My dearest, sweetest angel. This is the first day after our formal grieving period of 49 days, and I want so much to be better, to be more at peace. To be able to write the perfect letter that captures all the blessings bundled up in you. And last week, I began to feel the grief softening just a little, just enough to make it bearable; this, I told a friend who was kind enough to check in with me to see how I was doing. I have been through this kind of loss twice before, when your brothers have had to move on. I know it does, in fact, get easier to carry on; that the waves of sadness still come, but there is more room to breathe between them. But, it seems, I still have such a long way to go until I get there. However, I didn’t want to put off writing to you because I know, no matter how long I wait, I would never be able to put into words everything I wanted to; and I know writing today is going to be an integral part of the process in strengthening my sense of connection to you under these new circumstances.
Yesterday, for your Day 49 – the Buddhists’ notion of how long a spirit may take to navigate the Between – I wanted to honor your journey, as I did for your brothers at the end of seven weeks’ time. The usual toast with a bit of bubbly was a given. Lighting a candle at the cathedral. But I had the idea to ask your Dad if I could go up in the airplane with him (and his instructor) for his flying lesson. This way, I thought, I wouldn’t have to wait until I got my wings to fly with you. Your dad had his own idea about you as a future co-pilot, so I knew this would resonate with him as well in his own way.
Your wings. Remember how I called you our Angel-in-Residence? How I said all your peanut butter-colored freckles marked the kisses of your angel-friends when they huddled around you to say goodbye for a while, right before you left heaven to become part of our family? How almost every day without fail I thanked you for giving up your wings another day to be with us? How I would stroke your “wing spots” as part of our daily meditation together? And marvel aloud at the iridescence in your white fur: so sure I was that this mirrored the shimmer of colors in your dazzling white wings hanging in heaven’s closet and waiting for your return? How I assured you Pushkin and Otis would dust off your wings when the time came for you, and would meet you with them right away when it came time for you to go back? And how, when your legs were crumpling on you in the last month or so, I’d told a neighbor you’d be OK because, in heaven, you had the most beautiful, strong wings. I’d told her – borrowing Grandpa’s term – in heaven, you are a “fast flyer.”
So, I believe you’ve been soaring since Day 1, as soon as your brothers showed up for you. No need for any time spent in some bardo… not for you, already an angel. I believe that the three of you are together again. That you are getting to know Pushkin now, who is healthy and youthful, just as you are again. You are once again right at brother Otis’s side. And that both of them are so proud of you -- their baby brother, all grown up: just like the day all three of you were together for your “debut” at the dog park in Tucson. I can still so clearly see the three of you there, and I believe it’s a lot like that in heaven now; and somehow, in your heaven, I’m standing nearby just as I was on that day. I believe all of this, admittedly, because I have to… I need to. But that’s OK.
In addition to the daily reflections and meditation practices you and I have been practicing together for years, I’m nearing the end of an extra 33-day series of reflections that came my way pretty much right after your time came. A bit of miracle that yesterday’s theme – on your special day -- was “knowing”: the difference between believing and knowing something. Each morning when I lay my hand on you while we breathed together I would say, “Do you think I love you or know it? Because you have to know it! Long after your brain is gone and it can’t think anymore, you have to still know it.” And so here we are still practicing this ongoing sense of connection. Someday, my spirit also will be free of its body; I too must know – must trust – that our connection is forever. Which is why your special song – the one that, whenever you hear me singing it, you know I am singing solely to you -- is “Our Love Is Here To Stay.” Oh yes it is. Know it.
Now that 49 days have passed, I know there needs to be a subtle shift in how I’m approaching the day. I am feeling the weight of having to move forward. I’m still here. I’m trying, Galileo. Today’s extra reflection was about “oneness” and letting the heart open in order to more fully experience our connection with someone. I always have called you my heart-chakra canine kid, so again the timeliness of today’s focus is a bit of a miracle. (Yes, I will continue to be someone who looks for miracles in my day, for signs that you and your brothers are with me and that you remember we are a family, no matter how much time passes.) Inspired in part by today’s practice, I want to promise you that I will work hard to clear distractions, to quiet the mental chatter, to reduce external chaos -- specifically so that it will be easier for us both to feel each other’s energy and love. The importance of being present: one of the lessons you and your brothers have taught me and continue to teach me even now. And the joy that can come with it.
Each morning while you were with us (eleven years, three months, five days), I thanked you and God for another day with you. Another day, another gift. That is still true, even if we now have to spend our time together a little differently. I will try not to lose sight of this truth as I continue getting used to how our relationship must now evolve. You are a gift – then, now, always. Joy. My precious angel: fly happy, fly free! And look over your shoulder: see me right there with you. That is my prayer. Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. Om shanti, shanti, shanti.