Category Archives: dogs

Good Grief

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Admiral Molly loving life

 

Friday morning, Molly, my dog of thirteen years, died in my arms. Then I just sat there next to her, drank my coffee, and read about Orlando and guns on the interwebz for an hour. A dissociative episode: shock.

I knew it was coming, her death. In the last few weeks I’ve inhabited that inbetween world of weird: the frantic care, fatigue, constant foreboding, and desire to be strong that being with the terminally ill brings. Down to Molly’s doped up desires to do odd things in the middle of the night, it was flashback to the final weeks of my father’s cancer.

I’ve seen enough death to know how odd it is. One moment a living being is before you, and then they’re a stiff, cold shell that needs to be washed and cleaned up so other people can look on the dead and say “oh they look so peaceful.” And as the dead lie there, appearing to sleep, you do stuff like excuse yourself in the way you would talk to a department store mannequin you bumped into. It’s just off. They’re there, but not.

When I worked for a funeral home, I used to have to walk past Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So everyday to get coffee. I learned grief speak like a sick Monty Python parody: passed on, deceased, shuffled off this mortal coil, gone to meet their maker, joined the bleeding choir invisible.

Truth is, no one remembers those first few days after a death. People in grief are halfway to the other side themselves.  Hence all the couched terms and euphemisms. So fragile. The grieving have one foot on the other side. They want to follow the dead into the grave.

It’s not until they realize that life trundles heedlessly on that the depression and anger sets in. How dare people go about their lives as though nothing happened?! Don’t they know what I’ve lost?! Don’t you see I just can’t!?

I had Molly for 13 years. I was checking out her rather plain smooth coat JRT brothers, when this ball of white and ginger fluff tumbled down the stairs. Molly! She Bogarted herself into my heart, like the true independent and stubborn alpha gal she was.

She was my total bestie, excercise partner, fishing cheerleader, vermin killing, begging, spoiled, loving buddy who never let me down once. And this house has never been so empty. The park never so unappealing. The sun never so harsh. My favorite fishing and camping spots…all haunted by the spirit of Molly, unconquerable in death as in life.

I know it’s normal. Malaise and sadness, nausea and emptiness, anger and wroth that would make Achilles blush. All changing places, shuffling, resurfacing. The careless moment in which you call the deceased’s name. Looking for someone who you’ll never again see with mortal eyes.

My advice to folks who know others that are suffering the trauma of grief is “Chill.” Let them have their space. Don’t tell them what to think, believe, or feel. Let them come back to life in their own time, in their own way. Just remind them that you are there. There’s no substitute for being there.

And that’s very much what I tell myself and others who are grieving. Give yourself time to feel the whole mess. Don’t feel as though there is a way you should feel. Own your feelings as they are right now. You may never feel as though the pain will go away, and you may not want it to. And when it does, you will feel guilty. Feel it. Feel all of that. This is life at the marrow of the bone. Recognize it. Name it. Accept it with compassion for yourself, a poor mortal. In time, you’ll be OK with the fact that the pain will dull. But you’re nowhere near that now. Don’t push it. Just be.

It occurs to me that the entire nation has been plunged into a great momento mori yet again. We won’t always be here. But we are here now. Say Yes to all that is good and right to feel and do now. Be mad, be rash, smoke and explode, sell all your clothes… Just remember to hold your loved ones a little dearer, and most importantly, hold onto yourself. I hope, for all of us who are or have or will love and lose (i.e. all of us), that as deep as your pain goes now, that’s as high as your joy will soar…hopefully, again, someday…just not today. Today, just chill. Today, let it be.

In memoriam: Molly, 2003 – 2016

Thank you for teaching me to love all of life even a fraction as much as you did.

-JL


Objects in Mirror

 

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Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

I’m laying at the foot of my bed, where I’ve made camp. I balance the weight of my head on a pillow, but close enough to feel her labored breathing. My best friend is leaving me.

Last week she killed a groundhog and jumped in a river in excitement over a fish I caught. Now her little heart pounds arythmic against my ear. Her swollen belly rises and falls too fast. She struggles for breath and wakes. I dip my hand in water for her to lick.

My father died at home under hospice care. When he decided to refuse treatment, my mother raged in helpless tears. All those years. She didn’t want to accept what he had, that he was finished the fight.

Molly couldn’t tell me to let her go. I had to choose for her. But those eyes that always trusted me and looked to me, those eyes branded on my mind, they asked my permission. If I could never refuse her the last bite of a sandwich, how could I refuse her this? My puppy, my friend of thirteen years, asked me if she might retire from her long, loyal service. I could never deny her anything.

Molly, you saved me from a tarantula. Were my friend when I was friendless. You comforted me when I was sick. And after surgery, you were my physical therapist, making me get out for that walk. My drill sergeant on hikes. Fishing cheerleader and singing partner. We shot the breeze. And when I was down on myself, you were my motivational speaker. You listened when I was sad, and at my lowest point, you gave me reason to live. No matter what, you forced me to enjoy life, if only for you. I live for you, but not nearly so much as you for me.

I will stay here with you, Molly, as long as you want to stay. I’ll hold on to you forever, if that is your wish. My most devoted friend. My funny face that always makes me smile. Little pup. I’ll stay with you until you’re ready to lay down the long burden you bore with inspiring joy. Your precious, life-affirming soul. Always charging headlong into the fray, tenacious as your breed. Courageous heart. My Molly. My baby. My best friend. Thank you.


Molly’s Big Swim

terrier …from Latin terra ‘earth’ (earth dog)”

Molly the Jack Russell terrier proves the Oxford English Dictionary wrong.


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