Saturday, November 28, 2009

Misty and Maxwell

It is morning. Even before I throw the covers back and set my feet on the floor, I consider the animals who await me. The cat needs to be let out of the bathroom where he is locked up each night so as not to drive me wild at 3:00 am, knocking everything off my dresser as if to say “wake up, you, I’m hungry.” The dog is sound asleep in the dining room below. She’s old and sleeps so deeply now she must be shaken awake. I pull on the clothes I have thrown across the arm of the chair next to my bed, slip my feet into sandals and head to the bathroom. At the bedroom door I stop. I remember now the cat is not in the bathroom. I slowly descend the stairs and cross into the dining room. It is empty. The dog is not there. The animals are gone. My eyes well and I remember that I have buried them both; the cat just one week ago, the dog exactly two weeks before. My eyes throb, my heart is broken. No one will ever convince me that animals have no soul. It is our souls which express our life, which fill and affect the world around us. Take a soul away, whether a soul of man or beast, and the empty space is palpable.

I stand in the middle of the dining room and the quiet is deafening. Our animals were not noisy animals, but the absence of their enormous souls leaves space now where one hears the hum of the refrigerator, the counting of time from the kitchen clock. I turn and gaze out the window to the two piles of stones marking their graves just inside the woods across the yard. It’s so unbelievable that both are there, side by side. Although incredibly hard, we were ready to part with the dog whose decline had started years before. In deciding her last months of care, our vet asked, “What do you do with a decrepit family member?” You love them and care for them to the very end, and then you help them pass with dignity and grace. You prepare the grave, you choose some verse, you put aside a treasured, threadbare quilt in which she’ll be laid. The time comes; the day is heavy and important. You understand how people become tied to their lands. You grieve.

And then without warning, nature takes another life so fast you feel helpless. You know what’s happening as it happens, but you move forward as fast and furiously as you possibly can in the hope that what you fear is truly not so. But it is so, and again your eyes throb and your heart breaks. A grave is dug much faster than before, the burial garment not a surprise. The time spent with the dead speeds by. It’s important to caress him another time and another, to fondle his ear just one last time. A tuft of fur left behind by his now buried friend is tucked between his quiet paws. And then he’s gone. Where there once was one pile of stone there now are two. A promise of a woodland garden is made. A promise of a woodland garden will be kept.

I unstick my feet from the floor and move away from the window. I make my coffee and move forward into my day. I so miss my two little friends. They gave me such love and joy. They enchanted our lives and will forever be remembered.