After You Left: A Letter to My Pet

Dear Friend,

Life hasn’t been the same since you left. I know it wasn’t your choice. Still, I can’t stop thinking how suddenly it was all over. Unexpected, really.

Saying goodbye wasn’t easy. You remember us all there, surrounding you at the end, I’m sure. We tried not to take too long. I wish we didn’t have to say goodbye. But you seemed pleased to know that the ones you cared about most were there with you in that moment. We shared memories and tears, love and thankfulness and sadness. We gave you kisses, shared a bittersweet prayer, and felt your soft, velvety ears. When it was over, we cried some more, but you were already gone. I’m glad you now have peace.

Of course, you’re practically a saint in our eyes now. I know we sometimes acted differently. But even when we speak about the naughty things you sometimes did, they seem pretty insignificant. Mostly we just talk about all the good things. I still remember when our girl, so much smaller then, asked for just the right words to use in your baptism. You sure were patient with her, but getting wet was just the beginning. Getting poked and prodded and pulled on by the kids when they were little couldn’t be easy, but you got your licks in between the nudges.

And you were little, too. Remember that time they put you in a basket hanging from a limb in our tree? And how many times did I see them carry you off in a backpack for a picnic with them? Sure you ate our socks, scratched the furniture, stole bits of food, and who knows what else (I’ll never remember it all), but mostly we just wish you were back with us, begging for some morsel, sitting at our feet, hoping for a pat on the head.

You know what really hurts? The whole rhythm of my day has changed since you died. The morning wake up that I never really liked. It doesn’t seem so bad now. I’d do anything to have that scratch at the door again, just to know you were here waiting for me.

Going out and coming in are different, too. Seems so strange to enter a home without you there to greet me. I look around and you are nowhere in sight. Not a sound. Silence hurts, I’ve come to find out.

And I can’t seem to get it out of my head the way you’d fall asleep on my lap each night. And when it was time to retire, you’d slowly make your way down, off the chair, across the room, and over to the place where you slept, waiting for me to turn the light off, scratch your jaw, and say “goodnight.”

It’s funny the things people say when facing death. I never really planned it—honestly I didn’t—but when the end came, I found myself talking about seeing you again, on “the other side.” I can’t say I’d ever thought much about it really. John Wesley claimed the lion really will lie down with the lamb, in the new creation. I always thought that was just some metaphor. But now I think maybe that lion came from a real place and time, just like that lamb. Maybe once they hadn’t been such good friends and now they really could just lie down together. So maybe resurrection promise applies to all creation—not just any goat or fish or possum, but particular ones from particular places attached to particular people. If God knows every sparrow in the field, then surely God knows just how much you meant to us, too.

The day after you left us, well, we all woke up in a fog. I can’t tell you how much we still hurt. But when we looked at some old photos and videos of when you were younger—and we were younger—those pictures sure helped us out. Some made us laugh. Others made me cry. Most just made us think of how much you’ve meant to us along the way. You’ve pressed on ahead now, but those memories will buoy our spirits in the meantime.

Now I’m not fan of saying good things come out of difficult circumstances. Seems like most of the tragic situations I’ve faced in life are just plain sad, no matter what silver lining someone might try to conjure up. Funny thing happened though after my daughter and I sat down and looked through all those old pictures together. You know things haven’t been so good lately between us. Still, seeing those pictures gave me courage to tell her how much I’ve missed her, how much I appreciate her, how much I love her. She teared up a little. And then we hugged. We haven’t hugged like that in a really long time. I guess I’m just saying thank you for that. You always were good at bringing us together.

Well, that’s all for now. I may need to write again before too long. Saying goodbye sure is hard. Each day things get a little better, but don’t worry, we won’t ever forget you. I expect we’ll eventually take a chance on loving some new friend. Some day. But either way, it sure is nice to think I’ll see you when I go walking through that same door you’ve passed through already. One day. That’ll be a grand reunion.

With love,

Your friend

Jeff and Christabel 2Written with affection after the unexpected passing of our faithful beagle, Christabel “Bella” Barbeau (2009–2014).

If you enjoyed this post, take a look at Beauty in education.

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3 thoughts on “After You Left: A Letter to My Pet

  1. Pingback: Dataclysm Knows Nothing about Religion | Jeffrey W. Barbeau

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