Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Shared grief. It's a thing. The last major loss my family had was when Grandma Judy died in December of 2011. It was a big loss for all of us, but I don't remember sharing grief with my sweet nuclear family. My kids were ages three, one, and one. I think my husband was affected by the loss. Maybe due to the circumstance of our lives at the time, I felt like I grieved and we moved on.
On Saturday, we said goodbye to Keeffer. Keeffer was a 13 year-old goldendoodle- 13.5 if you want to get specific. He and I have been together longer than my husband, R, and I have been. I have joked that Keeffer picked R. They loved each other from the beginning. R never had a dog as a child. The two of them were quite literally "a boy and his dog."
Sometimes it seemed like Keeffer had nine lives, like a cat. At least twice his osteoarthritis seemed so bad that I thought we would need to have a difficult conversation with the vet. He rallied. We made him comfortable, supported his joints. He went on to be well. Saturday was a different story. When I think about it now, there were signs that he was declining. Maybe I should have seen them, or perhaps it's easier that I didn't.
Over the past two years, I'd thought some about what it would be like when the time came for us to say goodbye. Just as quickly, I'd pushed it out of my mind. I like happy. I prefer to live in the moment. It didn't seem to serve anyone to focus on what we couldn't control. I wouldn't do it differently. We enjoyed all of our time with him.
I wasn't prepared, though, for what this would be like. I didn't have any context for living in a house with people I love and sharing and balancing their feelings with my own. It's- NOT EASY. It's hard and its sometimes frustrating and sometimes beautiful. I never would have imagined how much or how deeply R would experience this loss. It makes me love him even more. I remember 11 years ago, when it was just Keeffer and me, and we welcomed Ryan into our family. I can feel the love and connection we felt then. It's beautiful.
I don't always know what to say to a sad kiddo. They had so many questions, so I asked if they would like to ask our rabbi their questions. They all said yes. I took them to talk. And they had no questions. In general, I worry about screwing my kids up. This loss is the first time I have really wondered if the way I have handled it could have or should have been different and how this will impact their development, their relationship with love and loss.
And then there is all the "Do we get a new dog?" "When do we get a new dog?" "What about this dog?" "Hurry, this is the perfect dog even though it's in another state and the adoption fee is insane, we could lose this dog that we don't have and we have to act fast," stuff. It's a roller coaster.
I don't know if we are really ready for a new dog. Or if we should be without one.
I don't know. What I do know is that this is not a tragedy. This is a life event that will bring us closer together if we let it. In the 13.5 years Keeffer and I were together, he taught me an unbelievable amount about how to love genuinely, without bounds and without expectations. He was always kind to everyone and he was always excited. About everything. He showed us how to love everyone, expect nothing, and always be cheerful, ready to love, and excited. It's our responsibility to practice what he taught us. His work here is done. My first family member will be missed SO much, but he gave endless love to us, and our three children. His pawprint will always be on our hearts.
What I do know is that when we attended Shabbat services at our synagogue on Saturday morning there was a set of twins having their bar and bar mitzvah. Their nine year-old brother is a three year cancer survivor and their father has terminal cancer. They knew how to be happy in the moment and celebrate life. And, a client unexpectedly lost her husband on Thursday. Ours is not a tragedy. perspective and choosing joy are the priorities here.