I’ve been thinking a good deal about death lately. It’s not surprising, perhaps, as it’s now a full year since my father died. I think about the man a lot, too – and I talk about him. Months ago Kevin mentioned that I talk about my dad more now than I did when he was alive. I hadn’t noticed. A few weeks ago, Kevin reprised the observation. This time I knew why: I talk about my dad, because I can’t talk to him.
My dad died at 65. Several weeks after his passing, I went to a memorial service of the Essex County Bar Association honoring attorneys, like my father, who were members and who died in 2012. The other honorees had twenty, even thirty years on him. They lived long lives, like people are supposed to.
It’s harder to accept the loss of someone who dies young, and the younger the life lost, the more unacceptable. Just ask any parent who’s buried a child.
I’ve also been thinking about death because I’ve been thinking about Gryffin. I presume that’s a hard turn for some people to make – turning from the loss of a human to the loss of a dog – but in my case, both were family and both died too young. Kevin and I considered Gryffin our first child, and presumed he would be in our lives a good thirteen, fourteen years. But when he was ten, a tumor, hidden behind his ribcage, burst; vets could do little to save him.
In the 1980s psychologists began studying – and taking seriously – the grief people report feeling after a pet dies. Their findings may not surprise those who’ve lost their best canine or feline friend, but researchers discovered that the grief triggered by the loss of a beloved companion animal can be so profound that it can surpass the grief associated with the death of a human companion, even a family member.
I’ve been thinking about Gryffin, because in a few weeks, during a trip to Israel, I will see his brother – a littermate – who’s now thirteen. Maurice lives in Tel Aviv with my friend Daphne, and according to her, “He’s slowing down, but he’s as handsome as ever.” It’s funny; we used that same word – handsome – to describe Gryffin. I still do, when I talk about him.
And I talk about Gryffin a lot, because so much about Galen reminds me of him. And even when she acts in ways he never would, my mind meanders back to him.
I miss my dad. And I miss Gryffin. And I’ll keep talking about them both, because right now, that’s the only way I know to keep them alive.