a little lost in the shadows of my chiaroscuro

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Sometime in the blackness of last night I had a dream. In that dream, I looked up and saw Ed, my old soul, my Eeyore, my weimaraner of almost 12 years. He ambled over to his dog bed to lie down, and I threw myself on his back, buried my face in his soft fur, and sobbed. I was crying deep, grieving sobs, but I was also so joyful. “I didn’t know…” I told him between sobs. “I didn’t know that you could come back. I’m so glad you’re here. So, so glad you’re here. I’ve missed you so.” After awhile he sort of dissolved into space, and I was sad, but I was also relieved. He would come back. I didn’t know that could happen after death.

Then I woke up, and of course it was just a dream. Ed was gone, and I knew that he wouldn’t come back ever again. I will no longer be able to stare into his soft, knowing eyes. I will never again wrap my arms around his solid, lumpy softness. I will never again rest my head on his back and breathe in his musky scent.

Ed died last Monday of gastric dilatation. I didn’t even get to tell him a proper goodbye, because I didn’t know that Matt would feel his last heartbeats beneath his fingers as he carried our good old dog into the vet that morning. I had been talking to my mother-in-law on the phone, expressing my concern about Ed’s obvious discomfort, when Matt’s call beeped in. I had made Matt promise me he would call me if the vet decided to put him to sleep so that I could go there and say goodbye and hold him as he died. But it was too late. When I called my mother-in-law back moments later, she didn’t even speak when she answered the phone. She couldn’t talk, because she was crying too. Matt came and picked me up and we returned to the vet together with Jack and Molly. He just looked like he was sleeping there on the table, and I don’t think it really sunk in as I held him and hugged him and told him goodbye that I was, in fact, telling him goodbye forever. An hour later we picked Amélie up in the parking lot of her school, and she held on to her daddy and cried as we told her the news.

I know that a lot of people love their dogs, but Ed was special. He truly was an old soul. When we got Ed, he was a reject puppy who was skinny and neurotic and all feet and ears. We instantly fell in love. At the time, I was struggling deeply with an eating disorder, and as strange as it sounds, Ed’s arrival was a crucial impetus in my healing. Ed unconditionally loved me. I unconditionally loved Ed. I honestly don’t think I had ever allowed myself to be unconditionally loved before.

He always seemed so sad, though. When he was three years old we ascertained that his melancholy temperament was due to loneliness, so we brought home a very young soul, Molly. We quickly realized that loneliness was not his problem, and I don’t know that he ever forgave us for ousting him from his only-child position in our family and introducing to him not only a dog sister, but also two human siblings. Still, he loved us, followed us everywhere, and always, always provided a solid yet soft self to wrap hurting arms around.

He was part-human, I think…or perhaps he was more than human. I remember one time, especially, when a dear friend flew in to visit me because she was in the middle of a heart-breaking crisis. We spent hours on my couch talking and crying, and every time my friend would be about to cry, Ed would lay his head on her lap and look up at her with limpid eyes full of sympathy and understanding. It was uncanny. It was amazing. It was Ed.

He should have been a bird dog. He should have spent his life galloping through fields and bringing his master his prey. Instead, he was stuck with us. He patiently stalked squirrels in our back yard, “pointed” at anything even remotely interesting, and climbed, with both increasing difficulty and frequency, on our couch or bed. He watched us through his old-soul eyes, and I think that if I would have stopped, flung my arms around him, and listened more often, I might be a wiser woman today.

My heart hurts as I write this. I can’t even see my comptuer screen.

I miss you, Ed. I love you. Please come back to me in my dreams again so I can busy my nose in your fur, and please, please, God…let there be at least one dog in heaven, and let that dog be Ed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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This morning I thought that Amélie had an ear infection, so I took her to the doctor. The kind doctor checked her ears and throat, felt her lymph nodes, and then calmly pulled her stethoscope from around her neck and told Amélie that she was going to listen to her heart. Amélie recoiled in panic-stricken horror and shot off of her chair and into my arms. She buried her head on my neck and began to cry. Amélie, it appears, is afraid of broken hearts, and we seem to have had more than our fair share of them around here. Five days before Ed died, my dear, beloved grandpa was admitted into ICU for congestive heart failure and some lung disease caused by years of hard work breathing in toxic chemicals at a sand plant. He has to have open heart surgery sometime after the first of the year, and I may need open heart surgery as well to repair my heart that just splinters with grief whenever I am near him or am thinking about him.

I love my grandpa. I know kids love their grandpas. I know they do. But I adore mine. I grew up five minutes from my grandparents, and we were over at their house all the time. I loved riding his lawn mower, helping him clean out his pool, and just listening to him talk. When I was tiny I used to sit on his lap and feed him Fritos when he came home for lunch. He called me (still calls me) his “little puddin'” or his “little foo foo” (because he used to sing the song “Little Bunny Foo Foo” to me all the time).

I.just.don’t.think.I.can.do.this.

deep breath.

I’ll have to write more later. My heart feels shredded, so I will just leave you with something I wrote to my dear friend Rachel about my grandpa a couple of days after he went into the hospital. We were just chatting, so what I wrote isn’t poetic or beautiful, but I saved the chat, because I wanted to remember what I said. Here it is:

He is wise. He is one of the most kind, loving people i know. He is also incredibly strong and independent. He is competitive. He loves God. He loves his family. He is a provider. He is generous. He adores me. He adores my kids. He is protective. He has been in love w/ my grandma since he was 15, and I don’t think I have ever seen a couple still so in love. I just can’t imagine how I will ever survive w/o him. One time when I was talking with my mom about what life would be like when my grandparents died, I told my mom that I just didn’t think I could ever be happy again after they died.

I know that’s extreme. I know that after they die I will laugh and smile and be joyful, but I honestly can’t imagine it. I love them that much.

I hate to see my strong grandpa weak and breathless and hurting. The agony of what lies ahead sucks all the breath out of me and leaves me gasping for air. It hurts.

So that’s what has been going on with me. I would love to write more about my grandpa–this post didn’t do him justice, but I can only type blinded by tears for so long. I do feel lost in the shadows of my chiaroscuro right now. I am sure there is some beauty and some poetry lurking in the shadows, but right now I am struggling to see it. I feel emotionally shredded.

But I have two kids–two wonderful kids–kids who have been blessed with both the quiet legacy of an old dog and the strong, awe-inspiring legacy of a man they are proud to call their great-grandpa. And those kids need me. So I’m going to go wipe my tears, wrap my arms around them, kiss the tops of their soft heads and put them to bed.

Good night.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by manhattandoula on December 2, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Jill, I wish I could bear some of the sadness for you. I’m sure you do feel emotionally shredded. Maybe you need a doula. . . 🙂 Love you!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Patrick on December 2, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    thank you…

    Reply

  3. Jill, I’m so sorry. I fell in love with Ed, too, as you described him. What a beautiful creature and how blessed you were to have him as part of your lives. I’ll pray the surgery is very effective for your grandpa and that he can return to a full life for many more years, like my grandpa did after his open heart surgery. I’m sorry for this time of sadness you’re wading through, and I pray some rays of peace and joy can shine through soon to help make it more bearable.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Ellen Reynolds on December 3, 2008 at 8:37 am

    I feel sad with you as I use my sleeve to wipe my tear stained face. Paul McCartney said this profound statement after losing his wife of 30 years, Linda. He said, “You never get over your grief, you just learn to live with it.”

    All good dogs go to heaven. Ed is playing with Blue and Scout.

    Lovely tribute and I wish I could have a dream like that. Love Molly all you can. These sweet Weimers are a blessing to our lives.
    Ellen

    Reply

  5. sending love and prayers from Wichita-
    am so sorry this has to be part of your story.

    Reply

  6. Jill, we’re praying for you. …

    Reply

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