I had a lot of pets growing up. Dogs, cats, horses, calves…whatever I could pretend to take care of and give a name. And many of those pets died. The grief process is common on a farm. My parents tolerated a lot of memorial services. Dad dug quite a few graves and marked them with sticks, rocks, or whatever we could find at the time. He was usually the person to give the bad news about a dog that got hit by a car or a calf who was too sick to save.
He was who I called in a panic when I came home to find my dog bleeding. He suspected poison and told me he’d meet me at the vet’s office. I was old enough to pay that bill. I had already paid a bit for the same dog who got hit by a car and had to be in a cast for a couple months. Then I left him at home with Mom and Dad when I went to graduate school.
Several months after I left home, my dog died. But Dad didn’t call me to break the news. He called my fiance (now husband). He passed the baton: “You’re the one who is going to have to start telling her tough news, so you might as well start now.” Of course, I was upset. But once I got over the initial shock, I chuckled at my dad’s passing of the baton of bad news.
I wondered if he was just avoiding dealing with me yet again.
In reality, he was good at passing the baton. He was good at being an example for others, but at some point, he said, “It’s your turn.” After all, if we never let go of the baton, how will anyone else run their race? It’s not all ours to run. We help people for a moment or for an extended time, but our help changes, and we loosen our grip to encourage them to continue. We let others help us for a moment or for a long time, but their help changes, and we tighten our grip as they encourage us to continue.