Something stirs in my Plum’s heart, I never know when to expect it, he begins to cry over the loss of our pets from 2 and 3 years ago. Significant because he is only 6, I often wonder how much he really remembers. Yet a sadness overcomes him, he becomes almost inconsolable. The loss is deep, the yearning is mournful. It matters not that we have new beasts who push past me to lay atop him, providing comfort with heavy fur. Warm dog breath finally eases his pain as we rock and talk about lifetimes, about natural order and about heaven. We agree that it still just hurts when those you love are gone.
He doesn’t remember that one of the dogs he is mourning used to bark all the damn time, insisting as only a border collie can do, that we play with her. He doesn’t remember that we had to monitor her all the time so she didn’t herd him in his little walker. He doesn’t remember that I had to nurse her the last two years of her life, forcing her to eat as I watched clumps grow around her midsection. He only knows he misses her. God only knows why.
He doesn’t remember that our other dog, the best rescue ever that we saved from Hurricane Katrina watery parasites and brought home to love, was so strong he could knock my Plum over. We had to keep an eye on that one as well, Plum was just toddling and could easily be toppled. He doesn’t remember that he used to flinch from the loud battles they all used to have. He only knows he misses him, God only knows why.
He surely doesn’t remember the last loss, our sweet sweet rescue who was so protective of me she used to bare her teeth and nip a bit when others came too close. She nipped at him a couple of times and also nestled up so closely when he was feeling, well, any strong emotion. He had to battle with her to get to me many times, he didn’t like her on his bed but there she slept, watching over him, worrying about his doorway when he wasn’t here. He only knows that he misses her, God only knows why.
Plum only remembers how soft their fur was, how much he loved that they loved him. He listens to stories about their better days, their finer qualities and takes those in as his own memories. So sometimes he weeps, we comfort him. I understand his selective memory. That is how our hearts heal from brokenness, we smooth over the rough places of hurt with stories of laughter and silliness, we focus on the good times and loosen the damaged patches from our soul storage. We begin to remember with grace. This is how I have dealt with the loss of my own mother, 5 years ago today.
With each passing year, it becomes harder to remember the difficulties in our relationship, there were plenty. The big things don’t ever go away maybe but their weight, their importance diminishes as more sweet memories and deep longing replace them, smooth out the hurts. Distance allows me to see her as a person aside from her role, to see that her own needs weren’t met, see her own challenges in life, and wonder how she ever managed to love at all. I especially have become so much more aware of the ways that I hurt her, the times I let her down, distanced myself from her. I look back at our relationship with fresh eyes and a sore soul and know that we just both did the best we could, we were both so broken, so badly damaged. So somedays I find myself weeping for my mother, a strange sight indeed to anyone who knows what a complicated path we took. Those tears smooth out more bad places, wash away more painful memories so that my soul fills with snapshots of those times we laughed and we shopped and we shared recipes.
When Plum is crying, I ask him what he would like to do with his long lost pets if he had just one more chance with them. He often says he wants to play with them or give them a hug. So then we do that with the ones who are near and we go outside and speak to the clouds. We claim our aches and send them up to the sky and then we rejoice with the barking yapping beasts who are close by. The breath of God dries our cheeks and sends fresh joys in the rushing chasing ball carrying beasts who long for our attention. The same is true for me, as I consider what one more thing I would want from my mom. At one point it would have been affirmation of all my hurts, that I was right she was wrong. Later it might have been that she really did love me. The long road of healing now shows I need neither of those last conversations, I know she was as right as she could be and she always loved me as best she could. Today I would only want to tell her that I am sorry. But just like every other conversation I wanted to have, she already knows that. All I really want is one last time to snuggle up and share some comfort. Healing for us both, all we ever both sought. My soul is making progress in the mom compartment. So I speak my yearning to God and cuddle with the one who is here, my Plum who really just wants to dance today. So we dance. And I know my mom is rejoicing at our silliness.
We all know that death strikes too suddenly, too often with no warning. Sometimes we have the chance to say our goodbyes but still healing takes much longer. Lifetimes, everything has a lifetime, I teach my Plum. I don’t teach him hurts have lifetimes. We are practicing giving those up to the clouds as they come, in the hopes that his little soul may become the generation to grow up less scabbed and scarred, more trusting and open. Still, he cries and I comfort. Today I leak out some sorrow of my own, unexpected feelings of loss for a mother who left us 5 years ago and still is missed. And today we dance and throw balls for beasts and snuggle up just a bit closer. Soul healing means making some new memories and letting the old fly away with grace.
I remember you mom, as the woman you were and the woman I wanted you to be and all the love that fell somewhere in between. Look at Plum, hasn’t he grown? His love for our beasts surely melts your heart. I feel your smile so deep in my soul it is pushing water out of my eyes. Let’s go dance.