. While the rest of society embraced the motto "bigger is better", we've had to live on the other end of the spectrum.

Over the past 3 decades, my wife & I have only purchased one new vehicle and we only had the requisite funds for that purchase due to my mother's death! Except for that one instance, each new Smith family vehicle has been a used vehicle. We've owned gas-efficient Datsons, Nissans, Isuzus, Mazdas and one Ford Escort.

But, I'm afraid, those days have come to an abrupt end! In perusing the ads for used vehicles in this area, I've found that all those little cars that one used to be able to find for $4000 or less have jumped in price as more and more people are scrounging for more fuel-efficient rides.

In their place are all the SUV and monster truck castoffs. So, such vehicles won't disappear after all. I'll probably be driving one -- against my will -- within the next two to three years.