RIP – Our Beauty

1 03 2012

Jasper - our beloved friend and companion

Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware, of giving your heart to a dog to tear –  Rudyard Kipling

Jasper is 13, she’s doddery now and losing herself. It’s time to say goodbye. The decision does not rest lightly or come easily. It brings a sore and rising lump to my throat.

We spent some time by the river after work yesterday. It is a place we’d regularly visit when we lived much closer. She loves the grassy banks and running between us. Finding a dead fish to roll in is always a bonus in her mind. It’s our last outing with her. It seemed right to revisit this place one last time. It was so good to see her being bouncy again, even just briefly.

This afternoon she closed her eyes for the last time. It was painless but so quick. We’ve known it for a while and have wrestled and agonised over the the decision.  When do we draw the line – how far do we let her decline before we balance kindness and cruelty?  What if we get it wrong?  It is an awful place.  I wonder if she sees it in my eyes.  We’re bereft yet again.  She is one of our best and closest friends. And now she’s gone.

Here she is lounging all over our bed on her back, head twisted one way and legs another, completely content.  I’ve always been amazed how such a little dog can take up so much room.  I routinely wake up clinging to a small strip along the edge of the bed while she snores on, loudly.  I’m sure she believes it is actually her queen sized bed which she graciously allows us to share each night. I will miss her. I will miss her love, her softness, her company, her smell, her funny little ways.  Her unwavering and totally unconditional love.

She’s stolen biscuits, dug holes in the garden, chewed my written notes, eaten my watchband, been proud of finding something smelly to roll in and is ridiculously possessive of her paws.  She hides socks, eats only one of each pair of shoes and thinks she owns whatever she can see.  She has unzipped countless bags and rummaged around in the contents.  She thinks custom dental mouthguards are tasty chew toys.  She hates anyone who wears all black clothing and her favourite toy is a stuffed wombat.  She goes crazy after a bath running laps around the house almost digging up the carpet for grip.  On walks she waits until we approach someone before she stops to cough and splutter dramatically, trying to convince people we’re choking her.  She loves to have the wind in her face during a car trip, her elbow neatly cocked out of the window.  Whenever she hurts her neck she seeks me out and shows me where to rub it.  She licks her paws until we yell at her and then licks them some more.  She insists on rubbing her face on the carpet.  She stamps and sneezes with indignation if breakfast is late.  She leaves her wet nose marks along the bottom of my windows.

She is always pleased to see me when I get home and greets me like a long lost best friend: every day. She’s seen me at my worst yet never judged me.  She has no pat answers.  I trust her with all my secrets and she loves me.  She’s been there as a quiet comforter when I’ve been ill, snuggling closer she’s content to spend a day in bed with me as I recover.  She’s cleaned my face of tears when I’ve been wracked in anguish.  She’s happy just to be around me, whatever I might be doing.  She’ll follow me from room to room just to make a nest while I work.  She says very little, but her constant presence with me is more precious than any conversation.

I want to get this right, make sure we’re not keeping her too long but don’t want to rob her of life prematurely.  I don’t want her to go but I don’t want her to suffer.  Urgh – there is that lump in the throat again.  We will hold her right to the end and hold her in our hearts much longer.

Goodbye my Beauty and elegance.  I love you and will miss you desperately.

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Shattered by grief

27 02 2012

Mosaic - Stirk Park Concert Shell, Kalamunda

The experience of grief has been shattering.  Grief is sneaky.   It sometimes stalks me, creeping up and mugging me in broad daylight as bystanders quickly flee.  I can’t explain the depth of the tremor that occurred within me after Beth’s passing.  It has surprised me and I still feel broken some three months later.  Each remaining piece and part of me is being sifted over, the rubble examined for things to salvage.  New things are emerging – new routines, new relationships, new perceptions, new beliefs, new priorities.  What will I keep?

Some parts are important and will be reintegrated into this new life.  It will take time.  In a way it will remain an unfinished work unless I decide to stop growing or changing before I die.

The mosaic is a great image for this time and process.  After the objects have been broken and the pieces are carefully selected to make up a new picture in mosaic form, a new creation slowly emerges which could be quite different, more colourful and intricate than before.

The mosaic tiles are set in place carefully and held together with grout, rubbed into each joint and sponged off.  I wonder what the grout will be that holds me together, surrounds and secures each part of me.  Will it be faith, will it be love, will it be something else entirely?   I’m not up to that bit yet, I’m still sifting through the rubble and seeing what pieces are worth keeping and which bits I’ll leave behind. There is a lot to leave behind, life has changed dramatically.  Priorities have shifted.

Shopfront: Gugeri Ave, Claremont.

Here are the bits and pieces I’ve found so far that are worth keeping.  They may (or may not) resonate with you:

1. Love never dies. It is way more powerful than you think – it is a life force.

2. There is no guarantee you’ll see tomorrow.  None.  Make today a good day.

3. You are more than your job, your title, your profession. You are a loving soul.

4. Offer kindness – you have no idea what burden a person is quietly carrying.

5. Be thankful for the (seemingly) little things – they’re really the big things.

6. Love knows no rank or boundary or class, neither does pain or grief.

7. Hold ‘the future’ lightly. It doesn’t even exist. Live your life now.

8. You are going to die one day – make a Will and spare others from guessing.

I’m still sifting…

The pit of grief

4 02 2012

Reflection on water: Mandurah Marina, West Australia.

The abyss is dark and bottomless
although sometimes I think
if I sit long
and stare hard enough,
I might be able to make sense of it.

My questions are futile
and fall without echo.
It gives nothing.

Nietzsche wrote “if you gaze into the abyss,
the abyss gazes also into you

I’m aware of the reflection.
The depth gazes back at me
trying to find the end.

It has a way of opening space
within me, making the hole larger
but in turn making me bigger too.

I wonder what will come of it.

Footnote: no, I’m not depressed, just aware that grief morphs and changes and is doing its thing. It is never further than my shadow. It’s hard for people to deal with, hard to talk about, hard to sit with. I spend some time sitting and not fighting it when it visits. It sounds perverse but to fully embrace it helps.

Hollowed by grief

2 02 2012

Street art: Aberdeen St, Perth. Western Australia.

Another day when grief sweeps in seemingly out of nowhere. I know it is a process to work through and bits will come when I am ready but I don’t feel ready. Grief halts for no one. Sorrow is not confined to the emotional realm, it has a physical sensation too. It’s an internal tender wound. People are scared to talk about it. I’m scared to feel just how deep it runs. Today I feel hollow – more than that – hollowed out. My insides have been scooped and scraped and there is a void left within. Grief’s best friend is paradox – I thought a hollow object would be lighter and more buoyant.

027 A new angle

29 01 2012

A completely different side of things

Another set of goodbyes today. Grief still sits silently as a thick fog, slowing the mind, slowing the body, scrambling my radar and thought process. My vision and clarity are limited. Occasionally, pockets of clear fresh air waft through the fog bringing a lucid moment. I expect to see my world again, back to normal. Instead, the great revealer shows me a new life, unlocks a ripened part of me and gifts me with a different view. I look out and catch a glimpse of my world, full of familiar things that look different now. A new angle, a new perspective, a new clarity, a new heart. I can’t un-know this now and although I’m glad to see things afresh, in some ways I mourn the loss of my former paradigm too.

Life in the in-between

27 01 2012

Swanbourne Beach at dawn, West Australia

I love to walk along the very edge of our country, developing a rhythm along the hard, wet sand. It takes me to the ‘in-between’, where I’m not fully on land, but not fully in water. The ‘in-between’ is a place to wrestle with my thoughts. It’s where the forces of nature fight each day. The current meets the shore and picks up tonnes of sand, transporting it easily to another bay where it reshapes the landscape. It gives and takes. Gives and takes. Gives and takes.

As I stop and face the ocean from the safety of land, the wave pulls back and makes me dig my toes into the sand. It erodes my foothold easily, forcing me to decide whether to join it or step back. The ‘in-between’ calls me to action.

I’m reminded that my walk today is just that. I lay footprints on the sand, little indentations that leave a print of me, but only for a day. There is no road, no track, no path mapped out. I’m here for today. The ‘in-between’ is always shifting, changing. It will last until the moon beckons the sea and it brings with it new sands, new shapes and a new bay for another day.

I come away much clearer, knowing that I can surrender to something or just step back, knowing my landscape will constantly change with give and take. And I can make a new path again tomorrow.

The steep path of grief

23 01 2012

Bluff Knoll - Stirling Range National Park, Albany. WAustralia.

I wish you were here.  I wish you were here to help me walk this way, I’d be telling you all about this journey.  You’d be leading, making us rest, cheering us on, keeping us going.  I can’t see very far ahead today, the path is steep and uneven, just as I thought it was levelling out.  How did I get here?  I keep stopping, looking back over land that spans a lifetime, the pauses make the climb seem easier for a moment.  I can catch my breath, see where I’ve been and trace my footsteps with certainty.  I look backwards towards the horizon and see some things with a clarity never realised.  Some familiar landmarks look totally insignificant from this viewpoint – funny, I thought they were monumental.  Each step forward is uncertain and tiring but it’s physically impossible to rush.  The ground is unfamiliar and I have no idea how far I have to go until I’m ‘there’.  I have no idea where ‘there‘ is.  I wonder if I’ll recognise it.  I wonder how long it will take.  I wonder where the others are.  I wonder why I bother planning when the only certainty I have in life is this moment – this breath, this minute.  I wonder what I’m doing.  I pause to breathe deeply, sucking in the silence before turning back to the path before going on.  I try not to look to far ahead, just take one step at a time – “When walking, just walk” I hear my Zen-voice say.  I still wish you were here.

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