Monthly Archives: June 2018

Waves

“Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents. I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see. As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive. In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life. Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out. Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

Today would have been Penny’s 12th birthday. If I’m honest we wouldn’t have made a big fuss about it, I think I baked cakes for her once for her birthday. It just wasn’t something we did. I wish we had. I’d bake her cakes every month if it meant she’d be here again.

I read the quote above a few weeks again, and it is exactly how grief feels to me. Every word. The waves are coming in less frequently, but they are still 100 feet tall. Today was a wave I expected. Yesterday were waves I didn’t expect. Twice people brought up Penny, mostly to check how I was doing. Grateful that they remembered my loss, as I have been grateful every time someone has reached out to ask me how I am. I have survived those waves. As I ate spaghetti for dinner and Cordi didn’t want even a single noodle I was hit by a bigger wave. I was reminded again that with Penny there, I never ate alone. And I felt myself drowning again.

I allow myself to be engulfed by that wave because I know I will surface on the other side. I laugh again now. I hear music. I find happiness in moments. I can do those things knowing a wave will come again because I am glad to have a Penny shaped scar.

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Month One / Day One

It took almost two weeks for me to wash the throws on the sofa. I didn’t want your scent to be gone from Cordi. I wanted you to still be there even though I couldn’t see you there anymore.

You came home last week. I haven’t been able to open the box. I’m afraid of what will come if I do. The tears have started to escape again. I’ve stopped fighting them. The other night they wouldn’t stop, it was like I felt your loss for the first time. And that’s exactly how it feels every time I look at your spot on the sofa, or I take Cordi downstairs and she starts looking around – I think she’ll always be looking for you. I know it will be like this for a long time still to come. Perhaps always.

I have kept these words inside me because I haven’t had the strength to let them out. I know I’m still not ready because every word is accompanied by a tear.

It’s been a month, and I still miss you. Every day.

Day One

At 5am I took you back into my arms. The sun was starting to come up. I lay you in the middle of the bed, still wrapped in the towel. I lay down next to you and I put my arm around you. I wanted to hold you tight but I didn’t want to squeeze you too hard, you never liked being held.

I closed my eyes for maybe an hour. It wasn’t sleep, it was exhaustion. It was not restful. I felt myself fighting a fever. My mind racing trying to make sense of what was happening. I knew before waking that it had not been a bad dream.

Cordi pressed her nose against you, trying to see what was happening. She must have been asking herself a million questions. Where was her sister? Oh there she is? Why is everyone crying? How come she’s letting them hold her, she never lets them hold her? They’d better be careful or she’s going to bite them? Why isn’t she growling? Why is she so quiet? Why isn’t she moving? …Sister?

We called the vet. Told them of your passing. They asked us to bring you in. I held you in my arms one last time as I sat on the bed. Wrapped in the towel you looked so peaceful. Your tiny face. Almost peaceful, only you would never have slept through the noise of our tears. You would’ve woken to see what the fuss was about.

We took the bus even though it’s only a short walk. You always liked the bus. The seat on the right at the back so you could look out the door. We held you as your sister looked out the back window and I started to cry again, her first bus ride without you.

The vet said you looked peaceful. You did. I stroked your fur again and placed my head against yours. Rubbed your neck. You always loved when I did that. Your favourite spot. I ran my hand down your back. Still so soft. My Penny. My pretty girl.

You’ll always be my Penny.

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The Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…

Author Unknown

I’ve imagined the Rainbow Bridge. When I am done with this world and I’m hopefully destined for the Good Place. I imagine standing there at the bridge, and I look for my Penny.

I know that she won’t be running and playing, not because she can’t but because that would never be her idea of Heaven. There might be the occasional bird she might run after, her little lop-sided run because that’s how she always ran, only now it doesn’t hurt.

I picture myself getting there, and I see her. Coat all shiny. Nose still crooked. No collar on the way she always liked to be. Head down in a bowl of food. I see her first, surrounded by her brothers and sisters.

Her head slowly turns up when she realises everyone has paused. She turns and sees me. She tilts her head to the side the way she always did when I would come home. She sees me, and I smile. My heart is full.

And she bounds towards me and for the first time ever she lets me scoop her up without a fight and I hold her close. She is as soft and as warm and as round as I remember.

My Penny. My heart is finally whole again.

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