Dogs. Do you have one? I do. His name is Lewis, after C.S. Lewis, one the foremost writers of the Twentieth Century. Lewis, AKA Lewie, came to our home about a year and half after the death of our son. We know death, Hubby and I. He lost his mother at the tender age of sixteen, just as he was getting to know her as an adult and friend. I lost my brother at the age of twenty-three, just when we were getting ready to share our lives after his stent in the navy. We’ve both lost our fathers now, and my mother is also gone… My mother lived with us until her passing, so many of her things are here while she is not (yes, dispersing an estate from a home you shared with the deceased leaves holes that are exhausting but true). We had just recovered from my mother’s passing when our son suffered a massive cardiac arrest in our home and died three hours later in a hospital. Death. Yes, we know you well.
After Nathan died, we did all kinds of things to change it up. We redecorated almost every room in colors that were happy and up-lifting. We framed his art work to honor his life and hung it in the library and the hall outside the room in which he had slept. We traveled. We had parties. We went out to dinner more often. We started new hobbies, or we worked longer hours. And, yes… This all helped us move forward, along with our faith in God; Nathan was okay in heaven but the two of us were not. There was this last big hurdle that kept us separated from each other. We had been blown so far apart by this tragic loss that it was hard to find our way back to each other. It was hard to be close. It wasn’t that we didn’t communicate or laugh together. It’s just that we had both been beat up so bad, we felt bereft in a way that words can’t seem to explain. It just was.
This absence of our son was burying our love in lingering grief. We could see him sitting across from us and hear his voice. We still felt that final moment of his life in our home before he was rushed to the hospital where he died. We could walk into the family room where he fell and hear his final words to us, see his concern on his face; and in that flash of a moment, we’d live our helplessness again and again. That’s what happened until we adopted a cute little 3 month old black and white puppy that was considered by the owner to be the runt of the litter… “Don’t take that mutt. He’s just a runt.” But he was perfect for us. It was like he chose us and we chose him in the same moment. We couldn’t even hear the suggestions of the other puppies because we loved him and he us immediately!
So we bundled this little guy up and brought him home, along with more doggie “needs” than he or we really needed. It was like being parents again! As each mile brought us closer to home, I began to wonder if we’d have the strength to deal with all the challenges he was going to present, Such as house breaking a dog again. It upped the ante a lot… Every night for weeks as my head hit the pillow, I felt it necessary to say to myself, “We can do this… We’re not too beat up for this”. And as those words filtered through my mind, it was then all about whether a little dog could be happy with us, because Hubby works five days a week in his home office with the door shut and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do to keep a puppy happy in the midst of my own daily agenda.
Let things unfold naturally is probably the best plan. I’ve always known this. It’s just that there are times when I, or anyone for that matter, can lose control and step out in front of good advice. Lewie was ever so helpful with keeping us in line, for he took control with his business, his cuteness, and his wonderful effervescence. Lewis was nothing short of amazing!
What did Lewie do? He crept into the house and into our hearts, that little ball of fluff. His kennel was his refuge but the house its inhabitants were his playground.
Lewis showed us his wonderful character through his playfulness, intelligence, caring ways, and sensitivity. And, yes… A dog can be all of that by doing all the right things, including presenting problems, at just the right moment. By baying at the moon? No, not that one for Lewie. By crying in his kennel? No, he was very good about adapting himself to his kennel. No, it was the coyotes that presented themselves outside our back yard baying away for anything that might want to come out and be eaten by the pack. Picture the middle of the night… Maybe 2 a.m. … Coyotes begin their serenade. It was always soothing in the past… Like a lullaby in the middle of the night. And then came a young voice from the family room… Clear! Distinct! Resounding! Bark bark bark… Ahoooooooo! And so it continued. No one was sleeping and the coyotes with Lewie were well into their concert. Hubby was getting fussy and something had to be done. I pattered barefoot into the family room and turned on the radio to some easy listening music hoping against all odds, that Lewie would like it. Turns out, he did! Lewie settled back, curled up to sleep again.
I watched Lewis sleeping there for about fifteen minutes, thinking how this tiny black and white fluff ball had renewed our lives with chewed up boxes and chewed up carpet and yes, a hole chewed half way through the wall in order to get to Hubby’s resounding voice as he worked one day. Over the following weeks it was clear that we were moving into a new phase of life: The Lewie Phase. The one where two grieving parents begin to share love and leave the grief behind. Losing a child is one of the most traumatic things a parent(s) can experience. Often times it ends in divorce. While this was never a consideration for this grieving couple, we are well aware of the joy and blessing God gave us in our Lewis!
May you also find joy in the life around you. Do you have a dog? Do you need one? We did. Thanks, Lewie, for all you’ve brought back into our lives!
Carolyn Thomas Temple