Sometimes the happiest news can make me feel the saddest.
As you may know, our 4 year-old Jack Russel Terrier (Henry) passed away unexpectedly from cancer in mid-April. Henry joined our family to help prepare for the day when our now fourteen-year old JRT, Austin, would no longer be with us. Austin, who is now mostly deaf and almost blind, is still sturdy and obsessed with chasing squeaky toys. While we thought Henry would be Austin’s successor, we are now looking for Henry’s replacement.
I found a breeder of Jack Russell Terriers in Virginia who breeds them primarily for temperament and while they have the JRT look that Joe and I love, their personalities are much less intense than I’ve experienced. After thinking about it for a couple of months, I got in touch with them. Lo and behold, they have an especially mellow little boy that would be a good fit for us. His name will be Holmes, Joe’s mother’s maiden name. He will join our family in August.
I can’t wait to meet Holmes! I want to take him on long walks, train him and have him curl up in my lap. When I look in his eyes, I want to know what’s behind them. Who is he? How will he make us laugh?
But wait. Normally when I’m this excited about something, the first thing I do is call my mom. And while I can talk to her spirit, I cannot call her on the phone and hear the excitement in her voice. She was a huge dog lover, but more importantly, if I was excited about something, she would be too. If I was thrilled to get a pet rock, she’d be happy for me too! It didn’t matter how big or little the event. If I was happy, she was thrilled. If she were alive, I would email her a picture of Holmes and the next time I’d be at her house, I’d notice the picture on her refrigerator, joining the ever-expanding, unwieldy photo collage of loved ones, former students, meaningful poems and funny cartoons.
About a month or two after my mom passed, I came up with a way to describe how it felt to have her gone. It was like I was hot and thirsty and all I wanted was a drink of water. But there’s no water. The world offered me other options: iced tea? milk? lemonade? No. I want water. A cold beer? No. I want #@!&*&* water. It hits the spot like nothing else.
Our future puppy Holmes makes me thirsty.
My bereavement group facilitator often talks about how grieving is an 18-36 month process. Grief doesn’t unfold in an orderly progression of feelings on a tidy timeline. We are not in control of our grief. Instead, the “stages” are circular and appear when they want. Fortunately, as time passes, the waves of grief become further apart.
A wise person told me that I’ll feel better once I’ve cried all of my tears. Finding Holmes made me happy, which then made me sad. Maybe indirectly, Holmes has helped me shed some tears which will bring me closer to feeling better.
Fortunately, the tides of sadness pass. Life goes on. We will get a new puppy. I have a new blog. And as of this week, I have a new Task Force to lead. Lots of good stuff!
As the Buddhists say, life is full of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. I’m learning that often, a sorrow and a joy can be inextricably intertwined, different sides of the same coin. Getting Holmes means Henry is gone and I can’t share my excitement with my mom. But the sadness doesn’t negate the joy. They coexist.
Life is more nuanced than I used to understand. While I didn’t think about it too much in the past, I used to assume sadness and joy were more of an either/or proposition. But they’re not. I’m learning they can co-exist and even intensify each other.
Thanks for reading. I hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!