Saturday, February 15, 2014

those holes are spaces for light

It took just ten seconds for him to die, for the fluid to enter his veins, for the drug to hit his heart, and there was just enough time for him to lick his lips, one two three times, just enough time for me to say, "Oh. Good boy. Good boy" as he left, and then he was gone.

Which was surreal, because one second he was still there, still warm and moving slightly under my hands, and then he wasn't.

And it hit me then that it was over, and hit me again and again, as we wrapped him in a blanket,
as people spoke softly about things and moved about the room;
it hit me in waves—until I felt nauseous, and I had to go outside and drink water by the car as they carried him out—that he was gone.

And I wanted to step back in time, to please sit a second more with the breathing him, but that's how it was now and I couldn't change it, and all I could do was keep on living while he didn't.

And now it's been two days and I keep crying.
I miss my dog, and I know people lose dogs all the time, but I can't stop how it hurts. And it has opened up all these holes I thought I'd filled as best I could. I miss my grandmother and I miss my namesake aunt and I think of my father and my friend from high school who died and I think of my mum's best friends and I miss Jennifer.

I miss the space my dog took up on the tiles. I think of the space the living take and how after they leave they're still there, but you can't talk to them and you can't hold them and you can't hear their breathing or their laugh or their voice. You can't read their new words or watch their tail wag as you come up to them for a good scratch and you can't talk to them on the phone.

Their spaces are empty and full at the same time, like the air has rearranged itself in their shape.

And I think of how much space the loved take up.

It's real, because there on those tiles, precisely, is where he lay,

and there in that chair of my memory is my grandmother saying, "Hello! Hello!" as I enter the room,

and there in that hospital bed is my aunt calling out as I leave, "And I love you too, so much!"

and there in that photograph is my dad flying a kite, his hair curling in the wind

and there in her words, is Jennifer always. Noticing, marvelling, guiding me to beauty.

And it is so beautiful when you see what they have left you.

It can take your breath away. Leave you weeping and smiling at once.

Those holes you thought you had to fill just so you could keep moving…
those are the spaces they made and they're not supposed to disappear.

You're not supposed to fill them. Those holes are spaces for light.

I think of my dog and how in his final weeks he lay right in the kitchen by the cupboard so you had to step over him to enter or leave.

On his last day, every time I went near him, he lifted his head and followed me with his eyes

as if to say

I'm here.

I'm here.

Remember me.

And on his last day, before I knew it was his last, I sat with him and brushed his old fur. And he and I looked at each other for long seconds until I put my forehead on his, and after a while he lay back down.

And when it's over you get to keep those moments

forehead to forehead

that you had

and the space they made.

And they follow you as if to say,

"I'm here.

I'm here.

Now you get to remember me."


  1. oh helena. you write so beautifully about the joy and grief of loving someone so much that their absence leaves a real hole. i am surprised when something reveals the pain of losing my grandparents as freshly as if they'd just gone - hadn't i dealt with that? figured out a way to patch it and keep going?
    sitting here in my kitchen, with you today.

  2. Oh my dear Helena... I've missed reading your words and now I read them and hate how lovely they are because they make me cry. I am so sorry he is gone. What a beautiful dog... My heart goes out to you, my friend. I thought of you today as I was walking my dog for the first time in many, many weeks after what has been one of the coldest and most brutal winters in Illinois history. I thought of how I am coming into Spring but you are coming into Fall and how difficult that can be. I hope you feel my virtual hug and love. I'm so, so sorry for your loss...

  3. Helena I just had you on my mind and came to your blog. And I am sitting here in tears. I tried to read this to Keilee and I did but I could barely read the words aloud. I am so sorry. I am so sorry my friend. And Keilee and I get it, we get is so much. A pet IS a part of your family. And I hope you are feeling less grief stricken and chock full of beautiful memories. I love you and am sending you love from across the oceans.


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.