At the beginning of my yoga classes, I often remind the students that the yoga practice is a life practice – that we begin in child’s pose, end in corpse, and practice being strong, uncomfortable, and radiant between the two.
I think about birth and rebirth a lot, but less about death. So when my brother called to tell me our parent’s dog, Pepper, was dying, it caught me off guard.
We take life for granted, or at least I do. Besides small moments when I fear for my loved one’s safety (i.e. “Ryan hasn’t called in ten minutes – I hope he wasn’t in a horrific car accident,”) I assume that the living being that I love will always be there. But life is not a stagnant routine; all moments come to an end and when they do, we have to be prepared to meet that end. When my mom called a little later, I could hear that she was crying. I told her that it was okay to be upset, and she replied “I know – it’s the cycle. Life and death.”
Pepper is going to be missed, without a doubt. My parent’s house has had her little smiling face and wagging nub-tail since they adopted her from another family in 2006. As hard as it is to lose a pet, it’s a joy to think about how that pet brought out my family’s strongest talents: my mom’s joyful affection, my dad’s deep care and nurture, my brother’s playfulness.
When searching for a picture of her, I came across this one, where my mom and I are holding both of our now-departed pets, Dinah and Pepper. Some people would think it was silly to place so much significance of the role a pet plays in your most cherished memories, but that role is big – so big that I know it’s okay that both of them are gone. Sharing your home and daily life with an animal, reveling in their trust and savoring a love is so much greater than the pain you experience when they leave.
My cat, Chicken, is going to be hugged a little tighter today. The two of us found each other at a difficult time in my life and I found myself grounded by the routine of taking care of her and working for each other’s trust. I realize that I’ll lose her or she’ll lose me one day, but that moment is not now. Now is a moment for love and gratitude.