Today is the anniversary of our beloved Stella’s passing. I wrote this shortly after she died. I have shared it with people who have lost pets and other loved ones. People seem to find it comforting. Please feel free to pass it along.
Today, my grief has mostly morphed to gratitude – but I offer this as a tribute and a touchstone for anyone who is struggling with the realities of mortality in our immortal existence.
“It’s time,” I tell Hugh.”
He rises from the computer and strides to my office, where she lies on the blue carpet. She greets him, delighted to see him. She doesn’t get up, but is bright-eyed alert. She thumps her tail and gives her biggest grin.
Hugh says, “Are you sure?”
I shake my head and shudder because just now, I almost killed our dog.
At night she weakens.
I know and Hugh agrees. Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow is the day I will carry my sweet gift of a girl to the car and drive her to the vet for the last time. Hugh asks if I will come to bed and I say, “No, I will spend this last night glued to Stella.”
“Can you walk, sweetheart?”
I say these words to our dog Stella who is dying. It’s time for breakfast and if she walks from our bed to the kitchen, maybe that will be a sign. Maybe she will be alright. So I ask her again, “Can you walk?”
As I ask, I remember eleven years of sleeping twisted like a pretzel so the dog could get a good night’s sleep. I remember mornings, how she rose at dawn and stomped her Pointer’s feet on the mattress to get me up, to flush me out of the brush of sleep as she would a wild quail. Now it’s nine a.m. and she sighs at the foot of the bed, eyes alert and breathing rapidly.
Norman and Sheila
Years ago when Hugh and I lived in New York, we went to a play called The Boys Next Door, by Tom Griffin. It’s a serious comedy about the inhabitants of a Group Home for adults with mental challenges.
I remember one outstanding scene in this play.
Norman is an overweight man with a tiny IQ. We learn he has a crush on Sheila, a frumpy, cranky woman, who also has a low IQ. They meet at a social gathering and shuffle over to each other. They communicate in dim, flawed language and start a slow, lumbering dance.
Then it happens: the lights and music change. The actors make eye contact. They beam at one another. The audience sees Norman and Sheila as they see themselves. They are a radiant Fred and Ginger, a glorious dancing king and queen.
Hugh and I both sobbed out-loud in the theater when that happened. It was at least twenty-five years ago and I still sigh when I think of it.
I remember this moment because I re-live it often. Sometimes despite all appearances, I am glorious even though I am not. Continue reading