I haven’t yet found the energy or wherewithal to throw out her toys. Or doggy bed. There’s a bag of food still in the fridge and I’ve been avoiding opening the door so I don’t have to look at it.
This morning as I stood at the top of the stairs, the sun was beaming in through the front window and onto the pinewood paneling down the hallway–her favorite place to sleep in the early morning to soak in those rays of stardust. I glanced at it, glanced at that empty floor and felt just as empty.
She took a part of me with her, I think.
And left a big part of herself behind.
Of note, her hair is still in the backseat of the car where she would sit when we went on long rides. It’s on the couch. It’s on my clothes, even the clean ones. It’s in the laptop keys on the laptop I’m typing on right now.
I remind myself, almost like a weird kind of bargaining, of the good that comes from this. It’s things like, “Eventually we’ll get all this hair cleaned up,” or “she’s no longer in pain, thank God,” or, “At least there’s no more vet bills that were killing us,” or even, “I guess I don’t have to rush home to feed Daisy Mae.” Some of it is relief, honestly. But, of course, I’d make all those sacrifices again to get her back if I could.
I’m not entirely foreign to loss, so why is it so much harder this time, I keep asking myself.
I remember feeding my grandfather peas in his final days and how humbling that experience was for me. I remember the gut-wrenching punch in the stomach when finding out about the death of a friend to suicide. I can think of countless friends I’ve just sat with not so much to console–because consolation is a lie that exists to benefit the onlooker more than those grieving–but to simply be a non-anxious presence who loves and loves fiercely.
Experience with loss doesn’t seem to make it any easier, though. If anything, it’s just another abandonment of something sacred and that’s new every time you have to face it no matter how many times you do.
So, I do what I almost always do in these cases and search inside myself for some kind of answer or reason until I’m satisfied with one. Watching a body go limp, the air sucked out, and empty of its liveliness inevitably stirs some kind of brooding mixed with pain. Maybe that’s because it forces us to encounter our own mortality.
My own mortality hasn’t ever really scared me though. I’m a lot more scared of being left behind than doing the leaving.
Still, sure, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about where she went and what’s comforting to believe. Is she among some ‘cloud of witnesses’ who will visit and look after me and mine? I can see why people would find that comforting. Did she rush off to join Beau and Gibson and even Pete, the Parakeet in the “wild blue yonder” as my grandfather called it?
“All dogs go to heaven” may be the one theological treatise, above all the others, I’d imagine is easiest to want to believe.
I don’t know.
I can tell you that there’s a classic scene in Star Wars, as silly as that sounds, that I’ve thought a lot about when I think about this sort of thing. I won’t dive into the details of the story. I’ll just say that a character caught up in self-doubt in the face of a gargantuan task fails for the same reason most of us fail: we wrap our faith up in the same lies of our weaknesses and frailties and failures. That is, we spend most of our lives believing more in our death and what’s dying and growing old all around us than in what is life-giving and imaginative and beyond our comprehension.
“Luminous beings are we,” one character counsels the other, “Not this crude matter,” he says as he pinches his skin.
Luminous beings–beings made of light–and beings who are so much more than the failures our bodies will endure very simply because that’s what they’re supposed to do. And how odd it is that we fight so hard to ignore or refuse to accept what we cannot control that’s yet so clearly meant to be. That is, what we call death.
I can’t say where she is, my sweet loving puggle, but I can say with firm certainty that she’s luminous, all light, and that’s beyond the shell she was created in and only meant to grace us with physically for a short time. That sparkling ball of pure energy, luminous Daisy Mae the puggle, who is beyond time and space.
And I’m not just being metaphysical here. Photons don’t experience time. Light is timeless and eternal. And so maybe she is too.
You could see the glow in her eyes, quite frankly. Her finding the sun in the morning and basking in it, her rubbing up against you to share her light with you, her sweet sleeping that inevitably made you soak up the warmth she was exuding: it was all luminous.
That’s what it means for us to be sacred, too, I think. It isn’t just about heaven and hell or gods and goddesses or mythologies and cosmologies. It’s much more simply the very plain experience that we’re made of so much more than lung cancer or wrinkles and bruises or thyroid or demyelinating diseases. We’re so much more than our best and worst moments, our broken fleshly pieces, the birthpangs that brought us into this ugly little world or our last dying breath.
We are stardust, pure light. So I’ll challenge myself to remember that this week, when the clean-up begins, when I find the muscle to turn the page of this chapter slowly, and as much as I can, I’ll bask in her light the whole time I do so.