My mind's been rolling around some beautiful stuff from the Old Testament all week, and I'm looking forward to sharing some of those thoughts with you. But I'm still kind of out of my mind today, and so this post, too, belongs to my heart.
When Harold died, I spent a week writing about the tough things we were all kind of dealing with, though I was only speaking for myself. With the grief of the past couple of days, I realize I could write maybe forever and not get this all out of my heart. It's not something I'd really want to do, but I did kind of want to share this whirling sense of heartache and peace that's spinning me around right now because it does center on truth and maybe if I share what this actually feels and looks like, you might find that the next time your world is spinning, you, too, can find truth.
It was hard to go to sleep last night. Every time I was ready to shut down and turn off and crawl under the covers, I started crying all over again because if I went to sleep, then I'd have to wake up for the first time without her. That was a thought my heart could not bear. So I stayed up an hour or so later than I wanted, fighting sleep because it seemed like only pain, and finally hearing that voice that said, You're simply exhausted. Is that love? And no, exhaustion, punishing yourself, pushing yourself to these radical extremes...it can't be love. Because it only depletes you, and love is tough when you're depleted.
There's just been this mix of emotions and these thoughts here and there from the time she came out of that first of six seizures late Wednesday night. It just defines everything.
I wanted to take some time. I wanted to have a few days, a few weeks, maybe a month where I didn't have to clean up right away. I was just going to let her blankets lay there, let the little remnants of fur hang around the corners of the house. I didn't want to move in a clean out and get to life like she hadn't been here. But my girl didn't give me that choice. In her final hours, she soiled everything, unable to control her bladder and her slobber in seizures and paralysis. There was no choice but to clean up or vomit from the smell, and to tell you the truth...I was kind of close to vomiting anyway. I'm still scrubbing my rug with Resolve every few hours. I think it's slowly helping?
But those last few hours, I knew she smelled. I was laying right next to her. Holding her paw, patting her head, and telling her she was a good dog, hoping she could hear me, even while I watched her agitation subside as she relieved herself on her blanket, on my rug. I wasn't a bit mad. I wasn't upset. I wasn't panicking about my rug, though I fully knew what was happening to it. I let her lay there and do as she needed to do, encouraging and supporting her because in 12 years, she's not a dog to have an accident in the house and I had watched her wrestle with her failed body and knowing she didn't want to do it. She tried so hard, but these things are what they are. (When she had rested and settled, I switched out her blanket for her dry one from the kitchen and put a few towels around to try to soak up the mess.) I just wasn't worried about it then, and I'm not really worried about it now. But I'm pained that she didn't give me a chance to hang onto her a little longer and instead forced me to clean up right away. Maybe it's a good thing, though; who knows?
Then it got to be evening, and I heard a sound in the other room. A paw scratching across the hardwood floor...and I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't that. It was clearly one of the little dogs and what I found most surprising was that when I heard that noise, I didn't jump. And I didn't hurt. And somehow, my heart settled further into peace because of the way I instantly knew, before consciously knowing, that it wasn't her. My heart was comforted because I've spent the past three years jumping at every little sound, thinking of my girl struggling against arthritis to get up or - heaven forbid - falling into another seizure. The little sounds got me; I was always on edge. Last night when I heard that, I had overwhelming peace and finally, a few minutes later, put words to why: I absolutely know she doesn't do that any more. Not because she's not here, but because she's not sick. She doesn't do that any more.
That led me to faith and restoration and the beauty of passing, and I think faith makes grief harder. Faith lets us think of loved ones restored, healed, Heavenward. When I laid Kiira's head down just minutes after she'd passed in my arms, she just laid there, poised. A small smile on her face, eyes oddly with more life than they'd had all night (and really, in a long wile), and legs ready to run...and I knew she was running, chasing, doing all the things I'd loved for her to do and longed to do with her again, and that made me miss her. That ravaged my grief...because I wanted her back. I wanted that her back. I'd given away my tormented best friend, and now she was perfect and perfectly fine, and that's only made me miss her more. A mixed blessing in that moment of peace and that last look at her lying there.
I'm also guilty because there's not really a good thing to do with the body of a loved one, and I think this for humans, too, but it is worse for dogs since we don't preserve them before burial. Cremation just seems so...callous? As if to say, I am now done with this, so let's toss it in a fire because it's kind of large and will now just be an obstacle. I don't like cremation at all, so it was hard to have Kiira's body taken this way. On the other hand, my aunt has purchased her ashes, so she is coming back home in a sense. And the vet is making me a cast of her paw print, her shaking paw, that I will cherish and have forever. And of course, her collar and blanket. With a heart of treasured memories.
Of course, we also passed a truck advertising taxidermy on the way to the vet yesterday morning, so there is that.
I miss Kiira for some of the same reasons I miss Harold. Harold was looking forward to my second book, and we talked about it often. Now, he will not see it. The other night, I had this strange thought that Kiira will also never see my second book, and that stung. Then I laughed at myself for being silly, but I meant it. And I miss her because we've been by each other's side daily for 12 and a half years. Because whenever I'd think about petting one of the other dogs, she'd be there insisting I pet her instead. Now, she's not. Because whenever I'd make food, she'd be standing there begging even though she rarely got table scraps (she did get some porkchop last Sunday). Now, I make a sandwich in peace.
So often in life, my heart leads me back to faith, to patience, and to integrity and righteousness while my brain screams that there's something I could get away with. I've always been one to trust my gut and my heart. These days, though...my gut is sick and my heart is torn, and it's my head that I find bringing me back.
The truth is, there's a lot more peace than heartache in all of this, though the heartache is profound. Every moment I think about her, my first thought is of her peace. My second is of my pain - I hurt so bad missing her. Bordering on depression, if we want to be honest, and I'm not one prone to such things but I keep having this thought that life has changed and I don't want to be here right now. (I'm not suicidal, just bummed. Let's keep perspective here.) Then my third thought is of thanks - because God let me spend these last hours with her just like that, with every bit of comfort and peace and knowing.
Speaking of knowing, I must also say that I keep praying she knows how deeply I love her. I really hope she knows that. Because when these moments come, I think that's all we think about for awhile - whether we took our chances to show our love and if she had the same confidence and faith in me that I had in her. I hope that she did
And my final thought is of worship. In all of this, I have seen the hand of God. In the trying times, the moments I think too much about it for too long, the pain in my heart because I miss her so much (and grief feels so selfish)...He brings me back to peace. It's all comfort except when my aching flesh gets ahold of it...then it's tough. But then it's Him.
And I'm glad. Because I need Him.