You left one week ago. Every morning for the past week I wake up, my heart empty, my head racing, and the rest of my body heavy with dread. I lay in bed with my eyes closed and listen. Just like I did every morning. If I am quiet enough, I imagine I hear you jumping down from the couch and stretching at the bedroom door, or snoring on the bathroom floor. If I blink long enough, I see you.
I miss you. No. It’s so much more than that. But there is no combination of words that could ever come close to describing what I feel. Every ounce of my being is in agony and longing for you: to see you, to touch you, to hear you, to sense your presence in any way.
Remember all of those times when I was sad, and we sat or walked or laid together and I talked and cried while you looked up at me with your kind and knowing eyes and listened? Everything was better with you next to me. This time the sadness is unlike anything I’ve ever felt. My heart is broken. I am broken. And you’re not here to talk to. And nothing is better.
My grief is punctuated only by resentful questioning of myself. I have replayed every moment of the past few weeks and months. What if I had described your symptoms in a different sequence? Why didn’t I communicate the correct combination of words to trigger a diagnosis? What could I have done differently? How could I have given you more time?
I find myself simultaneously clinging to, and wishing away time and space. I still hug and kiss you goodbye, tuck you into your blankets at night, and open the door just enough for you to poke your nose through and open it yourself when I get home. I still tell you how much I love you. Every single day. We haven’t swept the floor and your blankets are just the way you left them. J opens the window for you every morning so you can rush over and take deep inhales of the morning air, quickly catching up on the neighborhood status and activities. And we walk every day. We walk down along the river and around the block like we always did; we pause at all of your favorite spots, because walks go by way too fast without stopping to sniff all of the good stuff. On both sides of the sidewalk. The whole way.
Thank you. For everything you taught me. In your youthful disabandon: thank you for teaching me the true value of material things and that running shoes and carpet and furniture and apartment deposits (while costly to replace and lose) don’t really matter. And that my Master’s thesis could quickly be reprinted on the way to my defense. What mattered is playing hard and loving harder.
As you grew up: thank you for teaching me to be present. I remember rushing to get home to you after work, letting you out in the backyard, and just lying next to you and feeling happy and free as you dug up trees, ran in big circles around me, or simply rolled around on your back, completely happy and free. You greeted every walk, every adventure, and every experience, with enthusiasm as if it were the first time ever doing it. Even eating.
Most recently: thank you for your wise understanding of presence and the power of just being. As our walks got shorter, once highly-anticipated car rides became stressful, meals got smaller, treats were more limited, and runs in the park were followed by days of discomfort, you were still as happy and as free as you ever had been. Working within the new parameters of your physical existence, you were enthusiastic and content with what you were able to do.
J says you had to move on because your body couldn’t keep up with your spirit. I believe him. And now you are free from any physical limitations or discomfort. We are heading to the mountains. This time, we will bring you with us.
I miss you, my sweet Belle. And I love you so much. I will always keep you close and safe in my heart.
PS - you know that little black and white plastic thing in front of the TV that you used to look into and lick sometimes? It was a camera. I know it was invasive but we just wanted to make sure you were ok. Oh, and the reason most little kids didn’t pet you is because I told them you weren’t friendly. I didn’t want crusty little kids putting their germs on you. I should have just told you.