Thursday, July 27, 2006

Saying Goodbye

So how do we know when it’s time to say goodbye?

Over the years I’ve spoken to many people about this...people who were agonizing over a decision yet to be made, and others who were in anguish over a decision that might have been made too soon, or one that should have been made earlier.

What I think is this – it is an excruciating decision, whenever it is made. We shouldn’t have to be in the position of ending a just feels wrong. But our animal companions depend on us to make the “right” decisions on their behalf, and for many people that means deciding when the journey together is over. We look into their trusting eyes and say “It’s ok...if it’s time for you to go I understand.” But we really don’t understand, and we don’t feel ok. We feel terrified, lost and alone, hoping we’ll wake up from this nightmare and see that our furry friend is well and young....the journey just beginning.

I was talking with someone about the end of Jake’s life, and how he was better one day and worse the next. I said the reality is that often at the end it’s not a straight downhill slope – there are peaks and valleys, and it’s the peaks that make it so hard to know what to do. We become desperate. Do we hang on? Do we wait one more day? We want as many more “todays” as we can have with our critters.

In looking back, I realized that whether I lost Jake on a Wednesday, or Friday, or we put it off until the following week really didn’t matter. It was going to be as heartbreaking next week as it would be tomorrow. What DID matter is the relationship we shared. Did we do everything we were meant to do together? At the end did we really know....I mean deep down in the core of our being know....that this journey was complete and it was time to let go?

That’s what I knew about Jake. I knew our time together was not measured in days or weeks or years, but in....forever. We had known each other always and would be together for all time. In remembering that I found peace.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Letting Go

From the movie “Casper”:

“I know you’ve been searching for me. But you have to understand, you (and Kat) loved me so well when I was on earth that I have no unfinished business.”

It had been a long time since I saw “Casper” but I never forgot those words. They come at the end of the movie, when the spirit of Bill Pullman’s deceased wife appears to him and he is overcome with emotion.

Those words have been very close to me these past weeks as I mourn the loss of my dog, Jake. I keep expecting to sense his presence – under my feet at the desk, coming through the dog door, looking for me at the window. But I haven’t felt that he’s been around much, and at first it surprised me.

When I lost Martha, back in 1995, I was emotionally devastated and I did everything possible to hang onto her – both before she died and after. In the weeks and months following her loss she came to me all the time. She’d appear frequently in my dreams. I’d see visions of her everywhere. In fact, it was a very strong vision of her (floating peacefully in the arms of an angel) that would ultimately become the cover of my first book, For Every Dog An Angel.

When I looked back on how I tried so desperately to hold onto Martha I knew I had done the best I could, but I also knew in the future I would try to handle the end of my journey with my animal companions differently. It wasn’t my place to try to hold them back. What I needed to do was live my life with them so well...that at the end I could let them go with love and grace. This does not mean without tears.

And that is how I think it is with Jake. He and I could not have done it any better. When the time came for him to leave me, I let him go....with no unfinished business between us.

But oh, how I miss him....


Monday, July 10, 2006

Losing Jake

“And there will be times when your world will fall apart, when a beloved animal becomes lost, ill or has simply come to the end of their journey with you.”

I wrote those words on June 5, 2006, not knowing a week later they would describe my own world. On June 14th I lost my most beloved dog companion, Jake. Since then I have been walking that lonely path, expecting to see his face in the window when I come home and yet knowing he has left me to fly among the stars.

It is almost impossible to put into words how broken-hearted I am. I wonder if the sharp edges of my grief will ever soften into warm smiles as I remember all the magical times Jake and I shared. Many people who have loved...and lost...a furry friend will know exactly what I am talking about. I’ve always believed if you love someone very deeply, you will grieve them just as deeply when they are gone. The love Jake and I shared was pure and deep and strong.

Hardly a day goes by that I am not on the phone speaking with someone who has lost an animal companion. Losing Jake has brought back all the sadness and hopelessness one feels at this painful time. It occurred to me that sharing some of this journey in future posts might be both healing to me and, perhaps, comforting to others.

One thing I must do now is thank the many, many people who have offered comforting words during these past few weeks. Without their support the difficult days would have been even darker.

More soon.....