We eat cold pizza, heaping half-eaten pieces atop one another from last night’s boxes.
The night the pizza man delivered the pies to our door, he couldn’t have known that we were going to pieces on the other side – not even remotely aware that I’d just woken up from a three-hour long nap following one of the worst moments I’ve ever experienced.
Toby gave a half-hearted bark at the stranger in the doorway, and I shushed him, feeling immediately ashamed as I did.
“I have one, too. Thinks she’s a German Shepherd. But she’s only seven pounds.”
He smiled. I handed him his tip. And shut the door before I fell apart again. His comment triggered the flood of emotion being held back by a mental dam.
I walked the pizzas into the kitchen. I stared at Andy. We opened the boxes. We sighed. We recognized our grief, digested it with our pizza.
Because that’s what we’re supposed to do.
This is loss.
It’s a point in time that reminds us of that thin line between living and dying, between here and wherever our mind decides the hereafter resides. Loss seems like a measurable moment, an action; but it’s like a melting ice cube – it expands with each passing hour, covering everything without any sort of pattern or plan. It just keeps going, and permeates everything.
Like most nights when I can’t sleep, last night found me cleaning and dusting, sweeping and wiping the floor.
Clean, clean, clean. I told myself. This will dull the heartache.
That if I put things in their place, it’ll make it easier to process. That if Pearl’s harness and leash and tags are neatly tucked into a box, this grief can be handled, packaged, and hidden away.
That stowing away her food and water bowls and bed would distance me from collapse – that hiding her stuffed rabbit at the bottom of the garbage would free me from thinking about her.
About the end – the moments leading up to our parting: The walk down the corridor. The door closing behind us. The moment the first needle went in and she hugged her paws around my neck then slowly slipped out of my arms onto the table as Andy whispered every sweet thing in the world to her. The moment the technician said, “It will be instantaneous,” and plunged the second syringe’s contents, and the light extinguished from her eyes.
But there’s no escaping it. No amount of diversion will help.
Today, we bought a plant and I told Andy that this would be Pearl’s plant – that we had to find her floral equivalent. Something hearty and prickly; something lasting and strong and beautiful.
Now it’s here in our apartment, illuminated by lamplight. But Pearl’s not.
Her absence is startling. I sit down and my lap isn’t immediately filled by her stretched-out, dozing self. I crinkle a bag and turn around to empty space rather than her shifting back and forth from paw to paw while quietly staring.
The absence, the quiet – these are the avatars of loss that’re the most difficult to process.
But every now and then, between the tears we shed, between the comings and goings and doings, a laugh fractures the silence; a macabre joke. A funny remembrance. A cherished memory.
And we learn something more about grief: that a few dark moments can’t overshadow the best; that our grief illustrates how much she enriched our lives – that the good will supplant the bad, given time.
And we will keep going.
Because that’s what we
have to do.