Pauline wrote this week to tell me that she credit's her very sick brother's dogs with keeping him alive and working and giving purpose to his life. I am grateful always, wrote Pauline, to whoever thought to create creatures so wonderful that they can touch a person's heart and heal it when no human can find a way. Amen.
This is one of the gifts of grief. Perhaps because they are not of our species, but something very different, something pure and without calculation, these alien spirits enter our unsuspecting hearts in such a way as to touch them, open them up and help us heal from the wounds we often inflict on ourselves or one another.
I have to be honest and say that Rose did this to me, in a number of ways, when I was very ill also.
There was the obvious help, when she would awaken me my by nipping on my ears until I woke up from my various falls on the ice. Or fending off wild pigs in the woods, or coyotes and belligerent rams.
But it was not Disney-like heroics that saved me, rather Rose's powerful spirit, which gave me the strength to come to a forbidding and alien place. The farm was a flight, really, from my own life. I came to find what was missing, the work, love, life, creative and spiritual direction that I had been seeking. I felt that Rose made it possible for me to be here, whether it was true or not. As I descended into darkness and dysfunction, the clarity and evenness of this creature somehow balanced me in just the way Pauline was describing. In that sense, Rose did her work well, and saved me and in that sense, I saved myself. I had given up on my life, in so many ways, but Rose, who was a kind of alter ego here, did not give up on anything, and so, neither did I.
That is a lot of weight to put on a dog, I realize, especially from someone who believes that human connection is always paramount in life.
But Rose's death has helped me to see that grief is a gift in so many ways,
an exercise in love and devotion.
Grief cannot exist without love, and if you feel one, then you have felt the joy of the other.
Grief, for me, is not about death, but life.
It is not about loss, but meaning.
It is not about emptiness, but feeling.
A life without grief is an empty life. Grief is a process that will write it's own story,
in its own time and way. Grief can take care of itself.
But I can still write my own story. Death is a spiritual experience for me, whenever it occurs, and I won't surrender it to the insurers and pharmaceutical companies and doctors and bureaucrats. Rose's story, especially, is a good and happy one. Pauline got it right, I think. You have to bow in wonder to a force that created a sentient being that can touch and heal a human heart, when all of the pills, therapists, books and analysts could not.