Grief is an odd thing…perhaps the greatest lurker-troll. We can sense it throughout our day, stirring around the delta of consciousness, but not quite palpable. Then it strikes, out of the depths, with full, blunt, force. Perhaps in a momentary reflection on the past…a picture, a smell, or a simple chore. The thought of how our loved one is no more, will never take part in this life again strikes us as if by complete surprise. In the flash of an instant we shift from a normal composure to a sobbing agony of lonely contemplation.
Henry and I have spent the week like two shades, walking through a world of life. We were in grief, almost unable to speak to each other, the first few days. Then as Monday dawned our Cody routines (years of morning and evening walks, putting out the food, refreshing the water, cleaning up the hair, etc.,) dissolved before our minds and we were thrust face first into the recognition that he was a key part of every single day. Without him, there was no more need for sunrise pictures, no more late night encounters with wild boar, no more playing catch, no more wagging tail when we arrived home (cats just don’t do that).
I am certain that this deep grief brought about by the death of a beloved companion, is all the data needed to explain human belief in the afterlife and spirits. Even as we watched him die my mind wanted to think I would see him again in the land of milk and honey. That we would run, hike, swim, play-catch again, in the ever after. This week at odd times (usually around routines) I would “feel” him there waiting for his dinner, staring at me to take him out for a walk, or wagging in happy welcome at our end of day reunion. In a few instances the feelings as so palpable that I swung around to check. These ghosts and heavens exist in our mind, and it is our human way of dealing with the pains of loss.
At work, with everyone returning and sharing their holiday stories, has been a largely joyous time. We momentarily (or even for hours) forget our grief and are swept up in work. Then, someone will ask about our holidays, we will start to speak, and in the telling of our own winter break adventures, will almost stumble on how it ended in personal tragedy. Sometimes we awkwardly shut up before speaking of our lost loved one, and at other times we blurt it out into a more awkward silence.
We cremated Cody today. A surprising number of family and friends joined to say goodbye, demonstrating just how loved he was. This is one more, maybe one last event in his passing, before he starts to fade in our lives and memories. In time habit and memory will fade, and we will again seem whole without his presence. But now, while his corporeal body has returned to dust, his spirit, his essence, his life exists strongly in the memories of those of us who knew him. We will create new routines, around and with the survivors. We will make new, life-long friends, and have new journeys. Cody will never be replaced, or erased, but in time his story will shuffle back a page, a chapter, a book, in the great collection of our experiences. Until then we bring his ashes home, and eventually with us to the states. We bring him in our lives and memories while we make more.