Tuesday, May 3, 2016
And she was wise and calm. She was as good a dog as you could hope for--she had a deep, loud bark to her very last day that was perfect for our house-in-the-woods. But that bark was the meanest thing her sweet body could muster. From that bark on, she was a wiggle-tail greeter, a crumb-finder and affectionate pal who would lie next to me as I wrote in the early morning hour before my children made the house crazy.
I've never lost a dog before. My childhood dog, a golden retriever named Darby, died years after I left the house, while I was working in India. I was too busy seeing the world and experiencing a new culture to feel anything besides a bit of sadness and nostalgia for the days Darby and I spent together a lifetime ago.
So I didn't expect the gut-wrenching blow when I sat with Lulu's sweet head in my lap when the vet put her down. I didn't expect to cry all day long, and even harder when I walked in the door to an empty, dogless house for the first few times. I didn't expect to miss her so much. How one animal filled a house so perfectly never occurred to me until she no longer filled it.
It's been hard living without Lulu, but it's even more difficult watching my children meet Grief for the first time. They've known a few sad times, but nothing more devastating than a tough punishment or saying see-you-later to cousins who are moving.
"Grief," I explained to my nearly 9 year old daughter, "is like Sadness's cousin. It comes when you lose something you love. I don't know what it feels like for you, but for me it feels like my heart is being squeezed, then pulled apart. It hurts."
"How do you make it go away?" she asked through big, sad tears.
"You can't make it go away. That's the bad news," I said, holding her as she cried. "But time helps, and crying helps, and sometimes talking about why you're sad helps. It's part of life. I wish I could protect you from this sort of pain, but I can't. But I can sit with you and hold you and stop lecturing you about Grief."
My sad daughter smiled a little through her tears, and we sat crying together.