A year ago today we gathered around you and snuffled your fur and stroked your velvet soft ears as we eased you into comfort and you died, as peacefully as I could make it. It was quiet in the room aside from our cries and sobbing. The vet told us you fought her when she put in the catheter into your leg to administer the drugs and this surprised me not at all. I miss you still. We have Tiger and Nugget now, both great furry companions whose company I enjoy (well, I could do without the 5am wake up calls from the damn cat as he demands his food) but I have to admit, I still miss you more than I thought I would. I have to admit I’m enjoying not having a fur covered chair all the time – both Tiger and Nugget’s fur is a different texture than yours. And I even have to admit it’s fun having a dog you can take to the park and let go off leash. But I miss you, Moo Face. I miss the way you smelled and your dark, intense eyes. You were the dog I needed in the early 2000s, the dog that unconditionally loved me so that in time, I could unconditionally love myself. I hope where you are is full of peanut butter and salmon skin and fluffy soft pillows.
Ten years ago today you slipped into your death quietly and peacefully. You were done with the pain. I was relieved for you that you died. Much has happened in ten years, Dad. I married that guy you liked – the first one you liked – the one you laughingly asked to refer to you as “Big Chief”. We had a baby who I named in part after you, and he’s now an incredible nearly-eight year old. He is smart, charming, inquisitive, confidant, funny, sensitive and thoughtful. I know a lot of people think their kid is the best but I think we totally won the kid lottery. You would love him so much. He is your kind of kid. We have a happy and comfortable home often full of friends and good times. We camp and canoe and I think of you every time I am on the water, of the time spent on boats with you. I got some tattoos to remind me of you, a life long sailor. I imagine you’d laugh at me for doing it.
I have strong opinions now about assisted suicide, thanks to you. I have respect and admiration for people who work in palliative care. Have you heard of death doulas, Dad? This is a rising industry here. It is secular work to ease people into their deaths, and often, to help manage the practical parts of death, like getting documents in order and preparing friends and family. I’m fascinated by it. You were your own death doula. I hope I have your strength when it is my time.
I think about you a lot. I think about what it was like to be your daughter when you were alive and I think about the lessons you taught me without even knowing you were teaching me. Hard lessons, often. Patience with people who are struggling, loving people who are hard to love, and being honest with yourself. I find myself wishing you were still around to help us with home renos or improvements – you were so skilled in so many areas and on more than one occasion I’ve thought “Oh I should call Dad, he’ll know how to fix that,” and then I remember yes you would but no I can’t call you. WWDD. What Would Dad Do.
When you first died, some wise friends told me that it never gets easier – and that’s true, it doesn’t and it hasn’t – but that it gets easier to manage. It does get easier to refocus myself when I find myself hurting from your loss. It gets easier to acknowledge my grief and let myself sit it in when I’m weepy from missing you. I’m much better at knowing when I need to be alone and cry. It gets easier to tell people how much I miss you. I also take comfort in sharing, when asked, the ways in which I manage. I’m glad, I guess, that my experience with your cancer and your death can help some of the people in my life now.
I am so mournful that Kale will only know you from stories and pictures. He asks about you a lot, about what you were like and where you lived and what kind of work you did. The other day, I showed him that picture of you in Costa Rica walking back from the beach with a boogie board in hand. He said you looked fun. Sometimes when you were alive, Dad, I didn’t think you were that great. You drank too much and you sometimes said hurtful things and you were absent from my life a lot. But my heart swells when I think about how we reconnected right before you died, and that you’re someone I’m proud to tell stories about to my son, your grandson. I miss you so much.
Until we meet again,