It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I’ll never forgot the sound of my sister’s voice when she called.
“Melissa, did you hear?” she said in a slow, hushed tone.
My mind raced. Maybe grandma was in hospital again. Or something horrible happened to one of our friends.
“Milo died.” she said.
“What?” And then I flooded her with questions about who was with him, what time did he die, why did he die, was he sick, did she know if he was in any pain…
Milo was old, but lively the last time that I saw him. At 16 years old he was 112 in human years. Yes, Milo was our Pug.
It was a day we knew was long coming.
He was old, blind, hard of hearing. He ate, drank, walked, but he did so very slowly. But my parents and grandmothers (my grandmothers live with my folks) loved, played with, and talked to him as if he were an adopted child.
So when he passed, they wrapped him in towel, surrounded his body with potted orchids and a statuette of the Virgin Mary. Family members came to touch him and cry. And for three days after he died, I lay awake at night tearful and missing him.
Why was this affecting me so, I thought to myself. He was a dog, for God’s sake, my mind argued. the loss and finality of his physical presence was difficult to grasp. People and animals die all the time. It’s a perfectly natural thing. So why couldn’t I wrap my head around it. We all know what happens, but there’s a mysteriousness to it every single time. One moment someone’s warm and breathing and in the next moment they are cold and hard. And gone as we know it.
I was struck by the sense of loss I experienced. Why was there such a deep, deep void? Why, after all the yoga, meditation, consciousness-expanding spiritual work and growth that comes my way, there’s nothing that really prepared me for grappling with the finality of death?
In all the flurry of questions, there was a moment when I realized why there was such a sense of loss.
You can’t lose what you don’t have. The only reason there was such a sense of loss was because there was such a presence. A presence of love, affection, and playfulness. The presence of another soul.
This realization uplifted me. It didn’t ease the sense of loss, but it eased the sense of suffering….because I realized that loss was the simple polarity of presence in my life, and how presence and loss cannot exist without the other.
It got me thinking about the journeys we take in our travels. The beauty and the challenges. Our experiences as visitors.
The challenges are really just the polarity of joy and ease. How would we know joy if we didn’t also know pain?
The truth is polarity is simply the whole of our human experience. What makes life so good? The knowing and experience of what moments have made life unbearable.
So experience it.
Take it all in.
The same way we take in the breathtaking view of a sunset on a white sand beach, take in the experience of the crowded airport, the flight delay, the lost luggage, the broken air conditioner…
Take it all in the way you take in the sight of the stars from the middle of the ocean when youre floating at sea.
It is the deep darkness that makes the beauty of the stars shine so bright.
It is the profound pain that makes us cherish profound love.
It through our experience of great love and companionship that we experience profound loss when that Companionship is gone.
It is all part of the journey.