Honor

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

I love the form and containment of Ecclesiastes 3.  First this and then this, measured out and balanced. The beauty of parallelism.

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A time to weep and a time to laugh . . . 

Last Friday, the day I received my final copy of my forthcoming novel, Sing for Me, my daughter Magdalena and I drove to the studio of a friend because Magdalena wanted to take photographs of our dog Honor.  Magdalena also snapped a picture of me dancing with joy because the novel I’ve been thinking about since 1995 has finally come to fruition.

A time to mourn and a time to dance . . . 

On Saturday our family relinquished our dog Honor to another family.  This family lives in another state. We searched long and hard to find the right people for Honor, people who will understand his particular nature and needs.

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A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing . . .

The woman of the family has already emailed me about their walks together, the wonderful companionship Honor provides, and how the beds and toys we sent along with him seemed to be a comfort in this hard season of change.  He pulls a bed close to theirs at night, she says, and he pulled another close to her even as she was writing the email to me.  She attached a photograph of Honor, lying there at her feet as she typed.

We have been preparing ourselves for this necessary loss for some time, but still my son and daughter and I are given to tears.  Truth be told, I believe we are sucker-punched by grief.  They say cold comes with mourning, and I am cold often, though the weather seems to be shifting towards spring here in the Midwest (never mind the snow last night; I believe it will be spring soon)

A time to plant and a time to uproot . . .

My son is pale and quiet, and we move toward each other often for hugs.  Last night we lay on his bed for some time, listening to a favorite audio book.  Honor slept with Teo, and now Teo sleeps alone.  Magdalena grimly works away at her photographs, trying to edit them until they’re just right.  Righting the situation.  She also claims she wants to have a funeral for Honor.  How can we do this, when Honor is so very alive?  I am trying to understand.

He is eating well already, the woman wrote.  I share this news with the children, and they regard me silently.

Later we talk of how good it is that Honor will now receive 2 to 5 mile walks a day.  We couldn’t do that for him, we remind ourselves.  He went through the window of our house; he was that anxious.  He ran away; he was that pent up.  He was so lonely with us gone all the time.  He did a fair amount of damage.  We couldn’t just drug him.  We’d loved him as best we could for six years, and now it was time for someone else to love him just as much, if not better.

We don’t stop loving him, though.  He will always be a part of our family.

Why am I writing this post?  Is it maudlin?  I ask myself these questions even as I type these words.

I guess I am thinking about how to find a way through grief and guilt and a sense of failure, and the odd combination of love and tenderness and joy that courses through this season that holds its particular catastrophe.

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I am seeking wisdom about this strange mix of times and seasons, not parallel at all, but braided, intertwined, inseparable, enmeshed–what is the right word for this co-existance of weeping and laughing, mourning and the dancing— this life?

Charles Dickens wrote this:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way . . . “

I so much prefer the measured grace, the this and then that, and then again this and then that of Ecclesiastes 3.  But for now, spring of hope and winter of despair—lines blurring, qualities merging.  I’ll work to reconcile myself to this season.

6 Responses to “Honor”

  1. Jeremy Botts Says:

    Karen,
    Parallelism is the subject of one of my favorite Arvo Pärt pieces—Pari Intervallo—where the two parts purely and slowly dance their meandering lines. Here’s Christopher Bowers-Broadbent’s rendition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0h4uUqe8Tk
    Jeremy

  2. KHS Says:

    Beautiful, Jeremy. Thank you so much for sharing this piece, and guiding me toward deeper understanding.

  3. Susan Lauer Says:

    Thank you, Karen, for these words. They struck a chord with me, as we had to make similar choices with our horses when we moved in to town after 12 years in the country. I felt as though I gave away my children (or at least, my close trusting companions) to someone who was undoubtedly more capable of giving them what they needed. I felt guilty, embarrassed, humbled, gratified, proud, and relieved all at once. I still wrestle with choosing what was without a doubt the very best, most informed solution to a real problem; I would choose it again. But I would hate it again also. So, blessings to you and your family as you grieve; it is grief-worthy. Thank goodness that grief is also potentially healing.

  4. KHS Says:

    Whenever I hear that someone has gone through something similar to this, I feel so grateful because I feel less alone. The boundaries of love between creatures, or lack thereof, are indeed humbling, Susan. I would make the same choice again as well. But that doesn’t make the choice any easier, or the healing either. But comments like yours help in this process. Thank you.

  5. Karen Doornebos Says:

    Karen,
    This was so beautifully written and so touching. We had a similar experience–I say similar because it wasn’t the same. We only had a puppy for one week. I hesitate to even say he was “our” puppy. In short, I fell in love with a shelter mutt, and my daughter and I brought him home. We were given one week to “try” him and after seven days he would be ours. But he was a lot of work! Cute as hell, but not potty-trained. Soon I found my entire day dedicated to training, walking, and he wore me out. He needed me home all the time. He chewed on everything…he growled and nipped at my husband…I soon found that the kids had no interest in helping, he & my husband didn’t bond, and this puppy was entirely mine. On the seventh day, just hours before he would be ours, we made the decision to bring him back in order to get adopted by a family that could spend the time he needed. He got adopted by a young couple with another young dog and the puppy wasn’t so lonely. That, it seemed, was part of the problem. My sense of failure was vast. I had let down my family, my kids, hadn’t I? The guilt was there, but the consolation that the puppy was happier in a new home comforted me. No, you are not alone…but then again, neither is your dog and the puppy anymore.

  6. KHS Says:

    What is that feeling of failure, so quick to descend upon us all, regardless of circumstance? I am wondering where this feeling comes from in myself, in so many of us, Karen. A departure from topic, perhaps—and a way of dodging the issues of trust and betrayal—on my part, not years, since I had committed to our Honor for years, and you released your pup to another family so early on in the journey, before the end of seven days. But still. And. The sense of failure.

    Thank you for sharing your story, Karen, thank you, and thank you again.

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