Saturday, September 13, 2008
"Given a choice between grief and nothing, I'd choose grief."
We had a cat in Ireland, a docile creature that lost a front leg as a result of an incident with a speeding car. Daily the cat would stand on its hind legs and use a particular tree as a scratching post. We would watch in mute horror as it swiped the stump of a foot uselessly over the broken bark, accustomed as it had been to sharpening its claws on the tree.
Far be it from any of us to determine the cat's understanding of the missing leg but it appeared for all the world as though the animal routinely forgot the absence, and that it derived sufficient satisfaction from the phantom scratching.
It could be that the habit was ingrained far too deeply, that the awful loss could not quite be registered.
My friend, whose canine companion passed away earlier this week, cannot seem to stop raising her head to glance out of the kitchen window. The dog house has fallen silent now, and the stillness is a continually overwhelming surprise to those acquainted with the friendly shadow of a tail darting around the corner, or the almost-human voice that frequently broke an afternoon's quiescence.
As much as each realisation is a dull blow to the senses, my friend's need to meet the void with her eyes is very telling. It is a testament to how substantial an element the dog's presence was and how integral that their lives should overlap for a while. Each time she turns her eyes to the dog house, toward the memory of better, buoyant days, it is because habitual thoughts of her friend are still vivid and vibrant, untainted, for a merciful instant, by the absence. In that respect such habit is a blessing of a kind, despite being punctuated by unspeakable pain.
The loss of good friends always serves to elicit a crushing wave of grief and of not knowing, such is the vacancy, whether we are missing a limb or a loved one.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 10:28 AM