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Issue: 68 - Aug 15, 2014
Gifts You Want to Return
By: Dana L Durrance, MA
Dana Durrance, M.A.

In your jobs as veterinary professionals, how many of you have ever heard the notion that death is a gift? Sound kind of crazy doesn’t it? I mean, here you are…. doing everything in your power to keep your patients from dying, and then suddenly, when they finally do die…you are to think of this as a gift. Some gift huh? Yea right…the type of gift you wish you would return.

However, I would like to explore this idea of death as a gift a bit more if you’ll allow me to. The truth is, as veterinary professionals, you give many gifts to your patients and clients everyday of your life. When you work hard to save the life of a special animal, it’s natural to feel sadness, disappointment, frustration, and even guilt when that patient dies. This is especially true if the patient struggled courageously to survive as long as possible. You have made a huge emotional investment in that animal, and when that animal dies, you may feel as though the emotional investment dies too.

I would like to point out though, that there are gifts you give to your patients and clients during times of illness and death. It may sound a bit odd, but those gifts are there and I would like to share a few with you:

  1. The gift of time. Every day that you give your patient is an extra day for him/her to enjoy the pleasures and beauty of life and an extra day to experience the love and comfort of family.
  2. The gift of hope. You give your clients and everyone else in the pet’s life hope about the future. You provide that special spark of energy that allows us to all feel hopeful and have faith. These feelings transcend death are desperately needed in today’s world.
  3. The gift of knowledge. Anytime you labor to extend the life of a patient, other animals will benefit from that in the future. That’s how treatment breakthroughs occur. With every death, there comes knowledge that has the potential to save a future life.
  4. The gift of death. I know…I already mentioned how weird this sounds, but when all medical treatments are completely exhausted, providing an animal with a peaceful, loving death free of pain and fear is one of the greatest gifts of all. You prevent needless suffering and allow your clients to say good-bye to their companions in a way where they can grieve in healthy and positive ways.

I don’t know about you…but those sound like pretty amazing gifts to me!