Updated: Oct 10
I was four years old the first time I experienced grief. I had just viewed the film, "Born Free," the true story about a loving couple raising a lion cub to adulthood that concludes with their releasing her into the wild. I was inconsolable at the thought of their never seeing each other again. Several weeks went by and all I could think about was this lion, alone in the wild.
My love for animals was and remains manifest as an insatiable growing collection of stuffed animals. Each with a name. Each introduced to the next. Each given a specific place to call their own in my room.
The week after viewing "Born Free" I was compelled with a singular focus: to complete enough chores to earn a reward. I had my heart set on only one. A stuffed animal lion cub.
The night I introduced "Kupee" to her new family, I had gathered my entire animal kingdom onto my bed. One by one, I brought each to meet Kupee with a shared nuzzle and solemn bow. When the last of the formalities was completed, I became aware I needed to establish where Kupee would sleep. It would be decades before I would learn about the concepts of space, time and infinity. In this moment, I learned that while my love for stuffed animals was infinite, the space in my bed to accommodate their physical presence was indeed, finite.
I became distressed. I could not justify having one animal displaced from the bed, a clear implication of favoritism. I began bargaining with my newly developing sense of justice.
What if I rotate positions? I wondered to myself. Two (not one, because no one should be alone) will be on my bookshelf, I thought. They will each take turns. So it will be fair, I tried to convince myself.
I quickly realized I was now stuck trying to determine which pair would be the first to be relegated to the shelf.
That deliberation was short lived. I knew I could never choose.
"If I choose," I am sure I must have said something like this out loud to my animal kingdom, "then you will all feel that I must have a favorite."
Sitting in the middle of my bed, surrounded by all my animals, I had one imperative: to make certain that each and every one of my animals knew that I loved each and every one of them, wholly and completely, and "Equally!"
I don't know where my urgency for justice came from but it was definitely in full force in that moment. I am also certain I kept to myself the singular exception to "Equally!"
My first stuffed animal, Scotty, was the one that if I were forced to choose only one in an emergency, like the time my parents took me to the hospital in the middle of the night because I could not stop vomiting, he was the one I would grab because I knew he wouldn't mind being dirty.
Though not yet thread-bare like the Skinned-horse in Margery Williams' story of the Velveteen Rabbit, Scotty's green glass eyes were already scratched. That happened the day I was sent to my room for doing something wrong. I was so angry, and Scotty let me squeeze him and squish him and ultimately paint his body with my fury. Once I calmed down, I scratched his eyes in the process of trying to remove the paint.
Had I realized Scotty would get clean in the washer, his brilliant glass green eyes would still be shiny. I apologize to him each time I look in his eyes. Each time his expression stays the same. No matter what I do to him, Scotty’s expression never changes. It was, and continues to be, only ever communicating love.
Scotty knows my deepest secret. That I can never have enough stuffed animals in my life. I only recently discovered what Scotty knew all along. That my insatiable wish for stuffed animals is satisfying my deepest wish: for each and every creature I encounter to know they are loved.
Scotty was never threatened by the addition of another animal on our bed because he already knew that Love has no limit. Love magically expands to encompass an infinite number of beings. And in its expansion, it is magically never diminished. Love need never be portioned!
Unfortunately, my bed does not work in the same quantum physical dimension as Love.
That night, the night Kupee became part of my family, my bed ran out of space.
I realized only one solution existed that would not risk any misunderstanding between me and my animals. I moved to stand at the side of my bed and began placing each animal in their given space on my comforter, saying good night to each with a kiss and a gentle pat. Kupee was the last to be placed in her newly designated space next to Scotty. With each animal now equally, lovingly tucked into position, I knelt down, curled myself on the floor with a pillow and blanket, and went to sleep completely content knowing I had communicated Love.
Communicating Love is who I am. Whether as a hospice physician caring for patients and families at the end of life, or a mother reassuring my own children that no matter how many times I ask them to empty the dishwasher or help with dinner or be nice to their siblings, that I am Communicating Love, and I love them "Equally!"
This need to communicate love is what drives every one of my actions. It is why I founded Dyalogues and created our mission statement: Communicating Love. Supporting people to remove the barriers that prevent us from communicating what matters most so we can live fully now is ultimately, always about Communicating Love.
I am so grateful YOU ARE HERE.