On Death, Love, and Also a Dog

Around our house it’s been a rough couple of months.

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I had surgery right before Valentine’s Day, a surgery with a long recovery.

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Less than two weeks after that, my Dad passed away.  He was just a few weeks shy of his 90th birthday. The celebration we had for him was on his birthday, St. Patrick’s Day. There were many blessings in the days surrounding his death and our gathering. I know this is a slightly blurred photo of him, but on that day, his cogs were turning. He was deep in conversation and observation and to me, it shows his very essence.

We came home from the journey of remembrance, and within a few weeks, 2 of our sisters-in-law lost parents as well. The Stein grandchildren took a huge hit in grandparents this spring. Ten of the twelve are without one particular loving soul to cheer for their own life’s journeys.

Monday’s Boston Marathon tragedy came home to me. For the past four years, I’ve been a runner. I love running, love  cheering others on in their efforts. I love watching races like this one.  And always, when things got tough, I, too, could run. Many runners are speaking with their feet this week, hitting the road, finding comfort and solace and healing with like-minded people.

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But right now, I can’t.  I wish I could. I know there is time. Some day, I’ll go for a run to honor the dead and the shattered. There is no hurry.

Today, we had to put our warm, wonderful loving Black Lab to sleep, just days shy of his 13th birthday.

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This is the question I’ve had to think about in so many ways lately:

How do we say goodbye most respectfully? How do we most rightly bid fond farewell? There are many cultural guides, and many expectations, surrounding death in our society. But our culture has so many different forms of expression that we can’t always depend on the guides. Sometimes the expectations are misplaced. Here’s what I have learned, at the heart of it.

We navigate this path by listening and watching. We take note of what each of heart needs. We try to do our best. We choose kind. We wait. There is no hurry in grief. There is no hurry.

When our Dad went to that Big Place in the Sky, there were times when everything needed to happen quickly in order to meet deadlines or needs before his memorial. But ultimately, there was time. And there is time still, to grieve and to grow. And if tears come in the middle of a staff meeting, or right before a recess duty, or on a Sunday afternoon, that’s when they are needed. There is no hurry in grief.

When our dog was becoming most distressed last night, I had to set aside my fears about his abilities – could he make it back up the hill from the backyard where he so clearly felt he needed to be? Could he make it down the steps one more time? – and focus on his needs. There was no hurry. There was time to let him have what he needed. His people would assist if his abilities failed him, but there was always time to meet his heart’s needs, to comfort his distress.

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Today is a hard day. The sun was shining as we waited for the time to take him for the Long Sleep, for his trip to that Best Big Back Yard, full of tennis balls and anything else his heart desires. When we got home, his beds were empty. His meds were still on the fridge. His dishes needed caring for. We know those things will take time and care, but there is no hurry.

The silence will catch up to us. And we’ll find the time to grieve. There is no hurry in grief. There is no hurry.

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About vst3in

I am a writer, avid reader, library techie, birder and runner. I make felt and teach others. I love colors and textures and birds and books. I'm working on a historical novel and reading lots of books for young people. I am running to get stronger, and I sail with my husband. This blog contains thoughts about all these things.
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3 Responses to On Death, Love, and Also a Dog

  1. fibreisle says:

    Oh, Tchaico, I was glad to get to know you for even a little while. Enjoy that new green grass, and it’s OK if you chase Max, Sparky, Sable, and Precious a little bit, but just don’t scare them too much.

  2. vst3in says:

    Mostly, he’d just drop a slimy tennis ball in front of them, and smile that doggy smile. I’m glad you got to know him too.

  3. Wendy Wahman says:

    My heart is sobbing, just sobbing. And I am too.

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