29 January 2007

And so it begins

As I write this, the movers are in our home packing up the belongings that we will be sending off to our new home in the United Kingdom. Boxes are being sealed shut, furniture is wrapped tight, and the walls are strangely empty in all of our rooms. We are truly on our way!

I think I can safely say that my husband, daughter and I are stretched in more directions than we can count. While the promise of our new home beckons warmly for us, we are still in the midst of farewells and the grief of letting go of our home and life here in Olympia.

It has me thinking a great deal about loss and about grief. Over the last two months, we’ve had lots of "last times": the last time we’ll visit the local farmer’s market, the last time we’ll have Christmas in this house, the last time we’ll go to special places. We come to each last time with a sense of gratitude and loss, the emotions not quite conflicting, but surely gnawing at each other.

Christmas especially came with its own bittersweetness. Our dear dog, Susie, died peacefully and surrounded by her loved ones on Christmas night. Susie had been a part of our lives for 8 years. My husband, Peter, and I got her from a family who recognized that she wasn’t been treated as well as she should, so advertised her as a give away dog. We went and met her, and took her home that night. It would be weeks before she stopped barking at Peter when he came home, and it was more and more clear that she had been abused by men at some time in her life. We surrounded her with our love, and she became an important part of our family.

Our daughter Claire arrived a few years after she did, and was always taken by the buff colored noisy creature in her life. By the time she was able to talk, she called Susie her best friend. Over the last year or so, she had taken to putting her on a leash, and taking Susie out into the back yard to play. They were a good pair, Susie (mostly) patient and obedient, Claire the happy supervisor.

We had begun to prepare Susie for the trip over the England, though I worried that the stress of the trip might kill her. A week before Christmas, she began having seizures, and the veterinarian who looked at her suggested that she wouldn’t survive to accompany us to England. Then on Christmas night, her breathing became labored and after sitting in my lap for the last hour of a movie we were watching, she climbed down, lay down and quietly and peacefully died. While I miss her deeply, I was relieved to know that she wouldn’t go through the trauma of the move. And it was a good first death for Claire to experience: it was peaceful, and Peter and I have, I hope, shown her ways to grieve well. Before Peter took her to be cremated, we petted her and thanked her for being part of our lives and for all the love she brought to us.

It seems all of a piece of what we’re going through as we prepare to move: the work of always letting go, of learning to live in the moment, and always remembering the blessings of what we have had.

A wise friend sent along these words from Thubten Chodron:

"Although intellectually we may know that our body is aging every moment, our deeper feeling is that this body will last forever and that death won't really come to us--at least not anytime soon. Similarly, we see our relationships as being fixed, and when dear ones die, we are shocked. We wanted to be with them forever and clung to the hope that we would be.

"We can learn to live with impermanence gracefully, but this occurs only when we recognize the erroneous preconception of permanence and are mindful of the transient nature of people and things."

As I said, we are in the thick of letting go, giving thanks, and holding to the present moment.

As much as life is about the reality of impermanence, and the loss that we all know, it is also about adventure and new challenges, being present to possibility and wonder. So while we are focused on leavetaking, we’re also increasingly on our way to our new home. As the days pass, we step closer and closer to that reality with great happiness and expectation.