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Cougar Medicine: A Lesson in Gratitude (part 3 of 3)

Published February 8th, 2019 in Community Perspectives

By Eric Muritz

Not long after my cougar encounter I was speaking with a dear friend now living across the country. Her mother had recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness. “I just don’t know how to reconcile myself with this reality: a life without my mother”. She was sorely vexed.

I was no stranger to her pain. My father had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) when I was in my early 20s and declined rapidly thereafter. I knew what it was like to say goodbye to beloved people and treasured things, having practiced such with an embarrassing lack of poise for some years until accepting life’s greatest challenges for what they are: lessons in letting go. With the events of Solstice still fresh in my mind, my heart bolstered with gratitude for what was, I was quick in finding words of encouragement–words I hoped would help.

“I know it hurts, but you can’t look at this as you, or your mom, being robbed of a future. We’re not promised a future. We only have the opportunity to express gratitude for the present, and all the moments that ran before it. Be thankful for the time you’ve had with your mother. Reflecting on what I had, and what we shared, was among my greatest comforts when making peace with my dad and his illness. For certain, not everyone is as lucky as we’ve been.” Having grown up together, I knew we had both known 20+ years of stability and comfort in the midst of loving families. We were blessed.

“Honestly, Eric, that’s the best advice anyone’s given me: focus on gratitude!” She seemed to consider the concept anew, and with her adoption of the virtue, I watched another maxim ripple out from Breitenbush and into the greater world. Being able to retool my hardships as a means of supporting someone else made them all the more valuable–another layer of gratitude!

Life’s not easy. Life rarely makes sense. And if we perceive someone as deftly navigating through this hot mess, chances are they’ve only mastered the art of gracefully coping with the unexpected: most nobly, perhaps, the ability to count one’s blessings in the midst of hardships.

In June of 2018, I finally saw my mountain lion–up close & personal! 💀

I enjoyed the wonderful company of my cat Beowulf for 12 years 😺

I shared love with a woman who taught me so much 💕

Since the summer of 2012, I have been blessed to live & work at Breitenbush Hot Springs🙏

Eric Muritz has been a cook, bookkeeper, and member of the Board of Directors while at Breitenbush. He currently works as an overnight systems operator, providing guest services and security. The cougar has not been seen on the grounds since. In August 2018, Eric adopted a new tabby cat affectionately known as “Sheriff Clearcougar.”