The publication of my e-book “The Story Of Rose” has brought many messages of grief to me from all over the world, and it has brought me back to an understanding of my own feelings of grief, which differ from those feelings of many others. Grief is personal and individual and we all feel it in our own way. Every day, I am startled to read that someone is crying, weeping sometimes, over the death of my dog Rose, or of Izzy or Orson before him, and I have been thinking about what grief means to me, and of how I think of it as a beautiful and cleansing thing.
A dazzling thing, a rainbow tapestry of all the colors and meaning of the world. Is something wrong with me? Am I cold and closed down?
It is still difficult for me to understand why people far away would cry for my dog when I have not cried for her, not once after I cried for her on the floor of the vet’s office as she lay dying. And once before that, when I found her lying in a pool of her own vomit, helpless and fighting for her dignity. What is it about grief that it can be experienced so differently, and that I experience it so differently? I do not fault anyone else for the way they grieve, everyone needs to do it their own way. But I do want to talk honestly about how I experience it.
Grief to me is not about crying. There is an wonderful sweet beauty to grieving for me, it is an interior process, a deep and rich melancholy that passes through me and over me like a cool summer breeze or the sounds of rustling leaves in autumn. Death for me, is a form of life itself, an affirmation, for nothing can die without having lived. And nothing can be grieved without having been loved.
Grieving is not a sad thing for me, not a cause for weeping. We will all die, and everything we love shall die, and I do not want to experience each death of a human or animal as an awful thing, a horrible and unexpected shock, evidence that God could not exist or that the world is a cruel and horrible place. Why would we not expect death we it is our one universal experience, the place where left and right means nothing, and there is no need to fear money or illness or anything else?
We all live our lives to their fated end, however long or short, however we die, and Rose lived hers, fully and richly. I do not mourn her life, I celebrate it, I am grateful for it, it was a beautiful thing to see, it made me happy, and insofar as dogs feel these things, I think it made her busy and content. She lived the life of a dog to the fullest, and what more can a dog really want? And what more could I want than Maria, Simon, Frieda, Lenore, Red, my work and farm? Why would I need to mourn in the midst of so many riches? How selfish, how greedy that would be.
Every day people ask me why I don’t mention Orson today, or Izzy tomorrow, or Rose yesterday? Have I forgotten them? They seem to be suggesting that I am callous or hiding something, something they do not forget, that they remember. That they loved my life more than me, loved my dogs more than me. I do not forget, neither do I mourn and grieve. There is a difference. All of these people and animals, living and dead, touch me, shape me, make me who I am. There is not a need to grieve for them, they are embedded in my soul, my consciousness, my writing and work, my love and life. And the last thing I want for my dogs, my life, my work, is for it to be the source of other people’s grief. They are not that for me.
So what, then, should I feel badly about? Why should I weep for a life like Rose’s? Or Izzy, pulled off a farm where he was a abandoned and given the gift of comforting those on the edge of life? Why should anyone grieve for a life like that? What is it about us that we deny the reality of death so determinedly and cannot see the powerful and ecstatic experience of grief, it’s closeness to love, it’s testament to the power and wonder of life. A part of me loves this powerful ballet of grief, and when I think of Rose, as I do when I get so many messages about her these days – so many people experiencing her for the first time – I understand why people cry, I do, and perhaps I can one day explain why I do not cry for her, or about her. She was nothing but a gift, as are all things we love, and just as I have learned not to lament my life in pity and struggle stories, not to moan about the price of gas or the rising cost of things, or this economy, not to waste my time in complaint and lament, so I am hopeful and determined that I will not turn the death of everyone and everything I love – for this is inevitable – into just another continuing lament about the woes of the world, another way to spin gold into straw.
Everything I love and know will die, and I will not be grieving for everything, it is not how I wish to spend my life.
The death of Rose, as of other things I love, will hopefully mean so much more than that.