A Life Well Lived

Yesterday, 9 OCT at 12:15 PM I lost my best friend. He passed away at home laying in his favorite place, surrounded by candle light and those who he loved and loved him the most. He managed it with grace and strength - some of the hallmarks of his character. His capacity for loving life and things that should matter made me a better person and revealed to me a path toward a life well lived. I can honestly say, without reproach, that he (and as a byproduct I) had absolutely no regrets. We never wasted any time and always lived in the moment.

Never mind that he was classified as a canine; to my family and me he was one of us. A furry person with a spirit that attracted all walks of life to him. I was blessed to have had the time we had together - while it was cut way too short he has left an indelible impression on me and my life.

I decided that I wanted to capture these feelings when they were the most raw and unfiltered. It is both to honor his life as well as remind my future self of the perspective and lessons I learned from him.

I love you buddy.

Walk somewhere everyday 

I had lived in my cozy neighborhood for almost two years and had never actually seen it or the people that occupied the homes around me. It is all too easy to hop in a car and get from here to there. When Astro joined our family I made a promise to him that we would always, always go walking together every day. No excuses. It was this promise that showed me the world that I was participating in. I could really see things, smell things, explore things and make discoveries that I never would have before.

Ready for the walk

Approximate distance walked together: 3,500 miles (5632 km)

Greet people openly and actively

I tend to be inwardly focused when I am going about my day. My wife had kindly called me “unapproachable”. 

It was virtually impossible to maintain this kind of demeanor when I was out with Astro. For the uninitiated, he was a 190 pound (86.5 kg) Harlequin Great Dane. Greeting you was a first order action for him and I dutifully had to follow his lead. I discovered that it wasn’t actually so painful to engage with my fellow humans and ended up looking forward to this new activity.

Approximate new people / friends met and made: 1000+ / 50+

Get a little dirty - things are just things

My wife and I had lead an incomparably fastidious life with respect to the order of our home and the condition of our material possessions. To illustrate, I had a new friend visit our house for the first time and ask if we had just moved in or if indeed anyone actually lived there. As we have no children of our own to provide us this lesson, Things Were Always Perfect™.

Astro very quickly showed us that a little dirt and imperfection meant that we were participating more fully in life’s daily exercises and that a sleigh bed is a perfectly good chew toy. Don’t stress about that he would say with his eyes and tail - things are just things.

Approximate baths ‘shared’: 160

Approximate sleigh beds ‘personalized’: exactly one

Celebrate life often and without regard - live in the moment

I have never seen anyone so happy and full of joyful celebration (e.g. this is the best day EVER in the HISTORY of days) as when my wife would surprise Astro and me early in the morning with a freshly baked container of bacon. It was as if in that moment the clouds parted, all worries were gone and each and every piece devoured (chewing is for losers) was like walking on sunshine. I occasionally managed a piece or two but to deprive him of that experience - well I just couldn’t.

Astro the grillmaster's supervisor 

Approximate bacon strips, steaks and burgers celebrated: 500, 72 and 120 respectively

Life is too short to be grumpy about anything

Every day was a brand new opportunity to ride with your head out of the sunroof, leave some pee-mail for a friend, marvel at how beautiful nature is, engage completely with those people in your life and most importantly live each and every moment with unabashed and fevered joy. You control that he said. You can decide how to live each and every moment of your life. They will all take place and you are the master of how you choose to experience them. Don’t squander the most precious and limited gift you have been given by being angry or unhappy. Experience that negative feeling if you must and then let it go - quickly.

Approximate days of happiness: 2748

Approximate days of sadness: 7

Stuff is more fun when it’s shared with someone

Whether it was his prized bowl of water with ice, his collection of over sized toys or his cherished daily jaunt through the trees, everything was just a little better when it was shared. 

Approximate shared stuff: 2748

Care for and invest in your loved ones

As these folks can be the ones you take most for granted make it a point to invest in those relationships often. Astro always connected and stayed present when a loved one was giving him their time. He made them a first class citizen in his world and reinforced that feeling each and every time.

Approximate investment in loved ones:

Love deeply and completely - you have unlimited supplies

This is the most difficult lesson. I have always been guarded with my supply of love and this in some fashion has limited my ability to experience all of the beauty of life. My wife (bless her) has been the sole, laser focused recipient.

I managed to break the habit with Astro. I held nothing back and because of that I was given joy and happiness ten fold. 

Approximate deep and complete love given:

I now have to go about the business of living the next chapter of my life without this very special spirit accompanying me along the way. Astro was a remarkable, beautiful and graceful creature. I learned a tremendous amount from him and for that I am better. None of these guidelines cost any money and can be put into practice today. No waiting.

I am not a religious person but since hearing of the Rainbow Bridge recently I am certain that he is there - making new friends, sharing what he’s learned here on Earth and hopefully, one day, will be waiting for us when we make that same journey.

My wife and I walked the path we had walked so many times with Astro the evening of his passing and we saw the Rainbow Bridge