June 15th, 2007- June 19th, 2016
Recently I experienced death in a whole new way.
Our beloved nine-year-old puppy died unexpectedly. We knew she was ill, but we thought the antibiotics would bring her back to health. I didn’t expect to wake up to my little sister’s voice urgently saying my name then “Bridget is dead!”
I woke up in a flash.
And took that soft limp body from my sister’s arms and into mine, hoping, praying, wanting, wishing, willing that it wasn’t true.
I am not sure exactly what happened next but I was kneeling on the bathroom floor wrapping our dog in a towel, trying to practice the dog version of CPR that I’d seen on a video a few months ago. Saying her name, as if that would make the peaceful blank brown eyes suddenly snap back to life, that her tail would wag, and she’d shake the memory of this feeling in my arms away.
Throwing on a coat, I continued dog CPR as we rushed to the vet hospital. The realization that she wasn’t responding, that she would most likely never come back sinking in.
I knew she was gone before we reaching the hospital, she was gone before my sister and I woke up, but I stood barefoot on the cold tile floor of the vets in my pajamas hoping….that what I knew wasn’t true.
The vet tech came out and shook her head before she could even ask us what we wanted to do I blurted out that we had a place for her at our house. I couldn’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to her at the vet’s cold the sterile place…that wasn’t Bridget. That wasn’t who she was…she couldn’t stay there, and more than anything I wanted to hold her once again. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, This couldn’t be happening. This couldn’t be happening to Bridget, our baby…our darling, who had just been cuddling with me the night before. How could she be gone?
Slowly driving home, we were all crying in the car. Shock, grief, disbelief.
I suddenly understood why people wanted clones…why they pay thousands of dollars to ensure someone’s survival….
Once at home, we sat crying taking turns holding her.
I felt death taking control, changing her body, turning our cuddly puppy stiff and still forever, and something in me…felt as if it died, the permanence of death was suddenly settling in…and I couldn’t hold her anymore, death had taken our puppy away.
Death, as I have always understood it, has come in shiny boxes, dressed in it’s best clothes, reserved quiet tears, touching lives that I knew…it was coming for…or it could be expected mostly. I’ve always been able to say goodbye…and it’s a passing twinge of pain.
This is the closest I have felt the pangs of death, a chunk of my life suddenly stolen, a hole that I don’t know how to fill…not even with words. There were other complications in my life…that made this more difficult.
Last night…we laid our puppy to rest near the woodpile she used to climb to chase squirrels, under the full strawberry moon of the summer solstice…it was the quietest time of day, the only time of day we could have our privacy away from prying eyes…nosey neighbors, cars driving by…it was quiet. My sister and I tucked little things into the box, not because she needed them…but we needed her to have them for our memories. I tucked in an unpaired sock because she used to steal mine and carry them around the house and even outside, she always picked them up when she wanted something, like being let outside in the morning, it was her bargaining chip to get me out of bed…and it always worked. Suddenly the pyramids in Egypt and the Viking death ships made sense…even though they believed it was for the afterlife. I realize it was more for those who were left behind, these were the things they wanted them to take along…they were going away gifts…a sign of what of what that person meant.
She is gone.
I am learning a lot of things.
How I work through grief.
How my family responds to the same pains.
I am seeing new things.
How God’s hand has worked through this whole thing.
Death…is a paradox.