The universe is an indivisible whole in which all things are interconnected - Eckhart Tolle.
Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep – by Mary Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die.
Wednesday saw me clawing my way up a shrub-covered cliff and back down again, holding onto tree branches and clumps of grass to stop myself from hurtling down helter-skelter and out of control.
Walking up the river, gingerly stepping from slippery rock to slippery rock, almost losing my footing on more than a few occasions.
Wading knee deep, grasping onto a conveniently-placed rock to keep me upright and my head above water when I slipped and fell.
It was like something out of an action movie.
Only I didn’t get to play the part of a hero.
To my sorrow I wasn’t able to bring my beautiful and loving dog back still breathing.
My first impulse was to keep this story – the circumstances of my beloved dog’s passing – quiet.
To only tell the few who I had called asking for help – before my phone got wet and gave out on me – what really happened.
Not that I was planning to tell any lies. Just not to tell the full truth.
“Pimo died on Wednesday,” I practiced saying, not filling in any of the details.
At first this impulse arose from an instinct for self-protection.
I knew that in retelling the story I would relive the events and feel the pain – especially the self-recrimination – all over again.
I think there was also a fear of people’s judgement mixed in there.
“What a bad dog owner,” I could imagine them saying. “Who in their right mind would take an aging dog to such a place?”
Well, they may be right. I have mourned my apparent foolishness.
But as my former partner said, as he sat with me by the body and we lit candles and incense, it is that streak in me, that makes the usually sensible and responsible person I am do something so lacking in good sense and judgement that afterwards I wonder what on earth I could have been thinking while – at the time of doing it – being sure that it’s a good idea, that made me the prefect parent for Pimo.
It usually is a good idea to be honest.
It’s just that sometimes they backfire and go wrong.
Maybe what I am lacking is foresight.
But I’m glad I allow myself to listen to the whispers of my heart, and don’t automatically list up everything that could go wrong.
This streak in me represents a love of freedom; for Pimo as much as for me.
It is this streak in me that gave her richness of life; a richness encompassing both good and bad.
It is thanks to this that she spent hours roaming the hills leashless when she was younger. Going where she pleased when she pleased, as I sat with a book open on my lap in the shade of a tree on the mountain road calling her name from time to time to let her know where I was.
It is thanks to this that she got to revel in rolling around in a rotting fish by the river one time and animal feces in the mountains another; completely ignoring my calls for her to come, absorbed in her delight.
It is thanks to this that she continued to get let off her lead at all – even though I knew that she was the one calling the shots once she was out there and couldn’t be trusted to reliably respond to my “commands.”
It is thanks to this that she returned to me once with balls of ice the size of my fist attached to the fur on her stomach, completely unrepentant for having been “missing in action” for seven hours as she chased animal tracks in the snow.
And it is also thanks to this that she fell to her death on Wednesday, slipping on legs that were old and tired and no longer able to fully grasp the Earth.
The day started off in an uneventful way. It was hot and humid and I woke up not feeling inclined to do any of the things I had planned. I’d been missing my time in nature recently and thought how nice it would be to go somewhere and rejuvenate by restoring my connection to the Earth.
Somewhere with water, I thought. What could be nicer than sitting by a river on a hot summer’s day?
For some reason I decided to take Pimo with me, even though I’ve been leaving her sleeping at home more and more in recent weeks.
I thought she could do with the time in nature, too. And maybe I was harking back to former days when we’d enjoying exploring the outdoors together.
So into the car we got, with windows wide open so she wouldn’t overheat. A secluded place where we could get down by the river had sprung to mind, and it was there that we headed.
She made it down to the river on her old and tired legs quite well.
She tripped a couple of times, but I only had to carry her in one place where the steps were gone and there was a steep bank. I carefully made my way down, feeling each step. We arrived at the river edge without incident and I was enjoying the feeling of being out in nature with Pimo again, though it did cross my mind that we were rather unprotected if a bear should chance to come along.
We sat; me with my feet in the river, Pimo cooling down in a shallow pool of water.
At one point a bird appeared from between rocks taller than me, that formed a narrow channel through which the river ran downstream. I wondered if it was a message, and felt a slight sense of unease. But not being sure what it could mean we stayed a while longer until Pimo seemed to get a bit restless and I carried her back to the road above.
If only I had left it there, my day would have had the sated feeling of an afternoon spent in nature I envisioned when I left home. But I thought it would be nice for us to sit a while longer, and we carefully made our way to a rock that overlooked the river. We didn’t stay long for Pimo seemed restless again. I carried her back to what I thought was a safe spot, put her down on the ground and we had hardly walked a few steps when she slipped and fell.
And the rest of the story you pretty much know.
We were too far for anyone to reach us easily, and nobody I managed to call was available to come.
There was only me and the wilderness, and the glimpse of her collar halfway down the cliff.
And that is where I made a terrible mistake.
Instead of trusting myself to be able to get down the cliff to her, I ran down the steps and tried to make my way up.
But I’d misjudged the place and found myself back at the top too far downstream, having wasted precious time. By the time I got to her collar she had slipped through it, and nor could I find her anywhere as I stumbled and slipped the rest of the way down the cliff.
As I continued to search I struggled with blame and self-recrimination:
What on earth was I thinking to bring her to such a place?
Why did I put her down when I did?
Why didn’t I carry her for just another minute? Or all the way back to the car?
Why didn’t I go straight down the cliff to where I could see the red of her collar? If I’d have done that, I probably would have been in time.
Why do I always make the wrong decision at such critical junctures?
Why didn’t I take the time to pause and center and ask for guidance before I decided on my course of action?
Why didn’t I ask my guides and the angels for help sooner, rather than nearly an hour later when I finally came out of the river still not having found her?
Why hadn’t I been more loving with her, more understanding of her condition?
Why did I let her feel my impatience when she stepped in her food and smeared it all over the kitchen floor that morning? Why wasn’t I gentler with her; kinder; more patient?
Why didn’t I leave her safe and sound at home?
How could I have done such a stupid thing?
And so it went on.
In the meantime, someone I had called had called someone else and he arrived on the scene in his truck.
When we finally found her in the river, she was no longer breathing. Her face wore the same gentle and peaceful expression as usual, and if you didn’t know any better you would think she was sleeping.
I brought her home and wiped her down with a towel. I almost expected her to give a little cough and start breathing. But some things cannot be so easily undone.
I spent the first 24 hours blaming myself, interspersed with moments of being more mindful.
I remembered a talk I had listened to only a couple of days before about how animals know they are eternal beings and do not have the same feelings about death as we do. I remembered how fiercely Esther Hicks had told the gentleman in question to stop mourning the “bunny” he had run over, replaying the incident over and over again in his mind. I thought how similar that was to my self-blame and recrimination and resolved to stop punishing myself in this way. I could torment myself for weeks and years, but it still wouldn’t change what had happened.
And I know for sure this isn’t the legacy my beautiful and loving dog would have wished to leave me with.
Finally coming into my Higher Self, I recited the Ho’oponopono statements. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”
I just kept on telling my beautiful and precious (dog-)child over and over again how much I was grateful for her presence in my life, for all the many gifts she has given me.
I asked the gleaming full moon to clear both her karma and mine. I asked that this be done through this lifetime and all others; past, present, and future.
I told Pimo how much I loved her, and that that would never change.
I thanked her for continuing to be with me in Spirit.
I took comfort in the fact that if she is one with the Universe and so am I, then essentially we are one even though she is no longer a physical presence in my world.
I messaged a friend and spiritual teacher, Reba Linker , who I know has faced the passing of her own four-legged companions, asking if there was anything I should do to help ease Pimo’s passing. She wrote back to me with these words that continue to help me to frame this in a way that doesn’t make Pimo the victim and me the villain, or even both of us victims:
“The most important thing is self-forgiveness. There often are things we wish we had done differently and that is part of the experience. Self-forgiveness is what is needed and what is – absolutely – deserved. Things could not have been otherwise. All is as it is supposed to be. All is right. All is well.
Pimo left you in a way that felt right to her. Perhaps she did not need to experience, or perhaps she did not want to burden you with a more drawn-out decline of health.
She wants you to be happy, of course. She loves you, forever. And she is with you, always…
Mostly, take care of you. This just happened. It’s a shock, for sure. Be gentle with yourself.”
I have taken these wise and loving words to heart with gratitude. I have been gentle with myself. I have stopped my train of thought each time it heads towards and/or gets caught up in self-blame and recrimination. I have reframed the thought instead.
I have taken strength and comfort in my trust in the Universe’s divine plan. I have assuaged my pain with all that I know of the Universe’s perfect timing, and how everything in our lives is unfolding for our greatest and highest good.
I know that that includes for Pimo’s greatest and highest good.
She is a child of the Universe, too.
Doing this enabled me to stop fighting reality.
There is still a part of me that is in shock and pain, and wishes it didn’t have to be this way. But there is a greater part of me that trusts the Universe and all that has been revealed to me over the past few years.
That part of me tells me that everything is exactly as it should be. It reminds me to focus on all the things I’m grateful to Pimo for and the purity of the love we shared. When I do this I am able to be strong and feel cleansed inside. This is the lesson of self-forgiveness my friend spoke of. This is what I am here to learn: to love myself no matter what.
When I was feeling slightly calmer and more centered in my own energy again, I asked to be able to see the incident with the eyes of Spirit.
How much of it came from Spirit I can’t say for sure, but the next day after I had buried Pimo in my pottery teacher’s garden I came home and felt an urge to lay down where I had laid her the night before and where she so often slept. I was struck by the fact that all I could see were the brown speckled walls of my classroom and the clock ticking on the wall. It struck me that this wasn’t a place for a dog to live out her days or to draw her last breath. I wondered if she chose to go surrounded by beauty and nature. I wondered if she chose to go in such an abrupt and shocking way because she knew that otherwise I would find it too hard to let go.
One thing I am certain of is that she knew how much I loved her.
I am trying not to see her death as tragic. I am trying not to think of how I wanted to hold her to the end and help ease her passing, letting her know that she was loved and safe.
I am trying and succeeding in not letting this moment define me and my relationship with her. I know her life was richer for knowing me, as mine was for knowing her. That helps me not to condemn myself. That helps me not to get caught up in the story of how much I “failed” her.
I am remembering these often-repeated words:
“In the end all that matters is how much you have loved.”
I know that as a result of my relationship with Pimo I have known the beauty of love blossoming within my own heart. I am grateful for the unconditional nature of the love she gave me so abundantly in return.
I am remembering the many times I told her silently in my heart: “Pimo, you go when you are ready. You don’t need to hang on for me. As long as you want to remain here with me, I’ll treasure our time together. But you don’t need to stay beyond when you want to out of a sense of obligation. I love you dearly, but I’ll be okay.”
I’m hoping she chose what was best for her.
I’m certain that even though I couldn’t be with her, she knew in the moment of her passing how dearly she was loved.
I’m thankful for the time we had, and know that we share a bond that reaches beyond this lifetime.
Not only do I love Pimo, I also continue to love myself.
The self-recrimination resurfaces, comes and goes like a wave. But I love myself enough to know I did the best I could, mistakes in judgement notwithstanding.
I love myself no matter what my role in the incident may or may not have been.
I am choosing to actively demonstrate that love by giving myself the gift of self-forgiveness.
I am engulfing myself in love. Giving myself this gift of self-forgiveness as many times as needed, over and over again.
We have all done things that make us afflict ourself with self-blame and recrimination.
Guilt and the heaviness it encumbers us with is not what the Universe, (or our beloved ones who have passed before us), desire us to experience. It is time for us to put down that load; to release it and let it go.
I invite you to put down your burdens of guilt; engulf yourself in love.
Give yourself the gift of self-forgiveness. Wherever it is needed. Over and over again.