Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Saturday, September 13, 2008

At a Loss

"Given a choice between grief and nothing, I'd choose grief."
-William Faulkner

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.


Pauline said...

That physical loss - it is something I have never understood nor accepted from the universe and so, like the rest of us, I suffer when faced with it. You are so right - we need to "meet the void with our eyes," letting the loss sink in gradually until we are able to replace the grief with happy memories.

Beautifully written as always.

Anonymous said...

the loss of a pet is so devastating - your poor friend. You write about her experience beautifully and sensitively.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Losing two beloved dogs during our marriage was the hardest thing either my husband or I had ever gone through. There is a connection there that's unlike any other and I find one feels that particular loss most acutely.

I am glad that Edward and Apple are so young, so hopefully that won't be something we have to face anytime soon! My thoughts are with your friend.

Barb said...

Beautifully written ... I felt your friends pain through your lovely words.

Having lost 4 dogs in my lifetime, I know the pain. Time does heal these wounds and soon pictures, thoughts and pleasant memories replace the tears. B

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Pauline, that, strangely enough, was my favourite line too. Thanks for picking it out! I like the way you put that, about replacing the grief.

Courtney, Thank you- it's hardest of all to write about the people you know, and my friend will be reading this so I'm glad to hear that.

Pamela, thank you for your kind thoughts- I do love dogs very much and know just what you mean about that connection.

Barb, I've lost some dogs too. They're all unique and individual and special in their own way so we miss the ones that are gone but often a new one can help ease the pain. Thanks for your good thoughts.

Pappy said...

It is amazing how attached we can become to our four legged companions, and how strongly we react to their predicaments. Loss of any loved family member is tough. I remember some of those void moments vividly. Wonderful writing. Pappy

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Texican, I'm glad you liked it.
I've also always considered that pets- perhaps for me dogs in particular- are part of the family. Dogs react to our troubles too, and they always magically know when people are feeling bad.

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