GRATITUDE AT ITS BEST  by Natalia Alexandria

On January 8, 2008, my beloved dog died. Gustavo was with me nearly thirteen years and during the most challenging and transformational cycle in my life. In the midst of this dreadful event in which he nearly drowned, strangers came from nowhere to assist in his departure. A remarkable veterinarian brought him back to consciousness long enough for me to say good-bye. Amid sheer horror, I was illuminated with an awe-inspiring feeling of gratitude—gratitude for having known him, for having loved him, and gratitude for having been witness to the miracles that sprouted from his memorable life and death.

Death and dying are a very sad reality of living physical life. In the West, we need to refine our definition beyond what we consider to be a harrowing finality that keeps us unwilling prisoners of depression, loss, and anger. Dealing with death is never easy, but what needs to be highlighted is an understanding that we have been privileged. Whether it is a person, animal, or nature, we are bestowed an honor of knowing and enjoying what lives and enhances our life experience. Of course, we would rather forgo the pain and suffering associated with death, but how else would we discover what we cherish as beloved?

Death defines what is precious. It is the decisive wisdom in a cycle where we are presented with many opportunities to change and learn, particularly how we love, and how we will love. It is the most powerful source of enlightenment—provided that we don’t shut down as a form of self-protection that limits our quality of living. Death can positively transform all that we have ever believed about ourselves and others, as long as we don’t lock ourselves behind the weighty doors of defeat.

Loss manipulates our feelings and fosters profound evaluation. It causes us to experience the heavy slap of blasted introspection that eventually lets us know that we are able to develop an even higher capacity to love. It is this love that broadens what we feel. Even in the worst circumstances of death, we can expand our ability to feel grateful, blessed, and fortunate, and that compels us to love even more.

So many have demonstrated how the positive side of death gives birth to miraculous change. Grieving moms and dads fight their loss by helping others who may be spared the same. Those who survive the unthinkable, such as terrorism, have been inspired to band together to revolutionize awareness, so that we all can become better. The truth is that so often we continue to postpone what we always know must change. Despite the recurrence of death and its experience, the same lessons will always hammer away. Embrace those you love and be reverent with time. Choose your relationships wisely, and treasure them. Death and its timing can never be negotiated, and its surreptitious arrival is guaranteed.

I was granted the honor of experiencing an extraordinary dog named Gustavo, who knew nothing but how to extend pure love. That truth sent me beyond my limitations when after his death I uttered, “Thank you.” I was blindsided by higher love and was grateful. Then I felt surprising strength that said I could now give more. It was gratitude at its best.