Loss is strange, isn’t it? It’s unsettling, unwanted. It has all these… layers. It’s heavy and dark, thick, and almost tangible somehow. I can’t even begin to accurately describe it. It’s something we were never meant to experience. Death, though so natural, feels the most unnatural thing about life.
Let me give you a little back story… My husband I and I were barely legal when we got married. But we, like most young people, were sure that we already knew everything about ourselves and each other, so this “thing” (marriage) was going to be a cake walk (*brief moment of silence for death of that obnoxious idea*). Naturally, like any hip, young couple, we got a puppy (because we could) shortly after we got married. I worked at an animal clinic at the time, so of course, owning a puppy would be almost as easy as marriage! However, after months of pee-stained everything, demolished wedding gifts, and endless vomit cleanups of obscure unrecognizable items, I think we realized that a puppy, or this puppy in particular, was NOT going to be that easy, that marriage MIGHT resemble this messy mutt in a way, and that we were both pretty dumb about a lot of things. Maybe we didn’t see it all like that then, but oh, how clear it appears now.
Throughout the years, we had a few pets come and go (we figured out we weren’t cat people) but that first puppy, as difficult and trying as she was, stayed. We had kids, finished college, moved 4 times, had more kids, and the puppy, who grew up (physically) in the process, was there for it all. She was with us from the beginning during our worst times, and our most emotionally unstable days. Some days, we had no patience for her and made no time for her. Other days, we appreciated her ability to jump and catch a frisbee 20 feet (or so) off the ground, and that she, oddly enough, loved going down slides at the park. She stood by us through our messiest years, and loved us in all of our imperfections. And we were just one big mess together.
“Sage” would have been 11 years old next month. One of our hardest days was this past Monday when we had her put down after finding out she had an aggressive cancer in her foot. We made her last moments as memorable as we knew how. We bought her a big smelly doggie cookie from the pet store, let her sleep in our bed, made a print of her paw with the kids, bought her cheeseburger, and my husband slept downstairs with her on her last night. He even threw her frisbee one last time. She yelped in pain a few times chasing after it on 3 paws, but NOTHING would stop her from getting that frisbee!
I know. It’s normal to lose a pet. It’s normal for animals, and even people, to die. I know. Loss is a part of life. I wish it was as easy to experience as it sounds. Sage taught us more than we ever thought she would. And it turns out, we loved her more deeply than we ever thought we could. She showed us so much about ourselves and sometimes it wasn’t as pretty as we would have liked it to be. Losing her, gave us a fresh perspective. It taught us to hold more dearly on to life. Loss broke our hearts enough to give us fresh eyes on the beauty that is all around us. This isn’t our first loss, nor will it be our last, but when loss comes, as unexpectedly and undesirably as it does, it somehow reveals yet again, all the good that daily life distractions seem to dim.
So, I can be thankful for this season. I’m thankful that God used that little playful puppy to teach me and grow me (as He does with most things), and I’m even more thankful that He can use something as horrible as death, and bring something beautiful out of it (He kinda has a knack for that). He reminds me, through loss, of the beauty and gift that is life.