Being brave in the face of death | Editorial

A Friday Harbor woman’s Facebook request went viral, reaching more than 30,000 eyes.

The post was simple. After finding out that she had terminal cancer, Kathleen Zuidema decided she needed to find a home for her three dogs.

On March 5, she uploaded a photo of her pets and wrote, “The Aussie Posse is looking for a new forever home!!!!! This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. My heart is breaking and I’m sobbing as I write this.”

No one else reading the request could have dry eyes either. Looking at Zuidema’s hopes that her dogs have space to play and someone to love them not only makes you grieve for someone facing death, but it is also a reminder of the capacity of selflessness within all of us to care for beings other than ourselves.

Zuidema is asking the island community to take on a great and powerful challenge: to begin where she will leave off and be the new owner of her pets. The two younger dogs are four, but the older Aussie is 11 and has spent her life at Zuidema’s side.

The Journal is asking someone in the community to consider taking on this task. We are also taking a moment to ask our readers to take a lesson from Zuidema’s experience, to ask ourselves what is important in our lives and to look at what we are leaving behind.

Making a will and planning for those you will leave behind is a painful and daunting process that many of us put off. We are not as brave as Zuidema. Most of us do not reach out and say, “This is what I need.” It is also incredibly responsible to make sure that when we leave this world, we leave our loved ones, families and pets in the right hands. Sometimes the first step is just talking to someone who cares.

Fortunately, there is assistance if you are ready to take that step.

There are frequent workshops and groups that gather to help discuss wills, grief and other issues associated with death. The cancer support group on Orcas meets the second Thursday of every month at 5 p.m. in the Fireside Room at the Community Church. The next meeting is April 14. It is a safe place to share your journey with cancer with others that have been down the same path.

For Zuidema, we offer support and compassion as she faces an uncertain future for herself and her beloved furry family members. It is our wish that a worthy household will step up soon to provide a lifetime of love for Zuidema’s Aussie pack, long after she leaves this earth.