After being a part of our family for almost sixteen years, the time came when we had to put our little doggie, Bella down. As I sit here typing this the tears well up, my heartbeat quickens and I find it difficult to catch my breath.
Our home feels so lopsided without her in it. We were a family of four, two with two legs and two with four. We are down to three now. When The Bird calls on his way home from work and asks his routine question, "Hey, Babe, have you fed the dogs?" He catches himself mid-sentence and with no comment from either of us corrects himself and says, "Did Bianca eat?" I'm sure his heart sinks as low as mine does at his natural slip of the tongue. For so long in our house dogs was plural.
Death is such a mystery. I hate it. The sadness her loss provoked in me felt all too familiar. Emotionally, it took me to a place I forgot I could go. After the death of my Mom, I tried to close the door on that dark, dank hallway that leads only to pockets of pain. While I cradled Bella in my arms on her last day with us, a sense of powerlessness crippled me.
“How can it be that my hysterical ache for her to get up and walk again and be whole, is of no consequence?”
It was the very same feeling I had holding vigil at my Mom's beside seven years ago. Holding my rosary beads, I pleaded with God to bequeath a miracle on our family and restore my mother to perfect health. I begged-I pleaded, I threw myself on His mercy. With no attempt to disguise my attempts at manipulation, I shrieked every scriptural quote I memorized as a child at Him. In essence saying the equivalent of the soldiers who crucified Him, “If you are truly the Son of God, come down off that cross.”
My Mom passed away as we cried, caressed her forehead and kissed her and in the wake of her death wake was a palpable sense of surrender.
Surrender is a complex concept, one I haven’t befriended very graciously. But surrender is not phased by the presence or absence of grace or dignity. Unaffected by my emotional temper tantrums, surrender suggests itself a viable alternative to emotional meltdowns.
While I’m willing to give surrender a nod for the peace it brings when embraced, I’m hardly at a place where I’d consider it the first place I’d turn in the face of a crisis, although I do have it listed in my phone book under "friends."
What helped me get by
Over the last few weeks I stumbled upon a book that kept me up at night and I found a way to interject into just about every conversation I had. It is the best first person account of embracing surrender I’ve come across. It should be required reading periodically throughout our lives. If you haven’t read, “This Is Not The Story You Think It Is,” by Laura Munson yet, close your laptop (or turn off your computer), put down your smart phone, grab your keys, put on your hazard lights and race to your local bookstore. Pick up a copy for yourself and every friend and family member you care about, even the cashier at your grocery store or pharmacist or trash man/woman. It’s that life changing.
With reckless abandon, she exposes the private precincts of her gut-wrenching attempt to adopt an attitude of non-suffering (which doubles in my book as surrender) in the face of a very raw, personal crisis.
Making the horrific decision to put Bella down circled me back to a place where I initially made no room for surrender. Laura’s book, however, reminded me that surrender really is the only friend we can rely on in the face of crisis. Surrender has the potential to liberate us from angst-albeit fleeting at times (I’m speaking for myself).
Hope you guys are all well. Please, make space in your schedules to read Laura’s book. You’ll thank me for the nudge.
Sixteen years is a long time. What are some benchmark moments for you, from the last sixteen years? Me, I buried my Mom and my dog and my husband’s best friend but we’ve also had some write-in-your-journal highlights too. I guess that’s how life is-the bitter with the batter as my Mom used to say.
Reading suggestions on this topic:
The Five Ways We Grieve by Susan Berger
This Is Not The Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson