So many levels, degrees, depths of pain… there is something dreadful, like abuse, or comparatively minor like a paper cut. There is pain of surgery, humiliation, misunderstanding, mistake, sadness, abandonment, grief, loss, hopelessness… whenever we have pain we want relief from it. For some it is thought to be found in drinking, drugs– the escape through deviating or anesthetizing whether by prescribed or found means. Eventually though we have to go through this pain. We have to feel it and if we know what it is that’s causing the pain we are lucky. Sometimes we have this nagging– guilt, conscience, vacuous wonderment –that we simply cannot find answer for. When we leave it alone the reason often will surface and we acknowledge it and deal with it. But pain of loss simply must be cushioned with memories of what was. We fill the hole, the void, the emptiness with the remembrance of what was when whatever it is we have lost causes pain. Nature abhors a vacuum.

It has to be filled. So remember the joy, the grace, the love, the contentment… the good that was before the loss of that good created the pain.

Be at peace.

Goodbye Murphy

It is like being in the ocean, a wave gliding toward me, I am lifted gently to its crest and just before the curl froths, I slide quickly to the bottom of the trough. Right now I am approaching the knife-edge of the crest. I know I will soon be sliding down, deep into the dark forlornness of loss.

I had to say good-bye to my precious little dog Murphy today.

I guess my life had pretty much been defined by his for the past couple of years, maybe even before that when he had acl surgery in 2010, then his gall-bladder became sick, finally kidney failure, and, 3 days ago his kidneys simply stopped functioning at all. For those moments, hours, days, weeks and months since I have been happy to have my definition follow who he was becoming. Caring for him was easy. He was a joy. He taught me so much- about patience, kindness, handling perceived rebuffs, and most of all making the best of things. He’d been born with a kneecap on his left hind leg out of place. The specialist thought surgeries would be best. But he did fine without surgery until he needed his acl replaced on his knee. He made it through all of that fine. He loved his walks, rides in the car, but most of all meeting people. He did not care for other dogs at all and certainly loved chasing cats, but he received people with such joy and bubbled over with happiness of greeting them, whether they were known to him or not.

I know I will begin that slide of the aching, the missing, the remorse over things I wish I’d taken more time to do, things I wish I’d not become so impatient over, things I wish I’d not complained about, but his doctor said I did do everything for him that I possibly could do. If they had organ transplants for dogs I likely would have pursued it, though at 12 he may not have been a candidate for it.

When we first met I was collecting my then-other dog, Savannah, from boarding. I heard crying and asked what it was. They said it was the last of a litter of puppies a vet tech’s boyfriend had thrown down the stairs, the others had been already adopted and that they did not expect him to live. I asked to see him. When they placed him in my hands (he was a tiny 4 weeks old) he stopped crying… I asked them to please let me know if they thought he’d make it and they called the next day. Thus began a wonderful friendship. He adored Savannah and she eventually warmed up to him. He followed her everywhere and when she was dying of lung cancer one afternoon he lay there watching her. Her chew bone was a ways from her. Murphy got up, picked up the bone, carried it to her and placed it in front of her. He went back and lay down again, watching her.

That’s what he did, who he was. Love. My first boy-dog.

I love you, Murphy. I loved you to pieces. I will miss you, forever.

Trade-off or bad timing

My little rescue dog, Murphy, has been in kidney failure for over a year. His exceptional veterinarians have been closely monitoring him and adjusting his medications to keep him functioning.

Last week, when a large snow storm was predicted I had planned a trip to Texas. I could have gone anytime. It wasn’t the greatest weather out there, either. Cold, rainy, even some ice. I did have opportunities to see my family but they’re always there. I can see them anytime.

I board my dogs at their vet. I know if anything happens there won’t be any mistakes or accidents. Murphy was happily riding in the car, head flung with abandon out the driver’s side window, barking at the occasional motorcycle or bicyclist.

The snow nearly shut down my home airport and my return flight was cancelled, I had to rebook for the next day.

Maybe it was that one day that made a difference. Maybe it was the whole week that did. I even could have taken Murphy with me on this trip. He has flown with me before and travels well. But I know that if he had morphed into the dog I found when I returned I would have been at a complete and utter loss, out in Texas with his doctors back home in North Carolina.

So I picked up my rag-doll puppy, gently carried him to the car, Lily, bounding with all her 70-odd pounds of muscle and excitement alongside. No, this was not the same dog I had brought to the vet a week before. His doctor had told me that in kidney failure, when the kidneys no longer function at all things happen very fast.

I had no idea.

The next morning I phoned and they said to bring him for them to look at him. He was badly dehydrated and I had not had much luck getting him to eat and he’d had nothing to drink. So he was hooked up to an i.v., and blood was drawn to determine what was happening with his kidneys which was not good news. Today I was allowed to visit him and bring him home for a couple of hours. I was given a syringe to flush his catheter. He rested next to me on his favorite sofa, the one he would patiently sleep on each day when I worked as a librarian, standing on the arm to greet me when I came home. I drank some coffee, worked a crossword and checked emails on my iPad, pretending things were as they had always been. And he slept.

I had been instructed to return him at a certain time and I milked the time for as long as possible before bundling him in his blanket and bringing his favorite pillow to return him to the hospital. As I placed him back in his treatment area his eyes appeared brighter, alert, and I forbade myself to allow hope to creep in.

So many tears.

Saying goodbye

More often than not we do this after the leaving… it is rare that we know when every person we ever knew is moving away, or changing jobs, or –worst of all– passing away.

My friend died yesterday. A pastor from her church and his wife were visiting her and her husband and son and had just finished praying with her. Then she died. Just as if someone opened a window or a door to release a captive butterfly. She was there, then she wasn’t. Rather, what kept her body alive had gone.

So the last time I saw her was the last time I wrote about her, just before Christmas. Her cancer had spread. She could not walk. She was relegated to hospice care because there was nothing else that medicine could do. A few days ago she was put in respite care so her caregivers could rest.

And then it was time to go.

Hooray for her, we say, thrilled she is no longer bound by her pain, defined by her cancer, imprisoned by her failed body. Are we thrilled? Really? Here we still are, right? So though we will someday go the same as she, for now we are those left behind. We miss her. For her family it is as though a limb has been torn off. Sure, time will make up for that loss, in its way.

But she will always be gone and therefore, missed.