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Perhaps they are not stars

by Deborah Cruz

We have this dog, Saffaron ( Saffy as we affectionately refer to her as) and she is almost 11. Now, she is not a tiny thing a ma bob or a golden noodle hybrid, she  is an adorable boxer. We love her like crazy and we have for the past 11 years but old girl is getting, well…old! This poor dog went from being the big guy and my first “baby” to being basically another  play set for our girls. Our girls mean well, and they think they are “loving on her” but Lord, if that is love..it really does hurt. But Saffy, old girl, she doesn’t miss a beat. She stands there, never growls or shows her teeth, and rolls with the punches. We protect her and intervene on her behalf..regularly but I know if it was happening to me and I was 77 , I’d be biting someone.
That being said, I am getting worried about the fact that sooner than later, Ms. Saffy will be leaving us for greener pastures. My girls really do adore this dog, she is their big sister. If I am telling them how much I love them..they always remind me..”Don’t forget about Saffy, Mommy!” I know when the time comes, little hearts will be severely broken. I am just trying to avoid broken psyches. I’ve been trying to , in the most simplistic way possible, explain to my daughters about death. Basically, I have explained that when a person or animal dies, they go to sleep and leave this earth. We won’t see them again on earth.They know about heaven and they are stoked that people who die get to go there and be well and happy. But sad that said person will no longer be with us. I am always careful to not say when people get old they die because I know Bella, she’d be watching the grandparents like a hawk.
I think I am over sensitive about the issue because growing up, we never really had to deal with death so I am not so good at it myself ( Hell, I’m afraid of how I will act when the dog dies. Shit, Saf better wait until the big guy is home to pick up all the pieces). Growing up, I seldom remember people or pets dying and I think it had something to do with the way my parents dealt  didn’t deal with the topic. For example, growing up we had a dog named “Pancho” ( yes, yes, I know..odd choice for a dog’s name:) for my entire childhood. Now,  you say, “Wow! That was one hell of a long life lived by this dog” That would be a  pretty fair assumption, but it would be wrong. Did I mention Pancho was a Shepard, a beagle, a spaniel,a terrier, a Rottweiler, and a couple different really cute mutts. Yeah, apparently if Pancho died or “ran away” my dad would just replace it…with whatever dog struck his fancy. We’d ask “What happened to Pancho?” And he would put the dog in front of us and say, “What are you talking about? This IS Pancho!” So let it be written, so let it be done. He was Papi so we just took his word for it.
Then there was my freshman year of college when my Grandma was dying of lung cancer. I’d speak to my Mom pretty regularly who was taking care of her, and Mom kept telling me that every time the phone rang, my Grandma would ask, “Is that Debi? Is that my Sug ( as in sugar..which is what my Grandma always called me..she’s from Tennessee that’s how they roll down there)” Anyways, I knew my Gran was sick but apparently not how sick. I went about my semester and right after midterms I came home for October break. The house is empty..weird, right? Finally, my Dad appeared. He made some chit chat with my friend who drove me home for break, even offered him some food. Once I could get a word in edgewise, I inquired, “Where’s Mommy? ( and the rest of my brothers and sisters for that matter and yes,I realize I was 18 calling my Mother “Mommy”.I still do..so what!)” My Dad:” Oh, They are in Tennessee at your Grandma’s funeral ( all very matter of factly)” WTF??? Me: “Why didn’t somebody tell me?(sobbing)” Dad: ” Your Mom didn’t want to bother you during midterms. Your Grandma didn’t want her to.” See what I mean? Totally not making me face death. I missed the funeral, the wake and never really got to say goodbye.
That’s how its been my whole life. I’ve been to a couple wakes but when it comes down to it, the finality of it all, I can’t do it ( “It” meaning the whole putting someone in the ground and actually saying goodbye). In fact, no one’s even insisted that I had to.  At this point in my life,the emotional collateral damage may completely destroy me. I know there will come a time(very soon) that I will have to face my fears, we have a couple Greats that are in their 80’s and I have to get a grip.These are women who are big parts of my girls lives so my girls will have to be given the opportunity to say goodbye. I can not deprive them of that because of my own phobias. I’ve found that once a family member dies, I just don’t go back to that city again. Crazy, I KNOW! It’s just that ,subconsciously, I know that once I go there and they are no longer there, I have to face the reality..the pain of loss. This is how it has always been for me. So, I am trying with my own handicapped sense of loss to explain this to my daughters because I don’t want them to be crippled by the fear  of losing their loved ones but to know it is just a small part of living and that dying is not the end but the beginning of another chapter. After all, isn’t it my duty as their Mother to prepare them for life? Part of life is dealing with loss and as painful and unversed as I am in dealing with it myself, I must find a way to navigate the situation so that I can make it easier on them,when the time comes that they have to deal with a loss.
This is an Eskimo Proveb quote that I find beautiful and reassuring. I hope to share it with my girls as a source of comfort as they grow into women and are forced to embrace the reality that no one lives forever.

“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of  our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”

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1 comment

Lanita @ A Mother's Hood 2010/06/02 - 7:48 am

It is funny what you can handle when you have to. I've dealt with the death of animals, grandparents and a husband. You just be as honest as possible and let them have their grief. And then you get a new puppy.


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