Grief, not unlike love
“Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality.Emily Dickinson
When Susie-Belle died, a dog newly saved from a puppy farm was adopted in her memory. A couple of days later, Camilla wrote to tell me that Susie-Belle’s death was the deciding factor in Mabel’s adoption and gave me a few details,
“She has been spayed, had a bilateral inguinal hernia fixed and her left eye removed. She has a cataract in the other eye and very few teeth…obviously she’s still very shut down but a good start….she has been here for 48 hours now and is doing very well. I love her so much already”
At the time, I was deep in the misery of mourning the loss of Susie-Belle, my dad was dying and I was barely capable of thinking about anything other than death and the pain I felt. But hearing how Mabel’s life was about to change sparked through the sadness. Knowing it was in part due to Susie-Belle’s death, felt like her memory was being honoured by Mabel’s new life. It was comforting.
For the past 5 years, the love Camilla expressed early on for Mabel intensified as their relationship flourished. In time, she grew to sense and understand more clearly, beyond the emotional harm left by her years in the puppy farm, Mabel’s real and wonderful chararacter. Their shared and close life created many special memories. Like a touching afternoon spent with Camilla’s elderly and ill mother where Mabel comforted and Camilla sat in wonder.
Following her adoption it took Mabel 3 months to feel brave and curious enough, to leave the kitchen to see where everyone disappeared to in the evenings. And several more months to move from peering around the sofa to jumping onto it to enjoy a next level up of home comforts.
Once discovered, it was only as age caught up with her stiff and ailing body that the sofa was no longer fully and daily claimed by Mabel.
Last week Mabel died.
For 5 years Mabel’s independent, stoical character has filled Camilla’s home. In the kindest, hardest, final act of love, Camilla gave Mabel a peaceful end. Surrounded by love.
The majority of Mabel’s life, measured in years alone, was hard beyond imagination. But if we consider her life’s quality since adoption Mabel’s was treasured. She had all she needed to know she was safe and in her own time she undoubtedly understood this. The pain Camilla and family feel at her loss reflects the love all held for Mabel.
The love we feel for dogs doesn’t disappear when they die. It’s still there and it’s why we feel such pain at their death. We have to go through it. In time, we manage to get to a place where our memories cause more happiness than pain once more. How long it takes, is how long it takes. Love gets us through.
Being in grief, it turns out, is not unlike being in love.Mark Doty