It has been hard to capture the whirlpool in my mind and turn it into words. It’s like that, I think, when we hold big feelings that refuse to be contained. But I guess it boils down to this: The heartache of loss matters, not because it knocks us to the ground, but because of why we feel it in the first place. Why loss is so freaking hard. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we can see that, we have lay for a while in the spot where we collapsed under the unbearable weight of absence.
Absence. How can something so empty could be so damned heavy?
I have spent the past week not wanting to get back up, too exhausted and lost to even attempt to consider the possibility of overpowering the pain. It’s a lot more difficult than the times before, when I could manage all that came in the wake of loss, when I could get up because my kids needed their mom. There were lunches to pack. There were stories to write and dogs to distract me. But this time, the kids are all but gone, starting their own lives. And now, one of my dog-kids is gone, too. One week ago we made the horrible, selfless-love kind of decision to set her free from the cancer that riddled her. And a few days before that my beloved aunt died.
When you’re down on the ground, pinned by pain, life can feel like loss. In the past seven years there has been a lot of it: My father. Hubs’ dad. My mother. One son leaving home. Then another. The passing of a beloved friend who was like a second father to me. My aunt. And then, my girl-dog, the proverbial tipping point. Grief doesn’t prioritize loss. It just triggers sadness, new and old. This time, it has held me down and convinced me that life is loss. That’s it. Just f-ing loss.
I have pushed back against the inevitability of loss with all my might, hating it, not wanting it. But fighting it is like wrestling an 800 pound bear. Resist all you want. Hate the design of this temporary world. But you won’t win. This is us. This is what we get. It’s enough to make you want to slap your hand against the mat and scream uncle at the top of your lungs.
My head fought me on my position, trying to convince me to remember once again those things that saved me from being swallowed by pain in the past: that the one we lose isn’t really gone, but remains in another form, with us in Spirit. My head, my heart, and my soul have known this to be true many times before. I have felt it. I have experienced it. And I want it again, something to fill the void and offer a blessed reassurance that my scruffy faced, constant-companion is with me still. I want to feel what Hellen Keller assures us when she says, "All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” I want to feel again that all is not loss.
But this time, my heart is slow in following. I haven’t been able to feel that lingering presence. My heart has been unable hear what the past has taught me. Pain is loud. Absence is, too, catching us again and again in unexpected ways. One bowl to fill instead of two. One hand petting one head. One name to call. One leash to hold. One lonely girl left with another, two legs and four lost together, the human one wondering how we’ll ever get up again. Pain is an all-consuming, tear-inducing weight that covers us like an avalanche of boulders that can prevent us from seeing anything else.
But then, a pinpoint of light filtered in for the first time since I kissed that brown furry head farewell and whispered prayers to God and a dog I love. And that’s what I want you to know, especially if you’re laid out in the dark, too, pinned by loss. Pain is the universal price we pay for extravagant love and treasured time together. But pain is not all we’re left with. The Light will come, too.
Maybe a single ray is the first evidence of the lasting Spirit of a life lost. Maybe that’s the very thing that slowly removes one boulder and then another from our hearts, allowing us to finally get a glimpse of Light and the flip side of loss: Gratitude. After all, this kind of pain comes only because what we had was precious, a beautiful bond.
What I know to be true in the deepest, holiest place within me is that Love never dies. Even in the midst of pain. Even when absence overwhelms. Even when we are pinned to the ground with broken hearts. Even when it’s a four legged companion we’ve lost. Even when we can only see loss. And past lessons don’t matter. And it feels like everything is temporary. Love is not. Love lives on.
Hold on. I will, too. The Light is coming. The weight will lift. And then we can hold the Love that is ours always, the one blessed thing that endures.