I changed the wallpaper on my cell phone this morning. It had been a beautiful picture of Annie and I couldn’t bear to look at it. Not now. Maybe later. I know Annie understands. She knows I love her and she knows she is on my mind and in my heart but I still felt guilty when I changed it.

She cried the last day that she was with us. I sat on the kitchen floor with her and gently wiped away her tears with a damp cloth. She and I used to play “kisses kisses kisses.” When I would say that phrase she’d lick my face all over and I would laugh. After I had wiped away her tears, I whispered “kisses kisses kisses” in her ear and she licked me once and laid her weary head down. She was tired and she hurt and she told us she was ready to go.

I hadn’t told you this before but when she died, I clearly heard her say, “Thank you for this, Dad,” and I knew that she was free and happy. She understood why we took her to the vet that last time and she was grateful. In my mind I replay what she said and it helps a little but my heart aches. It’s that deep hurt that pushes bile into your throat. It’s probably selfish and I should be happy for her and I really am, but I miss her so. Sometimes the Budster tries to cheer me and Mom up by spending unsolicited cuddle time with us and he gives us these cute little kisses. He hangs close to the Duchess and takes care of her when we go outside together but when it’s just him and me, he still gazes down the road and across the fields as though he is waiting for Miss Annie to come home. It’s weird how he can switch modes like that. He’s a very sensitive creature and he walks with angels, you know.

Grieving is a confusing process. Chaotic might be a better work. Everything aches, you can’t sleep even though you are exhausted, or you sleep too much and when you are awake, your mind can’t focus. You stumble around through a foggy maze. You are immersed in intense sorrow that feels like fear and you have the sensation that you are falling. Falling. If you are lucky, your life switches to autopilot and you keep moving but with no real direction. There is no documentation specifying how to get through this or how long it will last and there is no map to find your way through the maze. You are on your own. Ready, set, go.

Joy bought a ham when we were trying to figure out things that Annie could and would eat in her final days. Last night I decided to cut up what was left and give it to the other dogs. I didn’t want to look at it. Minutes later, I realized that I had gotten four bowls from the cabinet and I had cut the ham into four large pieces to divide it evenly. I choked back the tears, quietly put one of the bowls back and finished cutting the ham into small chunks, dividing it between the three remaining bowls. I’m sure Annie smiled and said, “It’s okay, Dad,” but I didn’t hear her. I can’t hear much of anything lately and what I do hear is muffled gibberish, even the words that come from my own mouth when I am talking to myself and I’m doing that more than normal these days. Someone famous once said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” My heart is leaking.

I changed the wallpaper on my cell phone.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-4
1 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.
3 Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Ecclesiastes is a depressing book but it contains some valuable nuggets of wisdom. I think you need a particular mindset to fully appreciate it. You have to be walking through that valley. The day of death is better than the day of birth? Maybe for the one who dies but not for those left behind. The verses that follow are for those who are alive and remain. They’re saying, “Rub your nose in the reality of death. Get a good look at what’s in store for you, embrace it and you will be a better person for it.” Read the rest of the chapter when you have time. There’s some good stuff in it.

I’m only telling you things you already know if you have experienced the loss of a loved one, and most of us have. I am honestly reporting our disposition rather than pasting on a pious smile and spouting happy thoughts to make others believe that everything is okay. Everything is not okay and if there is one thing you can expect from me, it’s the truth. You’ll trust someone who tells you the truth. You may not always like them but you will trust them. We all know people who play their cards close to the vest because they don’t want others to see who they really are. Everyone knows they are hiding behind a carefully crafted facade but no one will call them on their bullshit. I will and those folks usually don’t like me because of that. I’m known to pick a scab if I think it’s for your own good but I pick my own too. You can call me a lot of things but you can’t call me a hypocrite. Some of those people are reading this and they know I’m talking about them. Everyone knows who they are and truth be told, people may pretend to like them but they don’t trust them because you can’t trust someone who lies to themselves.

So to recap where we are, we’re trying really hard, we’re helping each other and we’ll eventually be okay. This one is a big one and it might take longer than expected but I won’t be a depressing old fart and continue to bore you with the details because nobody needs that. Everybody likes something new and fresh and life is definitely too short to sit in the dark. There, I told you the truth again.

I have decided today will be better than yesterday. I’m off to a good start.

I changed the wallpaper on my cell phone.

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About the Author

Joyce Ellis is the CEO and Caretaker of WarmFuzzy's Animal Shelter & Sanctuary. She was born with the vision, the Energizer Bunny who keeps going and going. She is Fuzzy1 of all WarmFuzzy's.

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