May 9th marked six months without my darling Pluto. Six months of grief. Six months of missing something that I didn’t know I would miss like this. Six months of a loss that never would pass away, but which wise people tell, and which I know from experience only subsides into a dull fist of pain in your heart that you bury.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross wrote of the five stages of grief:
1. Denial and isolation
It is not necessary that you go through these five stages in the same order. And it is not necessary for you to have lost a loved one to Death’s manicured hands for you to feel these five stages. You can lose your home, your spouse to divorce, or your best friend to a fight, and you can still cycle your pain through these stages.
I didn’t go through denial with Pluto. There is nothing much you can deny when you throw soft earth over a dog’s body and watch him buried in that cool earth. I did go through anger. I was angry with myself. I was angry that I hadn’t spent time as I should have. I was incredibly sad. I did have a lot of ‘if only’ statements, part of the bargaining stage – If only I had seen Pluto in the morning. If only I had gone later. If only he hadn’t taken a walk. If only we had checked in on him earlier. Nothing in life hurts us more than ‘if only’.
And I am isolating my grief. These last few months, I seem to have drastically reduced my visits to my sister’s house, which was Pluto’s home. Even though my sister’s house is like a 30-second walk from my parents’ place where I usually spend the weekends. Even when I go there, I avert my eyes from the little balcony that was his enclosure. I haven’t been able to go over there and open the gate and peer inside. I haven’t been able to really look at the emptiness there. So, I quickly rush inside through the main door and then run away again, without looking to where he would have been, tail thumping against the gate, waiting for a hug from me.
It’s not that I avert my eyes because I can’t accept the fact that he isn’t there. No. I can’t look because I can’t accept the space that he left behind. When something leaves our life, we always think it is because something bigger and better should fill it up. But death isn’t like that. Death leaves a crater in our hearts; a dent that can never be bent back into shape. We can work around the space, but that space, like any loss that hurts us deeply, remains, reminding us of what we lost.
Is that good? Or is that bad? Space by definition just is.
We can think of the empty spaces in our lives as reminders to fill what we have with more presence.
Since Pluto’s death, I have been careful about where and with who I spend my time. I realized that time is the only thing we need to work towards in life. Nothing else compares.
I spend more time with my parents, reading books with my sister and Mom on weekends. I choose with care the non-family relationships I spend time with, no longer wanting to be a part of meaningless sessions of beer and empty thoughts. Since May last year, I haven’t used What’s App, and now I am off Facebook as well. The sheer ennui of the fake likes and comments of social media enervated me. I want to have the real connections. I want to feel the thoughts, the words, the hugs and caresses of your thoughts. Yes. Yours. If you are reading this, you are one of them. I don’t want to talk of “Thanks for sharing this post!” or say, “Congrats! You both look fab in this picture in Bali.” I don’t want that artifice. I am happy if you are happy and are doing great in your life and want to project that onto social media for all to see. But I am happier if you whisper your happiness to me. I am happier if you partake of your life with me without the bonds of likes and comments. Is it any wonder that two beautiful conversations with a good friend in Chennai’s Elliot’s Beach was one of my best moments from these past two weeks? We watched the full moon rise and spoke of our deepest fears and hopes. No phones. No social media. Nothing except talk the old-fashioned way.
I now find myself questioning the meaning of life and existence even more. It’s not depressing to contemplate death. It’s the most beautiful search you can embark on. All the feathers of pride we cling to will disappear if we were to think that death is not an eternity, but a whisper in the now.
My brother-in-law asks me when I can get Pluto’s replacement, and I try half-heartedly. But wait. What am I closing myself to? Do I think my love for Pluto will be reduced if we get another dog?
Can our love be divided so fast? No. That’s not love. Love can only be multiplied. I need to have that faith. So, I will start our hunt for another dog.
I will go over to Pluto’s balcony, lean on the gate, and close my eyes and breathe in his scent, and just like that, I know that I will hear the faint thump of his tail. And I will know that I have him there in my heart, all 140 pounds of him, nestled away, sleeping because I am crooning his favorite lullaby. And then I can let my tears flow till there are none left.