My first loss, big enough to still rattle around in this 5-decade-old heart & mind,
was a dog we had when I was a 2nd grader.
Happy the Beagle.
In my childhood, there were 2 “Happy the Beagles”.
Happy1 was our dog in the big red house, with the woods out back.
Then, in my 4th year, we packed up and headed south, so my Pops could become Dr. Dad.
Sadly, Happy wasn’t invited to Grad School, so my parents sent him to live on a farm.
After the years of study & deadlines & student housing, my folks rewarded us with Happy2.
She was as goofy and dumb as Happy1, and we loved her.
She loved us too and the freedom that came with living in a suburban neighborhood.
Maybe too much freedom, because one day, as I sat in Mrs. Klopfenstein’s 2nd grade classroom practicing my cursive, Happy2 made a break for it and got smooshed on the State Rd. our little neighborhood drive spilled off of.
It was a devastating loss and I was six.
lots of drama, even more tears, and significantly less memory of the fact that Happy2 was mostly Mom’s dog, because of the letting out and feeding thing.
Which I think now, as the Mom, is pretty normal.
In the moment of my parent’s telling me about Happy2, none of that mattered.
It was my first real encounter with loving and loss, and I was a snot-pouring-out-of-my-nose wreck.
When I think about that first good-bye, it makes me smile.
Not with any specific warm feelings for Happy2 (honestly, I can barely remember her).
No, my smile is for my 6 year old self.
If I could, I would scoop that chubby, brown-eyed, drama queen into my arms and gently tell her that she will have a lifetime of “hello” AND “good-bye”. And even if she doesn’t think so, she will have everything she needs to get thru with JOY. I would hold her face in my hands, look her straight in the eye, and tell her, “sometimes, it will feel like just when you’re ready to say “hello”, it will be time, too quickly, to say good-bye”….
To her health,
To her sense of security,
To the people she LOVES,
To her dreams, and
To her place.
But she will never, ever, have to face any of that without the One who always Welcomes and never Sends Away.
Everything she needs.
Last year, my family said good-bye to someone we love.
And it was all…
Too soon, too painful, too much.
And every memory of him is doing it’s job, reminding us, we were not meant for Good-bye.
Our shoulders aren’t broad enough.
Our bodies aren’t strong enough.
Our hearts aren’t big enough.
And yet, even now, as we walk the broken road of grief that is ours,
we’re still able to find the Grace waiting for us along the way.
Still more joy and laughter and belonging and LOVE to be gathered up, and LIVED.
And so we will, with a deeper understanding of the Good-byes still to come and the part they play in our Hellos.
Until then, I’m going to try and talk the Hubs into Happy3.
Wish me luck!