“I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to accept the death of anyone else.
I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that country of no return.”
Last week, my dad’s dog Charlie had to be put to sleep. Arthritis had brought him to a place where he could no longer stand on his own. He had pined for my dad over the recent weeks since my dad died, and so the decision was made that no matter how much we loved having this very tangible link to my dad, it was time to let go. Anyone who has stroked a dog reassuringly whilst the vet prepares them, and finally administers the injection, knows how moving this can be. Charlie went to sleep and then he was gone.
Once the vet had removed Charlie from the living room, the house seemed bigger and emptier. I made a coffee and went and sat in the garden. I recalled previous visits seeing my dad and Charlie playing in the garden; or my dad cutting the grass; or the doors to the shed open with the sound of sawing or some other carpentry activity. I could see more recent days with my dad and Charlie, two elderly companions taking careful slow steps around the garden.
Charlie was gone as my dad had gone just a few short weeks earlier. I felt as if I was relieving the hours after my dad had died. I became overwhelmed by the silence of loss. Charlie was gone and my dad was gone. I no longer expected to see my dad come in from the kitchen (as I had done since his death) when I walked through the front door with his customary “Hiya Nick. How’s things?” I no longer expected to hear my dad’s voice when I answered the phone “When you have a minute can you take a look at my computer?” I knew I would never experience the joy of cooking a meal for them or sit around the table talking and enjoying each others company. With Charlie’s death I finally felt my dad was dead too.
As I sat there in the garden with that realisation, I began to sob. I could feel tears slide down my face. I felt my body begin to shake with each sob. This was so alien to me, so unknown. Equally it felt so normal “Is this what normal people feel?” This was the outward sign of grief I had expected from the start, but just couldn’t touch. When it subsided a couple of minutes later, I felt I had ‘let go’ of my dad. I felt at peace, incredibly sad, but at peace.