Thursday, July 16, 2015


Most of my essays are pretty upbeat.  Life has been very good to me and that is something I want to share. This one is a little different. It's about sadness and the pain of loss.  Life, no matter how good, is not pain free, and the more we have the more we can lose.

About a year ago my oldest son had to take his cat to the vet to be put down because all efforts to fix its health problems had failed.  He knew it was what needed to be done and somehow summoned the courage to do it, but he was hurt terribly by the loss. In talking to him about it, I came up with the phrase, "Grief is the shadow cast by love."  What I was saying is that when grief seems overwhelming it is because we have had the gift of being able to love, to have something or someone fill our lives so much that the loss is a physical pain.

A few months later, I experienced first hand (again) just what I was talking about.  Our beloved Labrador retriever, Rowdy, had been deteriorating physically for over a year and the day after Christmas went into convulsions and then coma.  We cared for him through the next day and night until he died the following morning.  I was spared that awful trip to the vet, but that was small comfort when the space in my heart that he had filled for almost ten years was suddenly so empty.  It's been seven months now and the pain has eased, but still there is seldom a day goes by that I don't feel it at all.

Josh and I could have avoided all that pain by simply not allowing his cat or my dog into our lives in the first place.  We also would have eliminated a whole lot of warmth and joy and laughter.  We would have given up the chance to love and be loved.  Believe me, our pets do return the love we give them.  They offer no criticism or judgement, only affection.

So, is that the answer?  Avoid the pain by forgoing the joy?  I certainly don't think so.  Over the years, I have loved and lost many beloved pets, mostly dogs, but also cats and even an iguana who lived with us for fifteen years. Every one of them more than repaid the emotional cost of losing them. I remember the joy much more than the pain.

Kahlil Gibran said it best in The Prophet, "without love you laugh, but not all of your laughter; weep, but not all of your tears." Thank you to Rowdy and all his predecessors, for my laughter and for my tears. The shadow, grief, is only there because of the substance, love.


  1. Hmm... in the fear of loss and pain one shouldn't forget to live I guess...

  2. Being a huge animal love, who has lost more than her share of pets -- this does touch my heart. I have a very sweet cousin who refuses to have pets because she doesn't want the pain of losing them. She is losing so much more by not having them in her life. It is still painful to think about the loss of some of my dogs and cats but I can't imagine not having the joy of them in my life. As you said, it more than outweighs the pain and the grief of losing them.

  3. Interesting thoughts. You'll be able to empathize with this tale about losing my own dog:

    1. Thanks, Kid. I sometimes think of all the dogs who I have been blessed with in the last seventy years and mourn and cherish them all.

  4. Just what I needed to read. I'm so sorry for your heartbreak and your son's. Thank you for sharing this. ♥