All of us have suffered grief, and will continue to do so in this realm. It is the human condition. Measuring our grief against that of another always seems so pointless, for it is such a personal experience. When I think of my husband Sid’s loss of his young daughter to leukemia at the tender age of seven, I do say those typical words, “I can’t even imagine.” We do instinctively tend to put ourselves in the other’s shoes, especially if we have children, thinking how it would feel if, God forbid, that would have happened to us. Yet no one else can fully understand another’s grief, really, other than HaShem, who through Yeshua comforts us at these times.
I know for some who don’t have pets, especially the four footed furry ones, it may be hard to imagine the grief I am feeling. On Tuesday it was time to say goodbye to the Intrepid Capt. Punem, our almost 16 year old pug. He was the last of our three pugs, the baby, yet the years had flown and we had to make that terrible choice to let him go. Though possibly the intensity may be less than for a human family member, the process of grief over the loss of a loved one follows a typical pattern for me.
When the wound is fresh, today, Wednesday, as I write this message, it is still hard to talk about it. Yet I am able to function fairly well as long as I don’t do that. The cope mechanism of compartmentalization has served me well over decades of dealing with the loss of loved ones. I am only able to process such grief in bite sized pieces. So I take my heart with the giant hole in it off the shelf, write this Shabbat encouragement which helps the grieving process, and then go on with my day until the next time(s) to do the same through thoughts, prayers, reminiscences.
This process repeats usually for months, years, the loss still there but over time not feeling quite as fresh, as sharp. Given the advancing ages of me, and therefore many of those around me, it’s good to develop this skill, to consciously think about the process of dealing with grief. Compartmentalization is a good start, for we must do our part, yet it represents a small piece of the greater mystery.
As I held Capt. Punem in my arms while the euthenasia took place, I talked to him about how he’ll be able to be free of the pain he had been feeling, again be able to run which he had not been able to do in so long, and the highlight of our last moments together, I reminded him about Annette. Although many of you remember her, some of you did not know her. She was a dedicated member of Ruach Israel for decades, one of the most precious, beautiful souls I have known. Annette was a fixture in the kitchen, always helping there and wherever needed. She had the spirit of a child, innocent, a lover of life, people, and especially puppy dogs, even dressing as one very often for Purim.
She and Capt. Punem had a very special relationship from the beginning. When he was just a few months old, Sid and I had to go to NYC for a couple days and Annette took “the Captain” (as she called him) to her home to watch him while we were gone. It was a blessed time for both. From that initial imprinting she was his favorite Ruachite and she always, always, asked about him. They had a very special love for each other to say the least.
So as Capt. Punem drifted away I reminded him that Annette was waiting for him across that rainbow bridge. I thanked her for patiently waiting for him over these many years since she left us to be with Him.
How HaShem had me covered in His Love. The appointment ended in time for me to join a dance class that I actually was planning to miss. Dancing helped so much. Even more evident of God’s covering was the fact that Sid and I had met a couple last Saturday night at the Country Dance who had told us about a moonlight kayak trip on Tuesday evening.
The paddle was sponsored by the Yacht Club, which on Nettles Island means a kayak is good enough. On Saturday we had not yet made the decision regarding Capt. Punem. Yet it turned out that just as the dance class ended there was time for us to join the kayak group, the grace and mercy even including our new acquaintances coming to our place across the canal to take our kayaks on their car top and launch together from their backyard.
The water was so flat it almost looked like gel. As we paddled with the group watching the exquisite sunset and then, and then. . . the rising of a brilliant, huge orange full moon over the water, God’s presence was palpable. People in the group, many of whom live here full time and kayak quite often, said they had never seen anything like it. Somehow, in some way we’re not meant to understand, the timing of all of it was as a beautifully timed symphony, an ethereal hug from above, His Presence bringing me inexplicable peace during my time of fresh grief.
So interesting that this last full moon of winter is called a “worm” moon, its name describing the worm as a sign of the snow melting, spring coming, suggestive of this earthbound existence. How even more magnificent that alongside that name so evocative of this earth that such a brightly glowing orange huge orb in the sky manifests. A true both/and, as is death here and life beyond.
Losing a loved one is one of the hardest parts of life’s journey. And yet, it is part of the journey, part of what strengthens our souls and poignantly, painfully, lovingly reminds us that we cannot do this alone. We are not designed to do this alone, for I felt the comfort of the dozen kayakers surrounding me. We are reminded through glorious signs in nature of His Omnipresence at a time when all mortal understanding fails us, at the departing of a loved one to that other dimension where He dwells, where our loved one is now with Him.
It is at that inexplicable juncture, death here but life there, that our human abilities only go so far, for we must rely on Him for healing, for comfort. When we open ourselves up to receive it, only then can we experience the peace that surpasses all understanding.
P.S. Later today while at the pool a beautiful Monarch butterfly flew overhead, the first I’d ever seen there, right at the moment I was thinking about Captain Punem. I smiled.