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On Grieving

by Lucky Garvin

On the 5th day of May, that year of our Lord 2011, my beloved Dobie, Rock died. We had a vet come to see him one last time and release him from an incurable spinal disease.

But in the midst of my loss, I learned a few things: I learned that love and loss are reciprocals [the more you love, the more pain you feel]; they are like joy and sorrow, also reciprocals, each necessary for the other to be.

I learned there are but two rules for grieving:

#1- The process of grieving takes as long as it takes; not one second more, not one second less.

#2- See rule number one.

The definition of grieving: That process by which grief is transformed into a gratitude that the loved one had ever been a part of our life; and when I say ‘loved ones,’ I’m talking two-legged, four-legged, feather or furred.

The usual graph of grieving starts high with grief and trends downward as we heal towards gratitude. Something was very wrong; my graph was going up. Months after the loss of our boy, I was still falling; try as I would, I could find no solace. Sabrina noticed this, of course, and said to me, “You must get to the Fathers.”

Who are the Fathers? Dear friends of ours who labor in a nearby monastery. We met them because one day, Sabrina and I decided to stop using propane, and one thing led to another.

But, clearly, I needed their help.

I left them a voice message, and that’s when this unforgettable afternoon began. The oppression of Rock’s loss began to ease; gratitude began to elbow grief aside. I felt better than I had in months. I had begun to mend.

Punchline: I hadn’t even talked with them yet… Strange.

I thought of a job I had forgotten: a groundhog we had released some time back. One thing about groundhogs though, once you release them, they become occasionally dangerous. I took his food up, and there he lay, sunning himself. I did a thing I shouldn’t have done: I sat down right beside him. That ill-advised deed soon took its place in that transforming afternoon.

This wild groundhog, and his one inch teeth, crawled up on my lap and went to sleep; obviously not an instinctive move for a wild animal and for the next twenty peaceful minutes, gratitude continued to nudge grief out of the way… and I don’t know why.

Before I leave this part of the afternoon, allow me to add in this fact: this groundhog came to us as an adult. The family had captured him as a baby, kept him until adulthood as a pet [illegal], then changed their minds. Before giving him up, they had given the GH a name. What had they named him?

Punchline: They had named him Lucky. Lucky… Where have I heard that name before?

Later that night, my son and his lady came to visit, and she brought her dog, Tommy. Tommy just loved me! We played together for a long while, then I went up to my office. After a bit, Tommy came up to visit me. Strange to say, he didn’t get all wild and crazy, he just rested his head against my leg like my Rock used to do. I loved on him a bit, he fell asleep at my feet.

Punchline: In order for Tommy to climb the carpeted stairs to my office, he pulled himself up using only his two front legs. You see, like Rock, his back legs don’t work so well; he feels no pain, he just stumbles and falls a lot, like Rock used to.

But there’s a question hanging in the air about us. Do you feel it? The question is: what happened that afternoon? Did Heaven take note that Ol’ Garvin was in a hard patch, couldn’t free himself, and sent him a helping Hand? Or, was this just a peculiar unrelated series of events which led to my healing. You make the call; I’ve already made mine.

Oft-times disparate events, events with no apparent connectedness – propane and monasteries, two dogs who love me, each with severe spinal disease, and a groundhog who bears my name –all in the same afternoon – are patiently braided together by The Guiding Hand and presented to us anonymously to do with what we will: a palette of possibilities.

These connections occur far too frequently to be brushed aside as mere coincidence; and that, beyond any human ability to predict, one thing leads to another…

There is a story of the great pianist Paderewski: he was making his way onstage to a packed house.  Both the curtains and the lights were coming up, and the maestro noted, to his great surprise, a small boy – a refugee from the audience, had found his way backstage to the piano – playing ‘Chopsticks” quite indifferent to the thousands of people watching him.

Not wanting to frighten the boy, Paderewski moved in quietly behind him and whispered, “Keep playing. Don’t stop. You are not playing alone.” Then, reaching around both sides of the youngster, he added a beautiful complex melody that transformed ‘Chopsticks’ into an unforgettable musical memory. Perhaps we are all but playing ‘Chopsticks’; it is with God’s  help that our music improves.

I would say to those of you who might be suffering: Keep playing. Don’t stop. You are not playing alone… Believe me, I now know it to be true.

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