From the Publisher

A word from Publisher, Brian Rowland Merlin Was Somebody to One Family


Rushing down John Knox Road to get to a luncheon at the Civic Center on time, I saw a driver ahead hit a small dog – never even touching the brakes before or after impact. The dog was traveling with a companion who immediately came to his injured friend and offered some licks of condolence or help.

As a dog owner and lover, I pulled over, and a couple of people emerged from a nearby office to help. The small dog died as we looked on, helplessly listening to the cries and compassionate gestures of his canine friend. The office people called the phone number on the tag, only to find it disconnected, while I comforted the survivor with the kind of chest massage my Labs love so much. We did find a street address on the tag, and I volunteered to see if I could locate the owners while the others brought the other dog inside and covered his buddy with a box.

I found the street listed on the dog’s tag, but the numbering and my emotions had me disoriented, so I knocked on a few doors, asking for help. I finally found the right house number and approached the door with Merlin’s collar in hand and my heart in my throat about what I had to do.

The door opened and the gentleman’s eyes told me he immediately knew something was wrong. At that point, his daughter came outside as I told them of the accident, Merlin’s loss and the fact that the other dog was safe. I could see shock coming over his face and hear the heart of his daughter breaking. At this moment, my Adam’s apple began to throb with pain as I suppressed my emotions. He followed me the two miles back to the scene, and when he emerged from the truck, it was clear he needed some help. So I told him to go inside to get the survivor while I picked up Merlin and carefully placed him in a sleeping position in the box so he and his family could be spared a bit of the trauma they were about to endure. I put the box on the floorboard of the truck as, once again, I stood helplessly while he loaded the other dog up – who immediately went down again to check on his buddy with a lick.

Normally I am a talker but, at that moment, I could not speak. I could only shake the man’s hand and share a look of caring and sorrow. Driving away, the emotion of the previous 45 minutes did slip out and, at the next stop, I looked to my left to see a couple I knew who recently lost their daughter to cancer.

I put my hand on the steering wheel, triple-checked the intersection before proceeding, and drove straight to my office. I was as close to death that day as I cared to be.

In this issue, we bring you a very sobering feature on the subject of death. My postgraduate degree is in gerontology, and my study emphasis was death and dying. I have stood close witness to scores of people making the transition over the abyss, and each – including Merlin – is forever etched in my memory. As the baby boomer generation comes of age, many of us already have been dealing with this most difficult phase of life’s journey. Many people I speak to on the subject cannot even discuss it on an intellectual level; I can only imagine how hard it will be for them and their parents when it no longer is a choice.

So I hope the perspective of life’s most personal and private phase, from the eyes and mind of a dying person and his family, as well as the hospice worker who cares for both, will help you to better prepare yourself and the ones you love for a transition that can have some meaning – and provide you with some knowledge and tools to be supportive and helpful.

Today, I feel the pain of the Forrest Street family, who lost Merlin, and hope you will read this story so the pain that is in everyone’s future can be embraced with love and understanding.

Turns out, I missed an informative presentation at that lunch – but I learned a much more important lesson on John Knox Road.

Categories: Quick Reads