Her name was “Pistol”, and it was fitting. She lived on a farm with acres to explore, and countless animals to annoy-she earned her name. We fell in love at first sight and she became ours! Riding home, we all threw out names we thought might fit. Because she was an older do, we knew she needed a name that sounded similar to Pistol…so we agreed on Crystal.
Head over heels…I loved this dog. She was more to me than anything else. She slept in my bed, cuddled on my lap, and even shared fleas with me (yuck and scratch). Not long after we brought her home and made her ours, our family entered a difficult season. Our dynamic was changing and we were grasping to keep order in our very small world. Crystal, half Dachshund and half Cocker, gained all of our attention. We poured out our hopes and fears into her floppy ears. And if you asked my sisters, or myself, we would have told you she listened to us…
Separately and secretly, we all said this to Crystal, “you’re the only one that loves me.” True? Hardly. But, have you ever tried to convince a child they’ll be safe as you “held” onto the seat of the bike freshly stripped of its training wheels? Convincing is not work for the faint of heart. It was a sentiment, nonetheless…an effort to stabilize ourselves in our new “normal”, and at the time…it felt true.
An evening I will never forget emerged some years later. Sweet Crystal fell ill. She would lay around all day and sometimes be sick in the area where she was laying-clearly never having moved. I was living with my older sister, and with heavy hearts and faces streaked with tears, we gathered up our feeble, childhood dog, and drove to the vet. In the walls of that sterile facility, our worst fears were realized, and those walls could not contain our grief.
My sister and I wept for hours before we let them come in and put her down. The vet technicians would open the door and check on us, but every time we were holding her and each other. As the door slowly opened, and they took in the sight of our long goodbye, they would make eye contact and say, “take your time”. That phrase was both comforting and haunting. It contained the knowledge of what was inevitable.
I think we wept that day from a place so much deeper than the loss of our precious dog. We were mourning the sting of vulnerability. The pain of investing in something bigger than ourselves and getting loss in return.
one of the hardest day of my life.
We drove home in silence. A silence that acknowledged our broken-heartedness and our need for the comfort of one another.
I think that was the lesson from this loss, maybe even all loss. We learned that investing in relationships (yes, even with a dog) can be painful, but healing comes in the presence of others. Healing comes in the confession of our fears and hurts. Healing comes in community-sharing the journey, even the hardest parts, with trusted friends.
I thought I’d never love someone so much again…that the pain of loss was far too costly. But it’s that very pain, the part that says I understand what you are walking through, that connects one soul to another.
Today I choose community. I choose to live out in the open, the place where I encounter the encouragement of others. The place where, if given the chance, beauty rises from ashes.
Who needs to hear your story of loss, vulnerability, healing and encouragement? Share it, learn from it, and watch what grows out of it!