Three weeks ago we euthanized our beloved chocolate lab. He was only seven but had ruptured a spinal disc, and despite surgery and rehab, he remained paralyzed and incontinent. There was only one loving choice.
I thought about writing of the outpouring of love and support during a long six weeks of attempted rehab. That in all our despair, exhaustion and grief there was this amazing alive connection all around us. Neighbors who knew us from years of dog walking rang the doorbell. Family members who rarely spoke to us came over with a hug. Church members brought food and dog biscuits. Even the postman who refused to carry treats for that bundle of wagging love left us a card. We were touched by the motley community who held us during our siege and subsequent grief.
But instead, what feels important to me now is the spiritual practice of hanging in there during the grayness of recovery. What John O’Donohue in his book To Bless the Space Between Us calls the Interim Time. When we are still occasionally “ambushed by grief”, where “no place looks like itself”, where “everything seems withheld” and “The path you took here is washed out; the way forward is still concealed from you.” Much of the raw grieving for our baby is past, but the tide turning back to a world of color hasn’t happened. In our culture it’s ok to feel this way for a week – but THREE weeks? For a DOG?
And worse, because Toby was only seven, and we had put our older border collie down just four months earlier, the easy path seems to be a slow slide into cynicism. I don’t believe Toby is up in heaven catching Frisbees with all our past pets. I don’t believe I’m going to see him again when I die. He’s dust in a tin on my bookshelf. Life is a series of losses and then you die. So my skeptical story line goes. And how true is this for other UUs?
And yet. And yet. As a person dedicated to a spiritual life, I refuse to let myself fall into total pessimism. I sort of recognize that in its extreme, it’s no more valid than my friends’ enviable Frisbee beliefs. But without this afterlife perspective, what do I DO? Hence my current meditation (and life) practice of hanging out in the grayness. The Interim Time. Believing things will eventually shift, but not on my schedule. Not judging myself for the feelings of flatness, and lack of delighting in the world. Maybe even being curious about them. Realizing this is a counter-cultural radicalism of having no answer but also not yet moving on.