What My Dog Taught Me By Dying

by Kee Kee on August 29, 2017

in Change,Grief,Inspiration,New Jersey,Yoda

It’s been six months.

In the love letter I read to Yoda minutes before he transitioned to formlessness, I promised him I would find shama amidst the grief of losing him. A promise made on a deathbed is a promise one must keep. Yet I had absolutely no idea how to find inner peace while my heart was hurting more than I ever knew possible. But Yoda, my greatest teacher, left me with this final lesson when he died. So I dove deep into grief to see what I could learn.

I traveled with Eric and his band for the first six weeks after we lost Yoda not only because I couldn’t bear to be in the house alone, but also, to be honest, as an attempt to outrun my sadness. It didn’t work, and instead forced me to face my pain head on. I carried my grief with me to the Caribbean Sea where I drowned in my tears as I stared into the turquoise waters, crying so much that there were light scabs on the tender skin under my eyes. I choked back sobs while wandering around Disneyworld, the self-proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth (it wasn’t), where the band performed four nights of concerts at Epcot. I went to the Holy City in Israel, where I prayed for Yoda’s transition in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and I wrote a prayer note for his soul’s sweet flight and tucked it into a crack in the Western Wall. It really was like Yoda, my furry shama warrior, to time his passing so I would go with the band to Israel, a country where people literally greet each other with “shalom,” a word that means peace/shama.

After traveling with the band, I visited the Mexican Pueblo Magico, Mineral de Pozos, where my friend Angela and I participated in a private temazcal (a type of sweat lodge) with the local shaman, giving me a potent shift of emotional energy. And then I began the process of scattering Yoda’s ashes in all the special places we lived together: in our New Jersey yard in the roots of a Rising Sun Red Bud tree; in Austin in the backyard of the little blue house we shared; in Wisconsin, off the bow of my parents’ pontoon boat (his favorite place in the world); and in a week I’ll be scattering the remainder of his ashes in Santa Monica, where our life together began.

The past six months have been the absolute most heart crushing of my life. But they have simultaneously also been some of the most important. That’s because I didn’t deny myself a time of mourning and instead surrendered to the pain. Two constants in life are love and loss, and experiencing heartache from the loss of love is part of the very nature of the human experience. By submitting to the grief process, I hoped to discover why the Universe gives us loss.

Here’s what I have learned:

In our culture we are not encouraged to honor grief, especially mourning the loss of pets. We shove the sadness down, hidden away inside, and as a result we become numb. But by surrendering to grief, something beautiful happens: the veil separating us from the invisible partially lifts. Colors are brighter and textures of the world are more vivid. At times I’ve been able to feel nature and its healing energy. During this period of bottomless sorrow, I experienced a different, yet still mighty connection with Yoda. My time of bereavement left me feeling not only more connected to Source/the Universe/God/whatever it’s called, but also gave me the most mystical experiences of my life.

I’ve found that grief brings about a stillness in the moment and, if you let it, a profound connection with nature, such as the bond I’ve formed with a family of six deer. I’m not sure how that happened because those initial post-Yoda weeks were a blur. I feel a spirit connection with one in particular, a yearling buck with one antler that I named Magic after I saw him being born in the spring of 2016. Magic’s coloring and spunky personality remind me so much of Yoda, and in many ways he (along with the love of Eric) has held together my foundation while I’ve been learning to live life without Yoda. Grief surges tend to happen when Eric is on the road and I am home alone. During many of those times I went to the front yard and called for Magic. Minutes later he trotted out of the woods to eat corn at my feet while I sobbed and told him how much I miss my dog (he’s a very good listener!).

Now that I’m coming out of mourning and life is returning back to normal (although normal has changed because my identity is no longer “Kee Kee and Yoda”), the veil is lowering and with it some of that brilliant, rich, ethereal sparkle of the world is lessening. I feel my intense connect with Yoda slipping away. In a strange way, at times I’ve been kinda sad that I’m no longer intensely grieving.

Loss is an inescapable part of life, and as we get older we have to deal with more and more of it. Perhaps through the cavernous sorrow of losing loved ones, both human and animal, the Universe is preparing us for our own inevitable death. Loss is also a reminder that we must always be grateful for the small miracles of each day until we have them no more: the sweet burst of a tomato eaten right off the vine, a rainbow after a storm, the gentle touch of your lover’s hand as he walks past, and of course the wag of a tail and a nuzzle from a cold, wet snout.

Someday we will get another dog. Eventually, I’m not sure when, the quiet of the house will win out and we will open our hearts to welcome in another furkid. Yoda would want that. As Terry Tempest Williams said, “Grief dares us to love once more.”


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