Back now from a trip to the Lower 48 to see family before winter sets in, & returned home to find that Kristin’s grandmother passed away just after the entire family gathered & then dissipated. But how curious a thing, to think that whereas a funeral tends to gather & congregate mourners all under the cold pallor of death, in this case, everyone came together to celebrate life in advance of its cessation. She was cogent, alert, conversational, with a warm & smiling countenance during our visit. The family raised their glasses to her birthday & six others besides, a graduation, an anniversary—to the accomplishments & milestones of lives well lived. & maybe the silence upon our departure was like the deep sigh when the last guest steps out into the night & the door closes on a warm home. Maybe it was like the last glance out the window at the canopy of stars swelling & pulsing overhead before letting close your heavy lids. In any case, there by her side, her husband of 65 years, still madly enamored of her. One can prepare oneself, maybe, for a passing, but what lingers along with those severed ties is what tends to grip the heart.
& against that backdrop, I can’t begin to express the deep & abiding love for our home & family that we feel surging in us. From the laughter & conversation with all of our human family we flew home exhausted to the simple joy of our canine one. & even as the winds gust to 80 miles an hour, what calm in Norton’s bear hug or Willa’s panicked kisses. What joy in Patsy’s eager eyes & Littlehead’s swift leaps, or in Ox’s whining protests when we pet the others, in Hoss’s mouthy turns or Zigzag’s nose taps. I would think the world a different place entire if I could not turn from the hollow sadness of human loss into the pure love of our dogs’ company. Too, I’d think it bereft of its foundation if I did not have Kristin beside me at every step. It’s bewildering to think of how much life & love is permitted to exist simply because her grandmother did so first. What an extraordinary gift to the world.
Family means so many things, but in every iteration, every nuanced definition, every species, it is antidote to loss & salve to absence. It is the heart’s proof that we endure.