Today I hit a peak in my grief. It wasn’t a lengthy crying jag. I have many of those and they feel pretty appropriate. I’m crying now, as I write this, and that feels ok, too. Today’s peak had a different feel. An almost crazed, desperate feel. It was as if I’d lost you and couldn’t find you. I was trying to find you in remnants of your life, even as I know you are in death. I kissed the spot on the bed where you slept. I dug through the trash to see if the discarded tissue was still there from when I cleaned up the blood you coughed up onto the floor. I became irrationally alarmed when one of the other dogs tried to go in your crate. I checked to see that the last half-eaten Kong of yours hadn’t accidentally been given away to another dog. I sifted through dirty laundry to make sure the pants I wore to the veterinary ER with you last Monday hadn’t been washed.
And then I thought, why? Why do I need to keep you close to me? You’re gone and ain’t nothing gonna change that. Holding onto you is like grabbing sand in a windstorm. It’s just not going to work. I understand that I’m having a hard time accepting you as a memory instead of a living, breathing 3-dimensional being. I feel an peculiar sense of resentment that I have to make that mental adjustment.
That’s hard. There’s no two ways around it. Last week a client asked me if it was tough to work with other dogs after mine had just died. I said, you know, I didn’t know how it’d go. Truthfully, I didn’t know if I’d be able to work at all. I went to my first lesson…and then the next and the next. I felt such comfort working with these dogs. The only way I can explain it is that it’s an homage to you. Because of you, I can do what I do. I’m skilled and effective but also deeply attuned to learning, listening to and understanding other dogs. No one could have trained me to do that. You taught me, patiently, always willing to forgive my errors and let me try again. For almost a decade, I had that opportunity and I’ll be forever grateful. So when I’m teaching the reactive dogs and young puppies, I’m able to listen and treat them with a respect that most humans can’t detect. It’s pretty cool and I know the dogs I work with thank us both for that.
I’m trying…I’m trying really hard to get to the good side of grief. I want to celebrate you, not cry because you’re not here. It’s frustrating to feel such love and happiness for your life and then burst into tears because I absentmindedly get out four food bowls when now I only need three. One of the best things about you and all dogs is how you lived in the present.
I’ll keep trying. You just keep teaching me, Kai Kai, ok? I’m still listening and I’ll never stop. Today was hard but tomorrow I’m going to work on being in the present. I’m working on not holding onto you through pieces of the past…but finding you in the goodness, love and fun that exists in a million moments in a million ways in each and every day.
March 8, 2004 – January 13, 2014
7 thoughts on “In Memoriam of Kai: A Letter”
I am so sorry,,I so relate to your grief
I know how hard it is to lose a beloved friend to this hideous cancer. No matter how hard anyone tells you it is, it’s harder. Let yourself grieve – it’s ok. God gave us tears for a reason. Your heart will take a long time to heal. Let me just share that it takes a long time to get to the place where you think of them and smile and not bawl your eyes out. Don’t get me wrong . . . there are days when I have a cry over my sweet Sammi. Anyone who has loved an animal with their whole heart knows that no matter how long we are privileged enough to share their life, it is never enough. Be gentle with yourself Elise.
I lost my best friend to the same thing in July. It’s a vile thing. You are in my thoughts.
Such an expressive piece, Elise. I feel your pain of the loss and also your love of Kai.
Oh Elise – I’m crying at my desk at work. You are not in bizzaro-world. You are in the tremendously wonderful heartbreaking world of Love. Pure Love for your Kai. Please do not feel like to have to get over anything. Please let yourself grieve. Sending my prayers to you and Kai.
So sorry for your loss. I lost my Rhett in 2011 to hemangiosarcoma. Your story is so close to mine. There was no warning, he was gone so fast.
Recently, Pope Francis was saying there was effectively a heaven for pets… if he’s right; I’m sure your dear Kai is among it’s angels…