Today marks day 7 of the rest of life without Padma. I feel like I’m wearing someone else’s skin, in someone else’s life. 17 years- more than half my adult life- is a long time to have a constant companion. I’m grateful for it all, and lucky, I realize that. At the same time, everything feels quite sideways and probably will for a while. I’m sharing this with you because much in the same way that blue lotus was never really mine, it was the same with the Boo. Even before blue, she was the yoga dog: visiting, welcoming and ignoring in equal measure. She never belonged to me. She belonged very much to herself: on her on schedule, with her own agenda and always on her own timeline. She arrived and departed on her own terms.
When she started having seizures back in the late spring, I knew we were nearing the end. Would it be a day? A week? A few months? Likely not a year… As grace and providence would have it, the final slice of her time on this planet coincided with the least busy professional period I’ve had in over two decades. Barring quick trips to the grocery store and short walks, I got to spend most every minute of the last two months with her, tending to her every need as much as my limited human capacity would allow. We had countless sleepless nights. I spent more of those nights on couches and floors than in beds. We paced miles and miles around the house, often in the dark of night. There were endless hours of stroking, soothing and paw holding, with intermittent whispers of I love you the most of everything, and I will love you forever…. It was all-consuming and beyond exhausting on every level. And it was a precious gift.
I feel at once hollow and empty and also spacious and free. It depends on perspective and perspective is everything. I know this from the practice: like everything else, I get to choose how to have this experience. Early on with the seizures, when I didn’t know what to expect or what to do, and it felt like the fear and grief might be unsurvivable, my breath was delivered to me with the message this is what love feels like. It has become my mantra.
Love, like life, is not just comprised of the parts we like that are pleasant. It’s not just the kind words that make us feel warm and fuzzy; it’s also the sharp words that snap us back to reality when we have lost our way. It’s not just the wagging tail and the ear scratches; it is the sleepless nights wandering the halls and cleaning up poo and patiently orienting and reorienting after the seizing is done. The effect of letting go of the object of that kind of love is a storm wherein there is no opportunity to batten down the hatches. This is what love feels like. Putting aside all the voices of fear and worry and what if and what next and how will I ever… and just be in the intensity. This is what love feels like. Surrendering to the sharp and swift blade of grief and allowing it to tear through and clear out what is closed and tight and stuck. This is what love feels like.
I had never watched a soul leave a body before. It somehow makes sense to me that death- the leaving- is every bit as difficult, messy and filled with struggle as the arriving- birth. It was simultaneously beautiful and excruciating; filled with peace and rife with struggle. I know for sure that what I witnessed was sacred. I got to experience, in the most visceral way, the culmination of the ongoing process of being and becoming, shedding and surrendering that we are all doing all the time. Life is an ever-evolving and ceaseless cycle of birth and death, creation, destruction, transformation. And we are, each of us, every day a step nearer to the threshold of the world to come. Nothing is permanent except the love in the boundless center.
With P, I knew it was coming. I got to have weeks on end practicing presence, witnessing the slow crossing and letting it be her way, in her time, without my interference. I got to live out the practice every waking hour of being with what is, in the center of the storm, continually putting aside the inner dialogue that was filled with fear, dread, longing. This felt and feels rare and precious.
And so each time I sense a wave of grief rising, I breathe in this is what love feels like. And I breathe out gratitude. There is sometimes peace, sometimes sweetness, sometimes a torrent of tears that I feel may never end. But this is how I choose to have this experience. This is how I say goodbye to my beloved companion. This is the kind of presence with which I want to live my life.
For now (and maybe for always) there is a boo-shaped hole in the universe. And there will forever be a boo-shaped imprint on my heart. Go hug someone you love and let them hug you back. Give your favorite fur baby their favorite treats and extra scratches. And when you do, without any words, without the story, without any demands or grasping or clinging, breathe into the moment. This is what love feels like.
Our task is to repeat that, again and again, until it is what we become.
All blessings, all the time,
p.s. It’s well beyond my pay grade to make a Booling Retrospective, so I’m grateful Apple made this for me from her last year with us. For those who loved the Boo… here you go.