Many people believe that we should keep our precious moments to ourselves, that it somehow cheapens the meaning of them when these experiences are shared publicly. I disagree with that notion because for me, as terrible of a writer as I am, there’s something very divine, something very creative about this experience of sharing what is sacred to me, sacred to all of us. And for me, holding Trace in that moment was one of the most sacred experiences I have ever had. So, I suppose, I feel a freedom that comes in expression and I don’t do it for anybody else but me. And if it just so happens that others can learn from my own experience then that’s great.
You see, to be sacred means to imply dedication, setting something or someone apart, devotion, reverence, respect, and most of all connection. I am reminded of growing up in the historical Miami and Shawnee areas of southwest Ohio. Many of these Native American tribes spoke of the sacred, as they used symbols and spoke of legends. Many are probably aware of the sacred bundles, or medicine bags, that the shaman’s would carry that contained objects of spiritual value and meaning. And it makes me realize that the “object” that was Trace was not what was necessarily sacred. It was and is the memory and experience of him being with us that was/is sacred. Just the capacity to be conscious with another being is holy. Its not to say objects do not carry spiritual value, it is just that they only become that way through connection.
While we will have a redwood box filled with Trace’s ashes, that will be a symbol of his sacredness but it’s origins are of the heart. And when we say heart, it may not be literally the four-chambered muscle; rather, it would pertain to the sheer center of beingness. We don’t need murals and statues to find the divine; that is, the divine lives within us, only if we open ourselves up to invite it in. And so, his ashes will only be a reflection of what is really truly already in my heart.
In the aftermath of Trace’s passing, or transformation as I like to call it, I have found an intriguing, eye-opening peace about him. If there’s a powerful energy about the last 24 hours, it is that for the first time in a long time, I have seen and felt God in the strangest of ways. As I mentioned yesterday, on the way to the hospital I asked for guidance and that came through the eyes of the surgeon who tended to us. Again, in a single moment, no words were said but a powerful look through the eyes of another human shook my soul, as if God saw through him right back at me, showing me, “it is time.”
One of the after thoughts people have asked me about is Bella. When I got Trace ready to go, I told Bella to “say goodbye” – even in that moment, whether I wanted to admit it or not, I had a feeling this was it. Bella wasn’t quite sure what was going in that moment. She timidly approached and of course Trace wanted nothing to do with her. It was when I got home from the hospital that Bella sank with me. I walked into the empty house and I sat on the floor and just sobbed. And there she was, the dog who came before Trace, that came and laid down by my side. It was in that moment Bella knew, she felt it. She and I are going to heal together these next few months. It’s a new dynamic in the home now and Bella and I are gonna have to figure this out together: NDT anyone?
My other God moment came when I put my daughter to bed last night. We do the usual nighttime books and then we say a prayer and sing a little song while we both lay in bed. By the time I got to prayer she was pretty much asleep. I laid there and I closed my eyes and I began to pray. And I asked for a sign, something to show me that Trace was safe. Not a minute later, I felt this little hand (from my sleeping daughter) caress my face and I felt a rush of joy, a blanket of peace. It was then I knew that Trace was safe and he was alright. And in the next moment, my daughter – mind you she is still asleep at this point – takes my hand and places it on her little stuffed animal she is snuggling with: a husky, whose name of course is, Trace. I melted with tears of joy.
And then finally this morning, I got in to work and I was the on call counselor at the time. I get a call from our front office manager who tells me that a student walked in asking to see me because she knows I run the PAWS outreach program at the University (basically, I’m the dog person on campus). This student wanted to talk to me about a puppy they found outside their dorm last night. So I scratched my head in irony. The student sat in my office and explained to me that this very young puppy had a collar but no tags and there was no way they could keep it. And for the record, NO, we are not getting another dog and NO, I did NOT offer to take this puppy. But in the moments of talking with this student I found myself thinking of Trace and in my heart he reminded me of this wonderful life we have. No matter how short or long it is, there’s no better way to live than to live with love and compassion. So I guided the student to some resources to help find this dog a home – a home, I hope could provide the kind of grace and love we gave to Trace. It felt good to do that.
As I sat with Trace yesterday in those finals moments, it has hit me square up front how poetic that was for the both of us. I value my independence – there are just many things in my life I enjoy doing on my own and its always been part of my temperament. Trace was the same way – not aloof, rather, he was independent, just a strong dog on his own. So it was only fitting, that he and I got to share that moment, just to the two of us. It was pure, abiding, selfless love. It reminds me of a saying from author and psychologist, Steven Hayes: “love isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” And I find peace in that…unshakable peace.