It seems incredulous to me that I am grieving a goldfish. My past experiences of gold fish were always short lived and I warned my young daughter that her new fish probably wouldn’t last a week. But as week after week and month after month went by, she loved to tease me about Bubble’s longevity. A year into his tenure on the kitchen counter, we gave him some little frog friends, who he never took to and who didn’t nearly match his longevity. Watching him circle his little world, I often contemplated life in a fishbowl, but as he would always come to the side of the bowl I was standing near with his fish pouting looks, I often wondered who was watching who. Bubbles’ life was a long one in fish time; I was informed by pet store experts as I searched for a cure to his life ending illness. It was his time.
Animal friends live on a different time line than we humans. They teach us about the pureness of presence and their love for us is immediate and unconditional. We need them at least as much as they need us and not just for their companionship, but for the chance they give us, in their brief intervals on earth to let go. Their departures whether premature or timely given their size and breed are some of the most gut wrenching good byes that we have the opportunity to grieve. It is easy to love animals; they see the best in us and are devoted in their distinct and primitive ways. If you are lucky, you get to keep your own animal heaven in your heart which can call forth smiles and tears easily.
Losing loved ones, animal or human, is there to remind us how tender and brief our time to love is. Grasping the permanence of death, even with our pets can catch you off guard. Years after my first big yellow dog passed away, I would still sometimes mistake another dog for her in the distance at the dog park. This has proven even truer for a dear friend who died last summer. I get that he is gone and yet still miss his lascivious joking and surprising costumes at every gathering we have. I was talking about how hard it is to wrap my head around the forever quality of death with his wife last week while sharing the beauty and tragedy of the funeral of a dear friend of hers. She said “I can’t think about the enormity of the whole future. I can only think, today he is not with me.”
I flew into New York City yesterday to spread the word of love (products) to a conference of Integrative Health professionals. I walked in on a break up of sorts while ordering a pita sandwich for lunch. The girl taking my order was trying to hang up and yet not wanting to, saying “there is nothing to talk about.” When actually there was everything to talk about, which she did with her co-worker upon hanging up the phone.
Not long after, her young man walked in with his heart on his sleeve. I know this because it was also hanging out there for the whole place to witness in a balloon that said I love you attached to a bouquet of flowers. She would not look at him as he waited and finally spoke to a regular customer standing there and her co-worker.
It is too hard in such a big city with so many millions of people wandering around to say nothing when you see people miss the love that is right in front of them. So when I went up to get a glass of water I also gave her my love counsel credentials. I told her this- “Think about what you are fighting for. – is it actually getting you closer to the love you want in your life.” Human love is as imperfect as each of us but deserves all the chances our heart can bear to give it because it is so very brief and tender. Whatever else may be non-functional about that boy, a heart that is courageous enough to show itself at a lunch time rush on a busy city street is worthy of its efforts. Heartbreak is supposed to teach us to love more while we can.