Approximately 4.5 min to read…or scroll to the end for the summary)
I remember enjoying my shopping day with my four year-old fashionista. Her looking up at me with her giant blue eyes with matching blue streak in her crazy curly blonde hair and saying, “Mom, those jeans are not my style. I only wear skinny jeans, re-mem-beeeerrrrr?”
I received a call from my husband who was shopping in the same mall with my son and he said, “I need to talk to you face to face.” I looked around me with a cheeky smile, “Why? Are you right next to us or something?”
My pace hurried when I realized it was not a joke as he firmly asked me to leave the store and meet him. By the time I got to him I said, “Don’t tell me it’s the dogs.” “Dalai is dead,” he confirmed.
Dalai – our Australian Shepherd puppy. Yes, she was named after the Dalai Lama. After her sweet, peaceful, wise and cuddly demeanor when we first got her.
Although after three days she became more like Dolly Parton- loud, alpha, boss lady… but always a lover.
The kids proudly went to school with numerous holes in their shirts. The cotton guts of stuffed animals littered our floor most days. And muddy paw marks stamped the waist of our jeans from her joyful, jumping greeting. She grew and grew but never stopped thinking she was a lap dog…but we didn’t mind.
I was craving another being in our family – so instead of a child, we smartly chose a puppy. Another Australian Shepherd. We named him Bodhi, a Sanskrit word meaning Enlightenment. Bodhi and Dalai – saving the world with their cuteness.
Chip had sent the kids in the store when he told me. Then we put headphones on them in the car so we could talk about it. For a split second, I had the thought of asking someone to watch the kids so we could take care of burying her. I had the urge to hide all the sadness from them. But of course, what good does that do?
While the kids were deep into the movie Sing, my husband cried the details to me. Our neighbor, who is also practically Dalai’s second parent, was watching the dogs while we were out for the day. He washed my husband’s car at his house. When he had finished, he put Bodhi in the clean truck headed back to our house to drop it off and let Dalai chase the truck back.
She chases cars. She always has. The herding instinct in her was so strong. She would herd the kids on the soccer field, my cross-country skis in the snow and unfortunately cars.
So him letting her chase the car back is a normal thing. We do the same when we get home from picking the kids up at school – we call her name at the neighbor’s house and she follows us home.
But Friday, as she followed our neighbor back to our house something went wrong. She caught the tire she had been chasing. In an instant she was gone.
I finally paused the movie and crawled to the back of the car to hold both kids hands. With tears streaming down my face I said, “Guys, Dalai got hit by a car today and died.” Of course, they cried. But then there seemed to be peace. Some sort of understanding. An understanding deeper than us adults can even really relate to.
We are too far from it. Kids are closer to the time of being purely divine. My daughter says, “But mom, its ok, Dalai will always be in our hearts.” And my son says, “Yes, Dalai is an angel now.”
Her bloody body was wrapped in a blanket outside when we got home. Again, I put on a numbing movie for the kids as my husband tearfully dug a grave. Realizing I was trying to tune them out from the present moment, I turned off the movie and asked the kids if they would like to say good-bye to Dalai.
We put on our snowpants – although it was end of April, snow was dumping down all around us and walked into the yard. To the same tree our husky, Maui was buried at three years ago.
We partially lifted the blanket up so the kids could pet her matted fur and say goodbye. Then my son ran to the house and came back holding the football we all used to throw together in the yard to bury with her.
My husband and I cried for 24 hours non-stop. I took a drive by myself and screamed as loud as I could over and over, “Why??!!” The following night were lying in bed. Both of us hadn’t really talked to each other. Both grieving too much to help the other. My husband said, “You know, I think she is why we are still together.”
My husband and I separated six months after we got Dalai. She stayed with him, as I couldn’t have dogs in my new rental. He slept by her side during those 11 months I was gone, just holding my place. A reminder of me – I had picked her out after all and brought her home.
When he told me he thought she kept us together – it hit me. Just the night before, I remember laying beside him and thinking it finally felt right. Not just right…perfect there next to him. I remember just glowing with gratitude that we made our way back to each other.
It’s interesting Dalai was lost when she was just a new pup. We were on a walk in the woods a few days after we got her. We took her collar off because it was big and awkward on her. One second she was there, the next she was not. We looked for her for hours. She was so tiny; we didn’t think she would last the night. I sent out a FB message and woke up to a message from someone saying they saw a couple turn her in to the shelter. We have never been so happy.
Dalai was born on our wedding anniversary. Her getting lost that night may have been symbolic of what was to come of my husband and I. We released an awkward, tight, wrong, uncomfortable collar we had on each other, we would be separated safely for a time- having quite the journey of finding our own independence and light, then find our way back home.
I now like to think of her as this earth angel that served a beautiful purpose here of keeping a family together. And when she saw her job on this planet was done, she returned to her eternal home.
Now, I know us humans like to put meaning on everything. You could say this was just a tragic end. A horrible death. Well, as I said in a post just three days before she died…there is a beauty in death. Sometimes, it takes awhile to see but just dive in to what that loved one gave you in their lifetime. That is what to hold onto. Not the loss of them but the beautiful gifts we are given in the time we were blessed to have them in our lives.
Dalai sweetly gave me my spot back in the bed when I returned home in November. She instead would lie at my feet every night. There are so many more gifts that I won’t bore you with and really just have meaning to me…little treasures shining brightly in my heart. But I will say this…Thank you, Dalai for your sweet nature, your unconditional love, your attention and your affection. I am grateful to be celebrating 12 years of marriage on your upcoming 2nd birthday. RIP, sweet girl…
Needless to say, Bodhi is out of his crate and at the foot of my bed.
Lessons from Dalai’s Death
1) You never know when you will get a tragic call. Are you giving love to your loved ones? Not waiting for them to call or saying they aren’t doing enough for you? What are you doing for others? Not out of obligation but from the purity of your heart.
2) Don’t hide. There really is so much beauty even in the dark places. Especially in the dark places. It’s wrong for me to assume what is good or bad for my children or anyone. Had I tried to hide Dalai’s death, diminishes Dalai’s life. If I don’t let things flow through, they become lodged as trauma, question marks, unfinished business in the body. If I didn’t allow them to say goodbye because I wanted to “protect them” they would have always held on to that unfinished question in their hearts. Where is Dalai? Is death bad and scary? Should we not talk about things? Now Dalai is free within them. They laugh in remembrance of her rather than cry for what they don’t have.
3) Be a friend to someone grieving. Don’t worry about being cliché. Say ANYTHING. Be a presence in their life. When a couple has lost someone close – they are unable to comfort each other. This is where friends, family, communities need to come in and help them grieve. Help them let the grief up and out rather than stuck within the being.
4) There is no timeframe for grief to end but do not feel guilty when it does. The loved one you lost wants nothing but happiness for you. Close your eyes and dive into those gifts that special loved one has given and be grateful.
5) View life from the eyes of a child. After being here longer on the planet, we forget who we are, we forget the eternal spirit that is within us, we forget our own light. The part of us that never dies. Kids remember that. Encourage your children to always remember that part of them before the external world clouds this vision. Always remember you can close your eyes and look within your heart to find this place. Drop the thinking mind into your heart, then open your eyes from your heart. These are the eyes of a child. Present in light and love.
My 7 yr. old son shared his dream he had the day after it happened…Dalai was in it and showed him 5 puzzle pieces all fitting perfectly together. I am not sure if my son understood how powerful that message really was but it was something I needed to hear and receive peace with our now family of five.
Thank you all for reading.
Peace and blessings to you all.
So much love,