I watch my new friend prick the delicate fabric of the quilt square she inherited from her mother. I look at her gentle face as she tells us about her recent stroke, how she lay in bed unable to reach her nightstand or fluff her own pillow. Yet, how in that moment, she realized the value of life, what it would mean if she were to get better.

My other friend chimes in, "That's what marvels me," she admits. "I don't think I ever realized how much we hold onto life until I heard Simon bray." She is referring to the donkey that came to live on her farm from an abusive situation. "It was shortly after he came and he was not in good shape, but I heard him bray...." Her voice drops off, but the implication hangs there -- he was calling out to life and he indeed lived, growing healthy and strong. She turns to the first friend and speaks again, reiterating, "It amazes me that even in these horrible circumstances we cling to life."
My other friend stares back at her and deadpans of her night in the hospital, "Well, it was quite a night."

Life and death both have their challenges. My 14-year-old pug, Vader, has lost the use of his legs -- front and back -- he is incontinent, developing bedsores and has an eye that could rupture. His mind, however, is alert. He hides his bone under his chin and keeps my other pug, Alfie, at bay with just a look.  He watches my nieces and nephews and squawks should I forget and make my breakfast before his. Still, I think his time may have come and I bray, calling out to life.

I bathe his urine-stained body and think about this. Suddenly, I look down and see him. His back legs are splayed, tummy exposed, front legs crossed, letting out a yawn. He is not worried about life and death. He is living.