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Saying Good-Bye

Today I stood on the dock at the cabin and let the wind spread some of the ashes of my beloved four-legged companion, Mr. Frost. It was almost beautiful: the way the wind carried him in swirls, this way and that.

He died a month ago today. For the second half of his life, this place was one of his favorite places in all the world. It is the first of a few beloved spaces where I will spread his ashes in coming weeks. As I let him sift through my fingertips, I could not help but think of and recite this verse from genesis:

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your bread, until you return to the ground—

because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (3:19)

He has indeed returned.. and it made me smile to think that he can now forever play in the water and weeds, mud and ice of this place.

It’s been a month, and sometimes the waves of grief still hit me so suddenly that it seems to knock the air out of me. In so many ways I know that he is with me and in me and around me… and yet, I miss his embodied presence.. I miss burying my face in his fur, stroking his back, listening to his crazy, loud voice.

I know that some people are dog people and some people aren’t, that some people understand what it is to experience this kind of loss and some people don’t. Whether you get it or not, it remains fundamentally true that this loss, this grief, is unlike any I have previously experienced.

People who know me well, know the journey that Frost and I lived together. Frost accompanied me through marriage and divorce, singleness and remarriage. He was my constant in over a decade of changes of home, career, friendship, perspective, and identity. He was there when I was at my best and when I was at my worst and he loved me endlessly, always. I accompanied him through bloat and lupus, maggot therapy (by far our grossest adventure) and ACL surgery. I looked past his obtrusive, anxious, at times ear-piercing demeanor to his graciously devoted, forgiving, and unapologetic nature. We grew each other in ways I cannot quite describe.

He was my shadow. My safe haven. My solid ground. My daemon. My friend.

And now he is gone, sort of.

Just this morning I was pulling potatoes hot out of the oven as my 14-month old took a quick step to touch the inside of the oven door. Before I could react or protect her soft, little hands, she lost her balance and fell to the ground, saving her from the burn. I like to think of Frost’s shielding presence bumping her to the side, continuing to watch over the baby he loved so much. Presence takes so many forms.

It is here that I could go into the extreme burden and pain of having to be the one to choose when it is time to euthanize your loved one… when their quality of life is no longer worth living in a bodily form. The reality is, nothing can prepare you for having to make such a decision and perhaps nothing can keep you from the waves of doubt and guilt that intermingle with waves of trust and peace in the aftermath of such a loss and such a choice. At my best, I am able to realign with my sense that there is no right or wrong and that Frost was content with a life well lived.

What I do know is that in the days before he left us, he was surrounded by all of his favorite things and his favorite beings. He was held in love physically and energetically. When it was time to go, he peacefully said good-bye to this world as he rested in my arms. Afterwards, he was anointed with Frankincense and holy water and tears. He was embraced and departed in a manner that I long for myself and all those I hold dear.

A few days before Frost’s last, a good friend reminded me that our furry companions, especially those in dog form, are so fiercely loyal that they will just keep going for us.. they will withstand endless amounts of pain and discomfort to continue to be at our side. That was my Frost. He would have kept going to the moon and back for me, hind legs dragging on the ground all the while. I am grateful he didn’t have to; I am grateful I could release him.

I don’t know what happens when we die and the guesses I do have change moment to moment. At those times that I consider the valid possibility that as spirits we live many life times, it has dawned on me recently that life as a dog must be as close to enlightenment as one can get. Frost, at least, was the incarnation of unconditional love, acceptance,

forgiveness, and loyalty… much more so than I’ll ever be. Divinity embodied for sure.

Peace to all those who have lost loved ones, four-legged or otherwise in recent seasons. Peace to you as you ride waves of grief and gratitude, pain and love. I am with you and I trust that you are with me.

Thank you, Frost. Thank you for all of the ways you have and do accompany me.

I bow in endless gratitude to you.

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