For no particular reason, I find myself this week thinking of Lucy Doodle. My very first dog, she arrived at our home in 2001, born out of my spouse’s puppy dream. She was a blond bombshell, the most beautiful being ever created, and surely life’s quintessential party animal. Born to party, she took on each moment with an abandonment, a fullness of spirit that initially terrified me. After multiple and repetitive trainings, by the age of two, she began to respond to me a tad more collaboratively but nevertheless, not letting obedience get in her way, she lived fully as the embodiment of fun.
The most assured being I have ever met, she existed without ambivalence, enjoying her life moment by moment with a full-steam-ahead-gusto.
The day she died, she had a full breakfast. Clearly, she wasn’t going to miss out on a meal.
Living with her was one of the greatest gifts of my life; she opened and liberated my heart. So many lessons were delivered from such a beautiful and wacky teacher, most importantly, the loosening of my need to control, well, more accurately, the illusion of control, attempting to protect myself and certainly her.
She would not abide it.
Losing her was one of the hardest things I had to outlive; waking up that first morning, without her breath filling the room was physically shattering.
As I lived without her, I was amazed at the depth of presence she had, the nooks and crannies of the day that she fully filled, the many daily rituals she so occupied, now emptied.
How awesomely deep these fuzzy and furry Guardians of Presence dive into our hearts.
Oh. Our animal companions—teachers, guides, and partners, indeed.
I heard this prayer at a Twelve Step meeting one day long ago:
Thank you for everything you’ve taken from me.
Thank you for everything that’s left.
We know life is coming and going. We know the people we love, the things to which we are attached, will change and fade and will leave us. We know that our very nature is impermanence. Yet, when reality, in her relentlessness, tears open our hearts, when inevitable change and loss befall us, oh, the shattering!
Oh, the pain!
We know the truth of our human condition, but we can’t really know it, not until it calls our name.
I am so buoyed by this prayer, so held by its gratitude, so comforted by its faithfulness. I hear it, not as an avoidance, which is my fault-line, but as an invitation into—into the feelings of loss, into the dismantlement of the architecture of our days. Rather than a premature transcendence, I hear its gratitude as a doorway into the experience of grieving, of impermanence, of humanity.
I slept at Shadowbrook last night, Kripalu’s main building. Flooded with evocative memories of the ashram, of the remarkable people who created the depth of this work, I felt drained and empty-hearted. I missed us so very badly. Yet, this morning, as I walked down to the lake, the beyond-green beauty of the wet leaves, the ancient trees standing sentinel on that path I had forever walked, the birds softly celebrating morning; the beauty was astounding.
I understood something anew about this magical prayer.
That which is left? That final and oh, so tricky last line?
What is left is the moment, exquisite, stunning, and awe-filled. In the leaving, in the void, in the vacuum of what was, so much grace is available to us.
Grace doesn’t leave us.
Beauty doesn’t leave it.
It becomes more essential to find our way back into her arms.
Dear Readers, what is life asking you to let go of? What are your hopes and your prayers for yourself in this arena? Please consider and let me know. Let’s continue creating the “neurobiology of empathy.” I am firstname.lastname@example.org.
May our connection with our selves be the blessing of homecoming.
May our connection with one another be the healing.
May we find our way through.