May 17, 2010

The Lights Are Dim

The gracious and talented thinkingtoohard is guest-posting here today, as part of the 2010 wordcount blogathon's 'swap day,' or something like that. She's running a lovely series of posts called blessings, in which she finds the good in life during a time of personal turmoil. I'm at thinkingtoohard's website today, but you won't find a better written or more moving piece anywhere on the internet than what's below.

By Thinkingtoohard

"You want light? the purest of joys? A universal healing? Get a dog."

She is my gray ghost, a shell of the strength and fearlessness she was once renown for here. Her face is heavily salted, except for the jet black eyes that stare off to places I cannot see.

We play fetch with an over-sized stick on a rare warm autumn day. She suddenly abandons the game in favor of a long-neglected marrow bone, covered in damp earth.

She can keep it.

Whatever harmful unseens may be growing inside that bone can do no more damage than the nameless illness her body has taken on.

Her once rich black and red coat, long ago faded, is now stretched over what little remains of her fiber and muscle. Her teeth, nubs in aged black gums, gnaw the bone with intensity. She smells of death.

Today, she is young, lying in the warmth of the sun's rays on a sparse carpet of maple leaves.

We are a pair. She with her bone and gray face, dainty paws firmly holding her find. Me, in my familiar sweatpants, hair unkempt, with red and swollen eyes.

The camera catches her among the foliage on what remains of the green lawn. She will not look at me.

I sit in awe, absorbing every feature of this 50-pound creature who taught me so much about life. But I cannot bear her lessons on death-- not yet.

Each day begins with her insistence that the time is near. She cannot eat without a stoic endurance that fails me. Her rear footing is tenuous. There is nothing that can be done, except to wait.

And she is patient.

Often now, I think about the past. When she taught herself how to open the refrigerator while I was at work. The day she helped eat my very expensive couch. That incredible obedience trial victory. I sobbed with pride on that sunny morning so long ago.

And too soon, those tears will run fresh. That vacant look I catch in her eye will be in mine. I will rock in my chair and look out the window at the legacy of paws and muzzles she left behind.

Washington Irving has a famous quote that appeals to me today:

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and unspeakable love."

Some things you know about yourself without question: A fitting tribute such as this will fail me in the next few days, when my beautiful girl finally forces me to say goodbye. I share them with you now, while she sleeps nearby, content with her new found bone and my presence.

Author's note: My girl died on a cold December afternoon, two months after this missive was written. It was just her time. I held her tight while the vet helped her along. This was not a dog. She was protector, teacher, counselor, co-pilot, mentor, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, girlfriend and -- without question -- the best friend I will ever have. She stole my heart at age 24, helped me raise two boys, and left me much, much too soon.

Her ashes are on my desk. A piece of her soul is stitched inside my chest.


Ed Pilolla said...

you know, i waited until i posted this to read it, and the reason is becuz i like to transcribe your stuff. i like to feel your words through my fingertips. i want it all fresh. i'm greedy that way.

this captures the moments leading up to goodbye in a way that's somehow heartbreakingly beautiful. so grateful to publish this in my blog. so grateful to have you as a close friend.

thinkingtoohard said...

I still can't read this without bawling. Pathetically bawling 'til I can't see.
Thank you so much for your incredibly kind words. Love you.

Wendryn said...

This brings back the memories of the dogs I have loved so much, especially my last one. It's so hard to let them go. I'm crying as I sit on the couch, my 2.5 year old big black dog tucked in next to me, knowing that I have a limited time with her to learn as much as I can.

Thank you for writing this. It touched me.

Andrea Parker said...

It is such an exquisite piece.

Lori said...

In three days, I will silently set aside some time to weep as I hold a box of ashes, a paw print, and an old, worn red collar with the name "Paige" and her last address still attached to it. One year ago, on May 21, I held and comforted my 14 year old dog as the vet helped her pain to stop from a tumor that took over her body. It's one of the hardest things I have ever done. As I read your words, tth, I was right there with you heart and soul.

Xcrush said...

too much pain...

BIKE LADY said...

Lovely and heartfelt words.

Tori said...

As I read this with my loving companion in my lap, I cry letting my tears wet her fur. She knows something is up with me and nuzzles in closer. All of my best friends has walked on all fours, had fur and a tail. I am grateful. Absolutely beautiful post, TTH. :)

Tadgh said...

I still miss her greatly. She always lifted my heart when I was down. My fond memories linger.

chelsey said...

my own dog is going through these stages now, (10yr old alsation) and your words have really helped me, thankyou.