Lessons learned from an aging elephant
I have fallen in love with an elephant. Actually, several elephants.
I am lucky enough to be able to volunteer at our local zoo. I observe the elephants, record their behaviors, interactions, movements, lives. We at the zoo do this so that we can keep learning about these wonderful animals, as well as keep learning how to provide the best life that we can for them.
Zoos are not perfect, by any means. And the best home for animals is in the wild, where they can be free and who they are. But, there are good things about some zoos. Our zoo does much work for conservation, education, and the work of rescuing animals that could no longer survive in the wild. Many of our elephants were rescued from various places. Rescued from cruelty that we humans, in our ignorance, can inflict on our fellow creatures.
We currently have three elephants at the zoo. We used to have four when I first started volunteering there, but we lost one several years ago. The grief I felt at the loss of her was immeasurably deep. Grief the size of an elephant. You grieve as big as you love.
And now we have three.
I watch as our oldest elephant continues on her aging process. She has some conditions that come with aging. She has some pain that we treat as best as we can. She moves more slowly, but keeps moving and eating and living her life. We watch her.
I have learned that part of what zoos frequently do is to monitor for the quality of life of its residents, not wanting to have suffering and pain. And so we observe. And we continue to love. I love.
Love comes with a cost. The cost is loss, grief, deep sadness and an ache that defies any comfort.
I pre-grieve her already, trying to appreciate each moment of life that we still have with her, knowing that at some point these moments will be no more. I cannot imagine her not being there.
I think about my own death, as I also continue on my own aging process. I also don’t move as quickly, also have things that come with aging. And I think about how I also need to give myself the best quality of life that I can. How I need to sit and be quiet and observe myself. Be with myself. Love myself. Until the moments are gone. Until it is over. Until I am no more.
But, until then, I am still here. I am still alive. I still grieve, for what and who is lost, for what will yet be lost. I breathe, and feel each breath. I laugh, I cry, I work to be the best version of myself as I can be, given that this version changes throughout the years. I am slower, yet deeper. Wrinkled and more saggy, yet appreciating a beauty that transcends the physical appearance. Older and feeling closer to death. Yet more alive than ever before.
And so I sit quietly with my elephant friend, appreciating and loving each moment together. Each precious beautiful, bittersweet moment. For this moment, we are here, together, alive. And I still get to love.
6 thoughts on “Tears for An Elephant/Tears for Myself”
This is a beautifully written piece, Jo. Thank you. 💜
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Thank you so much, Janet. 💜🐘
Yes I value your work and words about the elephants. And I understand and relate to what you say about seeing another being age be they animal or human. It’s hard watching the process in loved ones. I also thought about the grieving process for oneself. We are faced with this all our lives as we change from one stage to the next but I think one of the most difficult to face is the last stage of one’s own aging. I am having to say goodbye to my self and my life in Africa as I move onto Scotland; it is also facing saying goodbye to a younger version of me and facing retirement. I always find your posts so relatable and thought provoking. Thank you. Have a great weekend. 💕🌈💐
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Thank you, Morag. I appreciate your sharing your own struggles and feelings about this. It helps to hear others’ experiences and feelings about their own journeys through this life, especially as we get closer to the end. Thank you for your thoughtful and kind response. It’s always good to hear from you! I hope that you have a great weekend as well. 💜🐘💜
You are welcome, I have been spending a winters day crocheting. Very relaxing, thank you.
Sounds like a perfect cozy day!