My dog died. One day running in and out of the house, albeit somewhat stiffly with his arthritic legs. The next day our house is empty, his collar still laying on the kitchen table where I left it when we came home from the vet.
It’s been a week and I still listen for the jangle of the collar, I still anticipate his body coming alongside me, I still automatically reach for the gate when I leave for the day. I wait for the call from the vet, telling me that he’s ready to be picked up. I rub memories over the open, raw space in my mind, and it still stings each time.
It is the most basic thing. We are born, we live, and we die. And yet I am still a five-year-old, I’m still asking, “Where did he go?” It still feels unfair.
When grief comes, it is a train, running between my ears. When death comes, there is a free fall, with the anticipated crash, and the slow, slow, slow gluing of pieces, never quite the same, even when made whole.
This is not the first time death has knocked. That does not make it easier.
The day after he died, I went to school. My eyes were stinging: swollen and on fire. But with new sight. They saw the kindred. They saw the other, grieving, calling out to them with a compassion new and alive.
The light entered the wound. Because we all share the wounds. We all hold pain, some with neon signs, most buried deep. But the light hits those wounded places and asks us to be healed. And the healing comes in community.
At lunch I told Grace, “What you’re going through must be so difficult.” And what I meant was, “I share your pain, I allow you to feel it with me. I have pain, too.”
Maybe, when we step back away from the reading, the math, the tests, and the lesson plans, maybe that’s the best we can do.
It’s what my dog did, greeting me each day with the unbridled joy of getting to be together once more. Licking my hand on days that were hard, knowing without words how to be the best friend, how to give the best gifts. It was all he had to give, and it was enough.