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Sweeping Up the Pieces of Our Heart
I lifted her into the truck, for cancer had taken too much from her and her leap had long ago forsaken her. She gave it little matter, content to simply be within my call. If she were near enough my scent, then she would lay patiently fixing her eyes in my direction. We drove into the backwoods, a shovel, a gun and conversation which I had readied for our last hours together.
Her eyes peered out from the total black of fur like little moons piercing the black of night and she kept them, even from blink, whenever I would speak, alert to my every word. Her trust of me was irrevocable. The old truck and I had long ago assured her that we were partners in every journey, great or small. She was content to be in our company once again. So many walks together, so many days fishing, so many conversations, so many errands. All those past moments kept suspicion of anything different from the day before us.
To say that she was my friend is to diminish her full meaning upon my life. She was closer than shadow and would manage my want for company without intrusion. She knew instinctively when my need of her was more. She was first upon my waking and always there to guard my sleep. First to meet me at any return and at my side in every work. She was the follow in my step, a warm rest cradled in my lap, the patient wait which attended my very life, whether standing or at sit. She was as much in my coming and my going as the shoes which kept my feet.
We found an old logging road and I followed it until my conversation begged far too much from a heart that knew the day. Arriving at no particular destination, I left the truck and marched stoically to a spot beneath a large Ponderosa Pine and began to dig her final place. There I would lay yesterdays and the tomorrows that would soon be forever, incomplete. I lifted her from the truck and set her down. She followed instinctively to the place which I had marked. I had dressed the hole with covering that would come to keep her and spread her blanket there with playthings that had become daily reminders of the bond between us. Perhaps, a subtle intent to believe that she would wake with them in another place and find comfort in familiarity.
Shakespeare said that "Parting is such sweet sorrow" but that was never meant for a parting such as we confronted on this day. That could not have been meant for final parting. I beckoned her to her blanket and in unwavering faithfulness she laid herself in trust upon the place. I spoke to her in words I can't remember, but, I remember that they were not words which come from places where I go to think; they came from feeling places, places deeper than I have gone before. They were words which after measure serve a truth, that there are moments when words fail the only task they have. She looked up from those moon eyes breathing in the words which fell in desperate insufficiency. I did not see the end through the tears that blurred both eye and heart from all that I had come to do. The silence was shattered in a final plea to take the lingering pain forever from her and then, it fell like rain upon my broken heart.
There are places in our deep which never heal completely. Places that claim forever, a part of us for themselves. Places where love refuses to leave alone that portion of our heart that stays forever in the place we leave behind. Life reserves such places for us all.
That I could no longer look upon her pain and chose to take it from her does not heal my want of her today. Although I grow accustomed to her absence, I look for her in still familiar places. Still I reach down to stroke the head that isn't there. I know that the love that did not want to let her go, was even more, the love that could not let her stay. In that final moment her eyes looked up to me, they held me tight and took a part of me that shall never be recovered.
Life promises us some measure of both pleasure and of pain. Of endings. It is a promise that comes with living. Like some porcelain doll fallen to the floor we gather the pieces and glue them together only to discover that there are tiny slivers unrecovered, gone forever. The heart does not break unscathed. There are pieces unrecovered, pieces inherited by the moment, by the scattering of brokenness across the floor that keeps our lives. We sweep up the pieces of our heart and put them back together the best we can but we know, we always know; there are pieces unrecovered.