Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: loss (page 1 of 3)

How much is that doggie in the window?

When Kristy and I lived together, we decided to venture into the doggie world and found one at the local shelter. In her wisdom, Kristy had me agree to a puppy prenup before we brought Dinah Mae Crowder home, so I fully recognized that when Kristy moved out, the dog left with her. Within a month, I found the absence of the canine energy unbearable and began a search for a new dog. JJ agreed, but only if we adopted two.

We drove a few hours away to get our girls, litter mates, (or so they told us, because they bore no familial resemblance.) We loved the silky coat of the blond, and a certain boxy black pup caught my attention. We brought home Lizzie and Roxanne when they were about 8 weeks old and fell immediately in love.

We could propose ours were perfect dogs. Our girls never chewed on things. They didn’t get on the furniture. They loved children. Lizzie was a known favorite by babies; she would recline on her side and toddlers would crawl into the pocket of her 4 legs and lean back in comfort. Lizzie might lift her head, as if to check on which child was taking a turn, and then return to her lounging.

And I came to agree with JJ’s insistence on two dogs, even with the fortune we spent in dog food. When our children arrived, the pups had one another to roll their eyes at every time we brought home a new baby. They slept together every night, shared a dinner plate, and like two widows who needed to take their medication, they made sure the other remembered to go outside to pee.

We lost our Roxie a year and a half ago to the diabetes. (Lesson learned on the cheap dog food. We extended her life from a one-month prognosis to over 6 months just by switching to grain free.) The last 18 months without her beloved sister left Liz in a funk, mopey, despite the extra love and attention our kids would shower upon her. The kids had been indifferent to the dogs; they were fixtures, like the big brown chair that has always been a part of our living room. But once Roxanne was gone, the impermanence of our creatures sunk in and they began to give more value to the doggie in our living room.

This week we had to say goodbye to our sweet and affectionate Lizzie as well. It happened quick, after what we thought was just an incident of her finding and ingesting the thanksgiving turkey, but she got worse rather than better. We weren’t afforded the months in advance to emotionally prepare. One day she had bad gas, and then a few days later our home was significantly more empty, despite the 6 humans who occupy the small space.

Beyond my own grief, this process of walking with my children through loss and heartache gave me opportunity for reflection. One of them goes to bed and arises in tears. My oldest asked me, “mom, do you cry with tears?” I told him I cry in a thousand different ways. He told me he really only cries with tears or without them, but that he cried with tears for Lizzie. Even our littlest, who only understands time in terms of “yesterday” and “tomorrow” no matter how many days separate us from the past and the future, broke down at our little burial when he realized the dogless situation wasn’t changing. It’s here I notice my tendencies and natural desire to change the situation for them, even when the voices of wisdom tell me to respond otherwise.

The kids are already asking for a pup and part of me wants to say, why? so it can rip your heart out all over again!? If we don’t get a new dog, I won’t ever have to watch them feel like this. Their willingness to love after loss is far greater than my own. It’s amazing how my experience of the world has taught me to clamp down on my heart to protect it, to harden rather than to risk hurt. My kids still have a trust in the goodness of the world, even despite pain and disappointment.

But I’ll be honest: It’s taking every ounce of power in my being not to run out and find a puppy for under our tree this Christmas. Everyone is right, I do NOT want to potty train a pup in the winter (or at all, as JJ is so talented at it), which may be the only thread holding me back from liking every doodle-selling page on FB. I crave the dog energy in my home. I want to share space with another being when my kids have left me for the school day. But most of all, I want the pain of absence to fade to the background. I don’t want to feel loss anymore, so my natural inclination is to go get something; fill the gaping hole of my love for my dogs.

Their willingness to try again, coupled with my desire to fix it all, is a dangerous situation. I have a feeling this is the breeding ground for codependence, so again I must heed to the voices that remind me the hard thing is the good thing, and I must resist the puppy (and quick and simple solution) temptation.

The irony lies in my yoga class from Monday, when I taught a yin class and implied that we often get into places (poses) that bring about discomfort and our tendency is to wiggle and move – to try to find a way out. We don’t let the pose in, so it never does its work in us. Grief** is probably one of the most commonly avoided emotions in our culture, and we sidestep it by doing all the things I really want to do right now, like buying a new dog.

I awake to the absence. When I’m working around home, my sense of being alone is heightened. For years now, I’ve become annoyed with the growing mountain of dog hair I had to sweep. I griped about the cost of leaving the dogs while we traveled. But not long ago, a wise teacher asked, “do I see the hair or do I see the dog?” and it made me reflect before it was too late. What these girls added to my life was far greater than the time it took to run the vacuum or the costs of booking a doggie sitter. I wish it didn’t take absence to heighten the love. Maybe that’s should be intention of the next furry creature that will eventually pee on our carpet: to engage the process, not just grieve when it’s over.

 

**If you’ve not read anything by Caleb Wilde, you should. His blog was Confessions of a Funeral Director and his perspective on grief and grief support is astounding. He even made it onto the Robcast recently.

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Celebrating a birthday in the mourning

Last year I bought myself flowers, for my birthday.  I have historically celebrated a birthday week (or two) and have been known not to do it quietly.  My last year in Troy,  I planned my own GNO party, and even created my own facebook event – this year I did the same with a text picture of yours truly. I’m that person who will try to use every free marketing gimmick in my inbox. (Related: who’s free for Red Robin this month?!)

This might come across sounding quite brattish, as if I make all the noise in order to get people to celebrate me. But that’s not the case. I am surrounded by loving and friends and family who remember me, without my noise. I don’t have to celebrate my own birthday; I get to.

My special day falls amid a string of October dates that my favorite people on this earth marked with black pens. My husband and his family lost his 16-year-old sister suddenly. My best friend buried her mother after a hateful illness. A dear patron saint of our church died abruptly years before we were ready for her to go. Another young boy in our local school system fell to October’s cruel grasp a few years ago. A former employer will face the dreaded two-year mark of grief for her husband. All within this span of 31 days.

Needless to say, no one in my town likes October anymore. Pumpkin spice can’t wash away the bitter taste of loss. My dear friend Kristy says you can step into the crisp morning and smell death in the air.

And here I am, buying flowers and drinking margaritas and asking everyone to smile for the picture. Rude, right?

Living in the wake of loss with those close to me has provided me new wisdom, such as,  people say stupid things from a good heart. “Heaven needed another angel” is at the top of the Don’t Say That list. Folks like me who believe in an afterlife in heaven seek to take comfort in those celestial promises. Of course, they’re “in a better place.” But the distance between there and here hurts. Real bad.

Which can only lead me to one conclusion: life, here, matters. If it mattered little, it would hurt little. The more you love, the more you fill days with joy and curiosity and adventure with other people. And the harder it is to see them end.

So if life, here, matters, then… what? I’m only left with one option: to live it in celebration and in gratitude for another year at living it.

I give my loved ones plenty of space to grieve throughout this horrid month. I really do. I try my hardest to be attentive to the calendar, to give space, to nod in solemn agreement that this sucks. We miss her. Grief knows no expiration date and I’ll never ask others to chipper up for the sake of a party – that’s simply not fair.

What I will do is attempt to honor the lives that left too early by approaching my birthday not with disdain at “getting older” but with appreciation that they keep on coming. I’ve got another year on this globe, so what will I do with it? I’m facing 36, an age that others didn’t get. How can I do it justice?

For me, it’s not skydiving or rocky mountain climbing*, but rather the way in which I sow love into my life. It’s more hugs, more forgiveness, more gratitude. It’s acknowledging another work of art in the sunset from my front porch.

It’s also mandating a friend eat unnecessary amounts of nachos with me. It’s acting surprised when my kids hand me a haphazardly wrapped gift. It’s requesting your parents spend too much money renting a cabin in Hocking Hills for the weekend. It’s drinking one more because “it’s my birthday!”

Not in my honor. But in honor of life. In the honor of the gift of another year, another month, another day. I’ll wear the birthday sombrero for a chance at that. I’ll blow out the candles and hold the hands of people I love, at least one. more. time.

 

 

*Thanks Tim McGraw for setting that up for me so poetically.

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That kind of family

I keep vivid memories of the experience of loosing my grandparents when I was 13 and 17. I remember the hospital room, the waiting. I remember watching the shoulders of grown men rise and fall as they cried. Mostly, I remember love. I remember the intense feeling of love for a person, and for one another.

In the days that followed, I remember more sadness, but mostly an experience of my family coming together. The cousins practically slumber partied for three days as we endured the funeral process. When it was all over, dad handed the keys of the van to Tim and we went to a matinee and out for Pizza Hut. (Brief sidenote: we thought we were hilarious when we sent Kevin in to get a table, as the hostess asked “Just one?” and he responded, “no, 11.” It really wasn’t that funny, but we rolled with laughter in the parking lot.)

Growing up, we had plenty of opportunities to be together. We spent countless hours at the lake, we had holidays, overnights and even family trips to watch the horse races. We weren’t strangers who suddenly bonded together. The ties that had held us were pulled tighter, like the shoe wedgies of 6th grade.

The moments of grief taught me: this is the kind of family we are. This is how we deal with hard stuff. 

As children and even young adults, at funeral moments in life, we were carried and cared for. We helped choose the music and looked through pictures, but the adults did the heavy lifting up of one another. They bore the weight of loss together. The children were able to simply be sad and move through the grief; the adults were living a different reality, accepting a new way of life without someone they loved so very much.

Now, we find ourselves at a new place. With the passing of my Uncle Bill, we have the first of the next generation to leave us. This time, there’s no even ground. With grandparents, the adult siblings make the decisions and the kids come along for the ride. Now we have adult siblings and adult children and adult cousins and, by the way, none of us feel ready to be those kinds of adults..

When I arrived at the hospital on Sunday night to say farewell to the orneriest man to walk the streets of Ridgeway, everyone was there. The cousins and spouses who weren’t tending children were beside our uncle, holding up our cousins and our fathers. We just showed up. (And, ordered pizzas.)

This is the kind of family we are. This is how we deal with hard stuff. 

I don’t like that we’re suddenly in this place. I don’t like seeing people I love in mourning. I don’t like my own sadness in missing my uncle. I don’t even really like the idea that I’m a grown up in these situations.

But I love my family. I love that we’re here, no matter what. I love that when we hurt, we hurt together. And I love that when it comes to this new phase of life, this place where we grieve on uneven scales, we’re still doing it as a family.

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