When Harry digs a grave for Dobby, the moment crackles with tragic drama. His tears falling into the dirt before the backdrop of a windswept cliff are beautiful in their poignancy. But, it need hardly be said, far from any kind of reality. On Tuesday we dug a similar hole and it wasn’t beautiful. We talked, I cried, and there was no swelling soundtrack, only the thud of shovels. Other differences too, no body of a fallen hero – no body at all, yet – for it was to be a dog, only a dog who would be covered by the dirt we crow-barred loose.
As I write this she is inside, in the daytime, proof positive of special circumstances. By the time I post it, she will be gone, after one more walk around the garden and a final car trip. It seems silly to feel so sad about her, a dog not a human, one little ending, not even a blip on the radar of world events or many peoples grief.
And so, without pretending it is the same as any other sadness, I give you my sadness today, my little sadness which will subside in time, which will turn quickly into fond reminisces, but today turns me to tears.
I will miss the red dingo I met 9 years ago in a backyard in Enfield, who wouldn’t meet me until I had chicken to offer. I will miss the soft bear who was mean to Teeko the first time she met him, and loved him fiercely every moment since. I will miss the needy wolf who a year ago was carrying 3 surprise puppies she’d give everything to mother. Of late, I will miss the one-eyed beauty who was calmer somehow, content to jockey for position with her red-hued offspring.
He is her legacy in the end, a daily gambolling reminder of her in the form of an 11 month old monster. But it isn’t the same. No more posed Christmas pics or watching her sprint away after an accidental escape. No more laughing at her shrinking into nothingness every time we tried to introduce her to the neighbouring cows.
All of this has come as a bit of a shock, her final downturn only confirmed a few days ago. Yet I am thankful to have said goodbye, despite the busy of exams and study. I am thankful for final afternoon walks in the winter sun, unhurried as she chose the path. A step, a sniff, a look around, drinking it in. Though under no mystical or maudlin illusions as to what comes next for her, I am thankful she will end up on the property, her spot overlooking the rise of a thousand afternoon wanderings.
I am thankful for friends who care despite my snotty sadness, who let me grieve even as I am embarrassed to do so. Who buy me flowers and turn on my heater, who write me anonymous notes, who walk with me in the cold afternoon to distract me, who enlist their wife to make an elephant noise for me and send me the recording.
I can’t write about these dingoes well, everything sits on the sappy \ pathetic part of the spectrum. I write anyway because somehow it helps. In some small way it helps to eulogise her, to admit the grief that I wish I could move past. I want to skip this part, to arrive at ‘moving on’, to a pause and a wry smile instead of these face-crumpling waves.
This past year has seen our dingo population go from 2 to 5 to 3 and now, to 2 again. My heart hurts to remember the thrill of those tiny beans, not even a year ago, and to farewell the one who gave them to us. Yet, she did not give them, not really. They were her secret in the end, but someone else knew first and best. He still does.
He knows why, huge disasters as well as this small grief. He knows why soaring joy, as well as trickling sadness. He knows why and even though it feels indulgent to sit in it, he cares about this grief of mine, of our little family, for this little red bean. He cares.
Even the death of our little dingo isn’t ‘natural’, after all. This abrupt end reminds me of our groaning creation, and the affront death always is, even here in this small way. This world in bondage is not my home or all there is to long for. This bondage to decay is not the end, where all things slip through our fingers, where nothing stays for long enough.
There is much richness in theology – sin and forgiveness, redemption and being made right – as well as eternal life not merely without sorrow or death, but with the King who won it for us. Yet today it is the ‘without sorrow or death’ bit that I cling to. I am thankful for the price paid to wipe all tears away, including these. I am thankful for more than this world of love and loss and memories, and for a God who is near in every kind of sorrow.