My one-of-a-kind dog. My lifesaver. My everything.
Nothing after Finn died was tangible except my grief and my longing for his deep, warm eyes to look at me lovingly just once more.
Even though I didn’t plan it or know I needed it, for all of his seven years on Earth, Finn was my emotional support dog, comforting me through panic attacks brought on by my abusive childhood. Now that he was gone, I worried there wasn’t another creature alive who could comfort me and make me feel joy as he had.
For weeks after Finn died, grief rolled relentlessly through me. I wept and journaled and asked God over and over why Finn had to die at such a young age. I protested the Universe’s supposed wisdom. And every night, with my wet and heavy eyes, I hunkered down on the sofa, guzzled wine, and covered my miserable, aching body with the blanket Finn slept on the last weeks of his life. Joy was so distant a feeling, I couldn’t remember the sight or taste of it.
A couple of months after Finn died, the breeder who gave us Finn called me.
“I know it’s been tough losing Finn,” she said, her tone compassionate yet upbeat.
I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand and imagined she called to tell me Finn came back. That he was there with her wanting to come home to me. (Crazy, I know. But grief can do strange things to your mind.)
She continued, “I have a puppy here that would be perfect for you.”
Was it Finn? Was be back? Maybe reincarnated into this perfectly healthy puppy? “Is it a boy?” I asked, my voice cracking with wistfulness.
“Yes! A boy. He’s smart and curious and he’s such a cuddler. He’s as cute as anything. I wondered if…you might be ready for another one?”
I closed my eyes and remembered the first time I met Finn. I went to the airport and picked him up after his flight from Ohio. He popped out of the tattered sherpa bag and wrapped his front legs around my neck. I inhaled. His sweet puppy scent was forever locked into my senses.
A tingle of my once forgotten joy sent tears rolling down my cheeks. Finn was there with me, pushing my heart toward yes. Feel the joy. Embrace it. Love another like you loved me.
“Yes, I’m ready,” I whispered. And in that gifted moment of joy, my grief evaporated in the heated swell of my happy heart.
A few weeks later, my husband and I met the breeder at the airport. She had her old sherpa bag hanging from her shoulder. Tears filled my eyes thinking of that day seven years ago when Finn leapt out of that bag. And just as she got within hugging distance of us, a curious furry face popped out from the unzipped top.
I reached inside and pulled the puppy to my neck.
“Hello, Irwin.” I closed my eyes and inhaled. He had his own scent, different from Finn, but equally as comforting. “I’m your mom.”
That evening, I sat on the back porch with Irwin nestled in my arms. The sunlight filtered omnipresently over my shoulder. It was Finn. He was there with us smiling and filling us with joy.
I’m quite certain that grief is something God devised to help us mark our human experience. And to make it even more interesting, He juxtaposed it with joy. Think about it–don’t most of us define our days, our months, our years by the sorrow that hollows us out and the joy that fill us up? Deaths, illness, and breakups occur, their weight teetering the see-saw of life, only offset by births, remissions, and falling in love yet again.
The grief becomes joy.
The heavy becomes light.
The end becomes the beginning.
While I had once perceived Finn’s death to be the end, it was actually the beginning. The beginning of a new chapter, a bigger heart, and a greater awareness that both grief and joy have a purpose–they’re God’s pendulum that swings every so often dramatically side to side so that all the stuff in the middle, which we call life, doesn’t feel blah and meaningless.
P.S. I’m almost finished writing my memoir about Finn and me and our journey of healing. If you’re an animal lover or on your own journey of healing, you’ll love my story. Please subscribe to my newsletter (in the right hand column of the screen) and I’ll let you know when the book is released. XO