It’s not the hardest thing, but that feels wrong to say. Because it feels like the hardest thing—this loss, though it’s not. After all, I held my father’s hand as he died. I watched the light fall from his eyes, heard the breath rattle-whoosh from his lungs, felt his soul pass me, not lingering, not waiting for my tears to dry. I lived past those moments, even when I thought my heart fell through my feet and crumbled at his leaving.
Maybe the memories your leaving brings is why the tears won’t dry, why they sting my tired eyes, break my tired heart. Maybe you reminded me of what it was like to be helpless and holding my daddy’s hand as he left me. Holding your body, feeling what made you you be swept away, maybe it was like that other terrible day…
Or not. Maybe it’s because you were my friend. My front seat passenger, tongue drooping, window-open boy. My morning, afternoon, evening companion—the first to my office at lunch, waiting by my car after work, snoring on the floors of our rooms at night, following me even into the bathroom. My too big lap dog, always fit right in my arms, acting the baby. My greeting committee, looking first, constantly searching, for mommy. My forgiveness—never remembering my grumpy days, laying your toys, ropes, treats on my legs, only wanting to play, desiring my praise. And I should have played. Played more. Patted my lap in invitation more. Shuttled you around in your favorite seat more. I can’t now. I can only cry, and cling to wishes that will change nothing.
Still…I wish. I wish I would have been ten minutes earlier to our lunch date. I wish…I’d chased you down this morning when you, like you were want to do, ignored my call and ran off with your soggy doggy friends. I wish…that you were luckier than this insurmountable pain. I wish…that my sinuses weren’t so clogged with grief when I cradled your head in those last moments. I wish I could’ve smelled you, alive, one last time.
Because I loved your smell, the way wet earth and musty mutt clung to you even after a bath. I loved to kiss your fuzzy muzzle and rub the arch of your nose in the way that made your eyes close in contentment. Instead, I rubbed your nose that one last time and watched the light slowly leave your eyes, like it left his, and I cried too hard to breathe, much like then. And felt the pain of loss all over again, same but not the same. Loss and grief are strange things, fast partners for compiling pain.
So maybe it’s not the hardest thing, even if it reminds me of that same grief...even though the ache of loss is what I’ve always known. Or…it’s the hardest thing in this precious moment. These precious moments count. That last moment, our first moment, all moments with you counted, and compiled and blessed my days.
It’s hard not to talk to you, my silly mutt, at night in my Cookie-love voice, getting you treats you never worked for—never had to, with eyes so full that you always got spoils unasked for. I already miss the steady breathing of your doggy dreams. I will miss you constantly searching for me. I will catch myself searching the rooms, the roads, the sand of the beach for your imprint, as though you only got lost with your rez buddies, went astray.
Maybe, like my children sweetly said, you got to greet the ones who’ve moved on, dearly beloved and temporarily gone. I hope they know to rub that spot on your nose. I hope they know to let you lay your chin on their knees, to pat their laps and invite you to sit, even if you’re too big. I hope…I wish…I grieve, for you, my sweet rez doggy.
H.M Jones is the author of B.R.A.G Medallion Honor and NIEA finalist book Monochrome, its prequel Fade to Blue, the Adela Darken Graphic Novellas, Al Ravien's Night, The Immortals series, and several short stories.