Tag Archives: Broken Heart

Day of Rest

*sigh*

This picture is the last one I took at Lee Martinez Park, the place we walk almost every day, sometimes twice. On that morning, that walk, I had no idea that the next day would be the day Dexter died. I knew it was coming, we’d known for a year it was on its way, but on that particular morning it still felt unknown, uncertain, undetermined.

We haven’t been back to Lee Martinez since Thursday morning, the last time we walked there with Dexter, the walk we took knowing it would be our last. We’ve been to City Park, Big South Trail, and this morning we walked at Colorado State University, but we haven’t been back to “our park.” It still feels too hard, too sad.

We’ve managed other grief hurdles. Eric cleaned the living room floor yesterday. The raw wood in that room was covered with tiny spots where Dexter’s nose had dripped, (because of his cancer, he basically had a constant runny nose). I washed some of the blankets from his bed, along with his Little D baby, (I’d originally planned to have him cremated with Big D but in the end I couldn’t stand to lose them both). Eric brought home his ashes, and I put those on top of his mostly empty crate, along with his collar and a clay paw print.

memorialWhen I’m able to, I’ll open the ashes and put some in the urns I have that contain Obi’s ashes (one is on my writing desk and another on my meditation shrine) — I left room for Dexter so they’d be together again, they loved each other so much.

pawprints

I still haven’t been able to put clean sheets on our bed (the ones that are there were slept on by Dexter) and his toothbrush is still on the counter, and I’m still putting a tiny offering of food in his bowl every time I feed Sam. I know it’s silly, but I was devastated yesterday when I went out to do poop patrol in the backyard and couldn’t find any of Dexter’s. I was so sad that I’d never get to pick up anymore of his poop — that’s a crazy kind of love.

Eric has been dealing with his grief, in part, by cooking. Yesterday, he made three pies. We did a pie drive by to our friends’ house last night because even as much as I love pie, we couldn’t eat it all ourselves.

griefpie

Jamie Ridler’s mom, who also had cancer, passed the day after Dexter. Jamie invited me a few weeks ago to do a guest post in honor of her mom, the prompt being something her mom had recently said, “It’s not about being tough, it’s about being tender.” I have so much to say about that, will be finishing up my post and sending it to sweet Jamie later today. These losses (something we all face as we live and love), this prompt, has me thinking about how important it is that we have confidence in our basic goodness, the essential wisdom and compassion and power that rests in each of us, that we practice self-compassion and keep our hearts open, knowing that life is beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible.

In this audio recording, Pema Chödrön talks about basic goodness. She tells a story about burnt cookies and a fox that is such a great metaphor for how we can approach difficulty — we can allow ourselves to become hard, closed off, or we can stay open to reality, to be present for whatever might arise. Yes this means we will be vulnerable, we’ll get hurt, but we will also be amazed, healed.

My heart is broken right now. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. But there is so much worth showing up for. Such as:

A chance to get away. We hadn’t wanted to do this when Dexter was still here, were worried about being too far away from a vet if something happened. But now, sometime soon, the three of us are going to rent a cabin in the mountains and spend some time together in the green and the quiet.

Pie. Especially the ones made by my person, who is as sad as me, who knows just how I feel, just what I’m missing, who will talk all day about what we’ve lost and never get tired of it, who wants to do whatever he can to make me feel better.

peachpie

Friends, near and far, sending us love and light. So many have reached out to me, offering such kindness, making this heavy thing so much easier to hold.

The sweet animal bodies that are still here, that long for love and need care. It’s Sam’s turn to become my favorite, and when we are all ready, there will be another dog.

sam

Laughter. Last night, on the way to our friends’ house to deliver the pie, Eric suggested that they expected this happy gift of pie, so it would be funny if when they opened the door, we gave them a pie in the face instead. It was such a ridiculous and awful idea we laughed the rest of the way to their house. It felt good.

Brilliant nature — blooms and fruit and animals and trees and landscapes and sky and deep water and weather.

Practice. Yoga, meditation, writing, and dog — this regular attention, showing up and being open to whatever arises, moving in ways old and new, creativity and discovery, is medicine.

Music. I heard this song for the first time yesterday, and am totally in love.

because nothing lasts forever
some things aren’t meant to be
but you’ll never find the answers
until you set your old heart free

I’m so sad, kind and gentle reader, but at the same time I am so in love with my little life, my heart so full of every last wonderful thing that sometimes it feels like it will explode.

Let Go and Begin (Again)

Not so long ago, I finally figured out where my meditation practice fit in my daily routine, where it belonged. I get up at 4:30 am, feed my dogs, write my morning pages, check email and facebook and my blog, then either go to yoga class or walk the dogs. When I get back home, I shower, eat breakfast, and then, then is when I meditate.

Then is when I should meditate, when I am supposed to, when I plan to sit, and for awhile, it was working. I felt I had finally settled there. Then Dexter was diagnosed with a fatal cancer. Or, rather I should say after about a month of back and forth, trial and error, and one bloody scare where he spent the night at the emergency vet, it was determined that the most likely explanation was a nasal tumor. We would lose our second dog in a row to a treatable but ultimately incurable cancer.

This time, with this dog, we determined the right approach was palliative care, the least disruptive and least harmful option. Rather than grasping, hoping for more time, we accept that Dexter is dying and are committed to doing what we can in the time we have left to keep him comfortable and allow him the best quality of life–even if it will be short. Dexter doesn’t have a bucket list, doesn’t have anything that he’d hoped to accomplish in his life that is left undone. He has eaten the treats, played with the toys and other dogs, taken the walks, and loved the humans. This is all he wished for, everything he wanted. Attempting extreme measures to get more time would be about us, our needs, and that’s not right, not now and not for this dog.

This means we very literally are taking things one day at a time. If he’s had a good day, we agree to go together into the next. And so far the only way his experience has changed is a sometimes stuffy, snotty, slightly bloody nose and sneezing, taking a daily dose of an anti-inflammatory (which as far as he knows is just “I get more treats and attention than before” since each dose is wrapped in something yummy and followed by a “good boy!”), and no more 8-10 mile hike/runs–which to be honest is completely heartbreaking, but I think about it like he’s gotten too old for them, a reality we would have faced it he’d lived to be too old, an option I’d prepared myself for and expected.

Because I need to both pay closer attention to Dexter and my own grief surrounding this new reality, I am distracted, weepy, raw and tired. If I wake up during the night, which I do, it’s hard to get back to sleep, so I’m not getting enough rest. I am doing what has to get done, but almost everything else has been put on hold so I can focus on this change, this caretaking and letting go.

And while meditation is something that would help me in this, I find myself avoiding it, forgetting or even refusing. On the surface, it’s that I don’t have time and when I do, I’m too tired. Underneath, I am reluctant to face the full force of my grief, to sit with my fear and panic, to stay with the uncertainty and impermanence. And it’s easy under stress to slip back into old habits, smashing myself to bits, pushing and doing rather than being gentle and caring for myself. Under these circumstances, I’m finding it hard to get myself to my cushion.

And yet, I knew coming here and telling you, confessing, coming clean, would allow me to forgive myself, to soften and be gentle, to commit to trying again. This morning, after walking the dogs, I meditated. First I listened to Susan Piver, my virtual meditation instructor and friend, give a short talk about meditation and creativity, in which she reminded us (Open Heart Project Practitioners) that all you have to do is start–drop everything, let go, and begin. Even in the midst of meditation practice, if you notice you’ve drifted off into story or daydreams and fantasy, if you find yourself caught up in thoughts or carried away by strong emotions, simply notice and come back to the breath, return your focus to the technique and begin again.

A magic thing happened during my practice this morning. Dexter had been next to me on the floor, playing with his Little D, and when I adjusted myself for practice, he got up on the futon next to my cushion. As I meditated, he rested, and something about his gray dapple against the purple, the morning light streaming in the window over his head, the way he was posed–I was dropped directly into the present moment, a place where he was his most beautiful, a space where we were present and together–a perfect moment. Then he heard a garbage truck and got down to investigate. When his front paws hit the floor at the same time as a breath in/half bark out, he snorted, gagged a bit, a symptom of the tumor, and then he was gone.

I was alone on my meditation cushion, focused on my breath. His absence, the shadow of his presence, was so immediate and tangible, even though his physical presence had gone. In those three or so minutes, our entire relationship played out–our beautiful togetherness, each authentically ourselves and present, followed by a moment of his illness, and then his departure met by my loss, sadness. Through it all ran the thread of my practice, being distracted but noticing and coming back. It was a profound reminder of the way life is, the way love goes, and that no matter what, you can always start again.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher