Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Middle Ground

Two nights over the past few weeks, I basically cried myself to sleep. I didn't have bad days at all, in fact they were pretty awesome days.

So why the sudden sadness? What did I cry about? My dog, Duke. Right before I went to bed, something I read or had seen or thought of triggered the sadness surrounding his untimely passing. Last night it just happened to be a little blurb in a magazine about a woman who was suddenly faced with the decision of having to put her cat down. Earlier that day I also found out that one of the ladies from Horse Haven had to put Kip down, who was a rescue. I remember when he came to HHT, and I remember being pleasantly surprised when he came back for a visit, all beautiful and alive with an energy I had never seen before. Now he's gone, so very sudden.

The memories of finding out that Duke had a virtually inoperable tumor, the weekend we selfishly kept him alive, and the visit to the emergency vet's office to put him to sleep. All of those just kept flashing in my mind. I couldn't stop them.

When I was able to think of happier times, like laying on the couch with him sprawled at my feet or sleeping on my legs, or just sitting outside with him, scratching his belly. Even those bright moments weren't enough. Because I immediately began to ache to hug him and hear him snort and bark.

One thing I realized is that my homecoming isn't the same as it was last year. When I came home and the boys were outside, I could always count on Duke for a signature Duke howl, yawn, and tail wagging. Rocky and Charlie both have their own way of greeting me when I pull up in the driveway or walk up the stairs, but it just isn't the same as Duke. It doesn't mean the same thing. And I miss that terribly. Fiercely.

I was mad at myself and my memories last night. For a split second, I wanted to forget them all, good and bad. I quickly banished that thought, because I would never ever trade the time that I had with Duke just so I wouldn't be sad anymore. I just want to know why for some reason, I wasn't able to think of happy Duke times without crying. I've been able to do that for the most part, not be sad I mean, about the happy times.

I know that grief comes in waves, most often unexpectedly. This morning, walking back from class in the rain, I realized that there is a point that I am trying to reach. I think it's the middle ground between the good and the bad memories. It's finding a balance between the times to cry and the times to smile and laugh, maybe even both at the same time.

One of my favorite songs, "Rain" by Jon Heintz, has a more than beautiful way of summing up loss, grieving, and life in the same breath. To me at least. This verse in particular, I think, speaks volumes.

Well, we're given these moments
We're given this time
And we do what we must just, just to get by
Just to stay high and dry
And as sure as these blue skies, well they're gonna turn grey
You've given your angels all of your days
Oh but you can't stay
Duke gave us all of his days. I know that no one gets to stay, but it sure would be nice. Life would be easier. That's not the point of living though, is it? If life was easy, I don't know how much I would learn.

For now though, I'm happy knowing Duke is safe and with God. I both can and can't wait for the time when I get to be greeted by him when I arrive home.


s-p said...

I often miss my old dogs like this. But I keep getting new ones that I know I'll miss in special ways too. Love trumps loss in the end I guess.

Mary said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes. My first dog as an adult was a "Duke", but he was a pit bull. Sweetest dog on the face of the earth.

Sr. Ann Marie said...

Hang on to your memories, Ashley. I think they are God's gift to us--and maybe in ways that we can't understand, the tears are God's gift also!