I’m teaching in Santa Barbara. The sun is setting. The group is having dinner. Someone from Alaska asks me what kind of dog Mira was. How can I possibly say? I start but stop and close my eyes. Another woman offers softly, “I understand.”
In the morning, there’s a man in a wheelchair in our group. He has a service dog, Forest, a golden retriever. Forest is beautiful but I can’t pet another dog, not just yet. I’m afraid, if I do, it will send sweet Mira further away. Throughout the weekend, Forest keeps coming to me. I think he senses my sadness. I think he senses Mira. On Sunday, while I’m talking to the group, Forest gets up, walks to my side, curls up, and leans into my leg. I start to cry. The next morning I reach for Mira when waking. I miss the softness of her face on my lap and the weight of her body leaning against us as we sleep.
The next day, I’m alone in the Hilton in Pasadena with a picture of Mira on the desk, when I hear Pink sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It makes me cry for my father who died while I was flying to him, and cry for Mira who died in our arms at home, and cry for my wife Susan whose heart has been quaked open like the Grand Canyon, and now everything flies through it. I wonder: How can I help them? How can I soothe them? How can I find them? How can I ever let them go?
I dress and walk the streets. The day is beautiful and the light swirling behind the clouds makes me happy, though I’m not ready to be happy. This damn miracle of life just keeps coming.
A Question to Walk With: Tell the story of a grief you carry and how it bumps into the world.
This excerpt is from my book, The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom that Waits in Your Heart (Atria 2016).
*photo credit: Mark Nepo