The good news: It's not cancer. Thank God. Even though the results support my, and the vet's, intuition, I'm still vastly relieved.
The strange news: It was something called mucinosis, a common affliction in Shar Peis, extremely rare in other breeds. True, Silas eats rice daily and has a black spot on his tongue, but even with his mysterious past I'm relatively certain he's not Chinese.
So, tomorrow we'll go back to the vet. He'll get checked and re-bandaged, and I'll get a chance to find out more. Could be a symptom of hypothyroidism, could be a one-time oddity. We shall see. I'm just extremely grateful it's nothing serious, because the strain and stress so soon after Lucy's passing would quickly wipe us both out.
I read a quote by Byron Katie this morning that hit home:
If you want real control, drop the illusion of control. Let life live you. It does anyway.
Yes. Today I will show up, relax, and let life live me.
Lucy's favorite napping spot, upside down in the backseat with door open
"Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for awhile." The Princess Bride
A rough emotional week. Mornings are hardest. Before Lucy I'd never suddenly lost someone I love, much less witnessed the passage. One minute here and fine, the next . . . gone. In my arms. Before my eyes. I'm still reeling from the shock and it hurts like hell. I've started what-iffing. What if I hadn't taken her to the river that day? What if I'd known doggie CPR? Could I have saved her? Questions I have to nip in the bud because they torment.
All of the sudden looking at photos of Lucy hurts, but I can't/won't stop. So happy, so alive, so silly, so NOISY—things I know she still is, just not in her body. Yet it's her physical presence I miss with all my heart and all my senses. I love her body. Her body seems such a part of her spirit. Floppy ears, floppy tongue, three legs, her ghost arm, her hippity hop, her beautiful eyes, her long wonkable nose, her fast-wagging tail, her smiles.
Night before last I had my first dream about her, which I believe was actually a visitation. In the dream I opened a dark pair of curtains just enough to peer through, and there she was: Lucy, curled up on a chair like I used to have, just looking at me like, "Hi Mama."
Wish I could say that peeling back the curtains into the spirit world comforted me, but I just miss her. It's one of the few truths I know.
People keep telling me to be gentle with myself as I walk through my grief, and I'm heeding their advice. I'm discovering then keep doing what provides some relief: talking about Lucy, writing down memories, spending chill-time with friends, going to AA meetings, praying (on knees), playing with Silas, swimming, walking, zoning out with movies, working as needed, soaking in every gesture of support. Last night a friend and I watched About a Boy and I actually felt delight. Stephen Colbert delights me. Being silly with Silas delights me. I think intentionally seeking pleasure (the healthy kind—and the occasional milkshake with whipped cream kind) is the only way I'm going to survive this lifetime.
Yesterday at Home Depot I heard a man say he'd lost his dog that morning. He was grief-stricken. They'd just lost another dog two weeks ago. "Two dogs in one month," he said softly. I looked in his eyes, touched his arm and offered my condolences.
Why do people get so aggravated with each other? We never know what another soul is going through.
I have no words of wisdom. But I do know the importance of a kind word, a warm hand. Of being witnessed. There's a saying in the rooms of AA: "We don't shoot our wounded." I am grateful to have learned from my sober sisters and brothers the necessity and grace of being totally open and honest.
Marion Woodman wrote, "At the very point of vulnerability is where the surrender takes place—that is where the god enters. The god comes through the wound."
I don't know what the god is. But I'm learning that the wound needs fresh air. The wound is an opening where grace and love enter too.
P.S. About the title—Beans is one of Lucy's nicknames.
My favorite stretch of the Flathead River between Perma and St. Regis
Yesterday I drove home from a spontaneous trip to Montana. I needed to be with my family at our annual reunion. Being there was surprisingly healing and definitely what Lucy would have wanted. I both missed her and felt her presence, especially by the river and in her corner of the couch. My good girl. I left while I still felt OK, before I hit the skids. I'm learning to spot my limits on the horizon.
Sadness comes and goes in brief yet powerful waves. Smiles followed by anguish buying dog food at Petco and writing beans on my shopping list. (Beans is one of Lucy's nicknames.) All these firsts, which I'm trying to not make such a big deal of, because I can slip into tormenting myself. But sometimes they rear up on their own. Notice me, they demand. Feel me.
Mostly I'm hanging in there. Taking care of myself. Taking care of Silas. Somewhat taking care of business. Not pushing it. I've given myself permission to let my feelings be, without judgement. Even letting moments of inner peace and joy have their time onstage guilt-free.
On a positive note: Silas is now with me permanently. No more shared custody. I have full custody of Silas, and God has full custody of Lucy and Elliott. (Until I join them in the spirit world.) It's a new chapter in my life, one I would gladly exchange for one that still had Lucy written all over it. Never before have I sensed the transience of everything. It's just for now, I tell myself. This separation. This missing-ness. This everything I can and cannot name.
So. Today. A blazing hot Sunday afternoon. Silas has a Montana hangover and is flat on his couch with a fan blowing on him. My evening includes banana pudding, Mad Men and an abundance of gratitude.
Day by day, whether we like it or not, we're forging a new normal, because that's how life goes on. With the custody decision, something has shifted and settled. It's Silas and me. Relieved and grateful. Tentatively excited to gently explore and discover what's next.
Yesterday I received a card enclosing a small gold heart from my friend Carole. Carole and I have known each other since the mid-80s, when an old spiritual tribe found one another at Digital Equipment Corp. We reconnected on Facebook. She is an astrologer and healer. This is what she wrote:
As I wrote in my email to you, Lucy asked me to send this to you. The dream experience was very short and very clear.
This heart was hand carved by Stephen Huneck, the creator of The Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury, VT. I got it when I went there for Stephen's memorial service. The beautiful dog energy that flows from there knows no boundaries, and dogs in spirit I'm sure hang out there a lot. I believe Stephen is now working at the Rainbow Bridge.
I feel blessed that Lucy came to me this way and asked me to be her messenger. I've charged this Heart with Reiki, and Lucy has filled it with her unending Love. She is so excited! Lots of puppy smiles. She wants you to know that her heart and yours will beat together forever, and she will love you always.
Many, many blessings Carla!
The heart was wrapped in pink tissue paper. Lucy's favorite color. :) That this arrived on a very difficult day is no coincidence. My gratitude to Carole is inexpressible. It simply brings me to my knees. There is the seen, and there is the unseen. I continue to pray to be open to the unseen.
One of the first things I read this morning was "Grief is Universal but grieving is personal." My grief for Lucy comes in waves. Mornings are tsunamis. I pray. I snuggle with Silas. I read Facebook and grimace at the predictable plethora of Life is amazing! Everything's perfect! status updates. Fuck that. I go downstairs. I feed Silas. I feed myself. I play with Silas. I open my car's back door, because that's what I did when Lucy was here and I'm not ready to stop yet.
I miss her so much. I'm going to write soon about some of the things I miss about her. It's still really hard. Sometimes I'm OK, sometimes all I can handle is Good Orderly Direction (one acronym for God) one moment at a time.
I do my best to get through the day, doing what I can without pushing myself. Most days someone comes over, distracting Silas and me for a few hours. The companionship is extremely comforting.
Today is only the second Monday since she passed. I hate Mondays right now. I prayed pretty much constantly this morning and had a good cry while packing candle orders and working in my studio.
The mail delivered a sympathy card from someone I don't even know, plus a gift from my friend Carole. I want to write about it and will as soon as I get her permission to share what she wrote in her card. It was so powerful -- a gift not only from Carole, but from Spirit and Lucy. I stood at my altar, lit my Lucy candle, closed my eyes to say a prayer and as I touched Lucy's collar it felt energetically exactly as though I was touching Lucy. I stood there quietly for a while, peaceful inside, basking in the knowledge that I was touching her energy. I've never experienced anything like that before.
Immediately afterwards I said something to Silas about his sister and he trotted over to the dining room drawer where I keep their dental chews aka Dobie crack. Lucy was OBSESSED with dental chews, wanted them 3 times a day. Silas likes them but rarely asks. I really believe Lucy was here and prompted Silas to ask for a treat.
Silas and I had a really nice afternoon. Some work, some play, some laughter. I am so grateful for Silas. I am equally grateful for today's energetic connection to Lucy. I've been praying to be open to experiencing her in new ways, with new senses. I knew I wanted to write about today even though I don't have enough focus to write flowery details. This is mostly for my own memory. Two weeks. A very hard morning transformed into a very special day.
I believe I will never quite know. Though I play at the edges of knowing, truly I know our part is not knowing,
I worked awhile today, but I'm not pushing myself. My friend Cary told me that in one culture, people in mourning go up a mountain and don't come back down until they're ready. Could be 2 weeks, could be 6 months. It's up to the individual.
This week has been full of tears and blessings.
Tuesday I had a session with our longtime animal communicator, Polly Klein of Tonglen Healing Arts for Animals. I was able to hear from Lucy and share with Lucy and this was comforting beyond words. Polly and Lucy reassured me that I have been communicating directly with Lucy ever since she passed, and can continue to always. I've been talking to Lucy as if she was here, because she still is. I've also begun using the voice Lucy uses to talk to me, Silas and the world. Lucy always has and always will have a lot to say. :) It's helping all 3 of us, although sometimes it confuses Silas because he sees Lucy too.
I miss my girl with all my heart.
This morning I got super pissed at God. I vented and sobbed and cursed and questioned. Eventually it dissolved into sadness and hurt. At 10, Lucy wasn't old. She was happy, loved, wanted and healthy as a horse. No one was ready for Lucy to pass, including Lucy. It seems so unnecessary to have happened now. Lucy told Polly that it felt like she got shoved out of her body. It was that sudden and unexpected for her, too. She tried to get back into her body, but said she was held and smothered with comfort (angels?) that wouldn't let her return.
Why did she have to pass now? WHY? Goddammit. Katherine Graham once said, "Some questions don't have answers, which is a terribly difficult lesson to learn." The only message I heard this morning is that life is God's party, and we're just the invited guests.
I continue to be awed and humbled and helped by the outpouring of love, support and gestures of sympathy. Yesterday I received a beautiful memory journal from a longtime zm customer and Facebook friend. Today Silas and I received two cards in the mail. The Mom of zm workerbee Max baked heart-shaped doggie biscuits for Silas's birthday yesterday. Plus so much more...
I, too, am being held and smothered with comfort. Angels are everywhere.
And I'd gladly return everything if it meant getting Lucy back.
This grief completely mirrors the love and joy I feel for her. It SUCKS to go through this -- I just want her back -- but it's a clean grief all for Lucy. There's no muffling it or stuffing it. Trying to do so would be nothing less than a slap in the face of the love I have for her.
A 2-hour backyard picnic prepared entirely by Abby, dedicated to Lucy. On the menu: pasta salad, turkey sandwiches, sun tea and homemade ice cream sandwiches. Lucy would approve. At one point I realized I had actually forgotten I was grieving for about 5 minutes. That is Grace.
A morning visit from Dad.
Sharing about Lucy at my noon AA meeting. Most important, how I'm certain the prayers, love and support I'm receiving from people like you are the only reason I'm not a complete wreck, even experiencing fleeting moments of peace and acceptance. So many people have connected with Lucy and are loving her, Silas and me. Blows me away. There is a Power greater than me at work here, and every single one of you has a part in it. Thank God for Facebook, AA, friends and family. Thank God for you.
A phone call from my young friend Danielle inviting me for a swim at Liberty Lake. I couldn't go, but I was deeply touched by the invitation.
Picking up my Valley Girl Triathlon race packet and having Martina lob the brilliant idea for Lucy T-shirts! Motto: Live. Love. Lucy. Now I just need someone to design them.
So, all things considered, a fairly OK day. Lots of lovey time with Silas. Mornings and evenings are the hardest for us both. Sometimes it already feels like I haven't seen Lucy in months. :( But I feel her presence, hear her "voice" (she has always had a LOT to say :)) and am really looking forward to Tuesday's session with Polly.
Not exactly enthused for Sunday's triathlon, but I've put in the training and know I'll feel differently once I'm milling around with 500 women on the beach. Sometimes no matter what you feel, you've gotta just suit up and show up.
Besides, I'm doing it for Lucy -- who loved to swim, loved to run and loved to bark madly at bicyclists. She would most definitely approve.
I am lost. I can tell Silas is too. There's no one for him to howl with or kick his butt wrestling, or watch over the yard for. Life is too quiet without Lucy's squeaking, barking, howling and general insistent cuteness. I want her back. She was here 3 days ago at this time, perfectly fine. What the fuck?!?
God, I don't understand anything.
Silas and I have been bombarded with love and support. I've decided to keep track for my own consolation. Yesterday alone we had:
A card slipped under my front door from Ron, Mary Ellen & their 20 paws (5 dogs)
A morning visit from Tonya bearing freshly baked warm banana bread (Silas loves baked goods too)
A morning visit from my Mama
An afternoon visit from Cary, with pink potted flowers, a card and a squeaky toy for Silas that says BITE ME
An offer from Abby to bring lunch on Friday, and invite others, and dedicate the lunch to Lucy
Dozens more comments, posts and emails offering support, sympathy, understanding and love
A super fun playtime with Max for Silas, which definitely helped lighten both their hearts
An afternoon visit from Tonya bearing homemade vegetable beef soup
The first sign from Lucy/God via my Mom! After Lucy's ashes were delivered to her -- because I'm not ready to have Lucy in that form yet -- my Mom went back down to finish making yogurt and there was a black Lucy hair floating on top of the milk! If that'd happened at my house it'd be a typical day, but Lucy's never stepped foot/paw inside my parents' new house and my Mom had clean clothes on. A definite sign.
So much LOVE, support and hugs from women at my Wednesday night AA meeting
A rose quartz crystal -- which symbolizes love -- anonymously left on my front rockery
An evening with Sami, who filled my water glass and brought me plates of fruit with whip cream and wrote both a letter to Lucy and a Philosophy paper about Lucy (with her permission I'll post them both)
I have never experienced more love, connection and support than I am right now. I can't even tell you how much it means to me. How much it helps.
I'm not functional and I suppose it's good I don't expect myself to be. The most I can do is the bare minimum at work which today is going to be packing up one candle order then emailing wholesale customers that their orders will hopefully ship next week. I can't do more than that. I've decided to go for a swim at noon, and Sami's coming over to sit with Silas while I'm gone. I don't want him to be alone.
This afternoon I'm going to start a new routine to replace his old routine with Lucy. I HATE THAT I HAVE TO BE DOING THIS. I just want her back! But in addition to the usual off-leash playtime I'm going to start taking him for a walk every afternoon, during the time the two of them would normally roughhouse.
Writing helps. Being with people helps. But I can't avoid feeling this immense grief and loss, which comes and goes in waves when I stop writing, when the people leave.
The last 7 years have not been easy. I thought 2010 would be a banner year, and the first half was genuinely good. Yet once again life feels like a neverending series of loss and grief punctuated by brief intervals of happiness. I've sent a Vacation Request in to God, that I don't have to come back and do this Earth Dance again. It's too hard for someone like me. Like Tonya and I were saying this morning, some of us were born missing key pieces to the coping puzzle.
Meanwhile I shower Silas with love, friends, play and affection. Wander around. Breathe. Cry. Shower. Pray. Sleep. Be held. It's all I can do.
Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains. Kahlil Gibran