Life (and Death) Lessons

I must have been six or seven years old when our family dog, Buff (named for the yellow-brown color of his coat), was hit by a truck on the busy street to the side of our house. He died immediately. This was my very first encounter with death and my parents taught me two important, and complementary, lessons.

My mother, who I’m quite sure didn’t care much for the dog, broke the news to my little sister and me. My sister began to cry uncontrollably. The three of us sat on the couch in our home’s solarium embracing each other, and pretty soon all three of us were weeping. There was no shame, no injunctions to stifle our emotions, no lectures that tears are a sign of weakness. My mother let me grieve.

But soon my father called me outside and took me to the back yard. He told me that now we needed to give the dog a proper burial, so he and I — mostly him, actually — began to dig a grave for our family dog. We buried him directly in front of the yellow dog house, yellow just like the family house, where Buff used to sit and watch the world. My father taught me that no matter what happens, life has to go on and we have to take care of tasks at hand, whatever they may be.

So this morning as I fed my dog breakfast, I was mindful that one day, hopefully many years from now, I’ll repeat that same cycle just as my parents so skillfully instructed me when I was a boy.

Today after breakfast Dante and I took an extra-long walk in the park. We played in the snow and watched the birds — both of us happy just to be together.

~BT Waldbillig
January 9, 2017

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