A Deep Hole to Dig

This is not a snarky post about a Medic getting too far off course at a call. Instead,  it is a chance to explain a moment in life I thought I was prepared for (spoiler alert, I wasn't) and that my friend is about to experience.


Death alone is bad enough, death of someone close is numbing, but the loss of a pet is different.

Hear me out.

We can speak to our loved ones, hear their dreams and wishes, play voicemails to hear their voices one more time and have vivid memories of their lives with us and without us around.  We hold elaborate ceremonies where other people prepare our deceased loved ones and allow us a chance to have a somber moment (or a party as my will demands).  Then we head out to a place known to contain the deceased and hold another ceremony.

Then we walk away, maybe passing by or stopping in for a few moments once a year on their birthday to say "hello."

It eases the grieving process for sure.


But that doesn't happen for a pet.  We confide in them things we would never dream of telling other humans.  They see us at our best and our worst, always with a wagging tail or a "bark" or "meow" of acknowledgement.  Our pets are our friends.  No one disagrees.

When a pet dies or, in the case of our cat Cleo, begins a rapid decline in health rendering them a shadow of their previous self, we think grieving for humans prepares us for what comes next.

I have dealt with scores of death notifications, knowing I would be the first step in someone's grieving process, but nothing prepared me for what I had to do when Cleo died at 16.5 years old.

There was no funeral home to call to handle the tough stuff.

I picked her up and put her in the box, wrapped in a towel, then went out to the backyard.  Not the cemetery where you can prepare for what comes next, but the place were we play.

I got a shovel and set out digging a hole.  Not the largest hole I've ever dug, for sure, but the deepest.  Every time the shovel struck the wet dirt my mind recalled a moment with the little kitten I got in Paramedic School.  Or the way she cuddled at the foot of our bed on cold SF nights.  Or the way she initially wasn't sure what to think of the newborn, then would be known as "the second alarm" and jump up on the changing table when baby would cry.

I knew I was crying.  I figured I would, but that was the deepest hole I ever dug.  It was 16 and a half years of memories deep.


Today my friend is going through something very similar and I wish I could help dig that hole, but I can't.


James Rosse II said…
I'm sorry for your loss. We had a similar time when our dog, Champion Underfoot passed as well.

They may not be our world, but we are theirs, and their presence is often noticed most, when they are no longer with us.
Sandy Roy said…
Oh Justin .. this is so beautifully written. Thank you for your sensitive spirit and loving care of my boy and his family as they make their way through this devastatingly difficult day. You are a true friend and a deeply loved brother (from another mother).
Jessie P said…
I'm sorry, HM. I hope you & your friend can take a measure of comfort from knowing your pets lived happy, cherished lives.
MC said…
I love you, brother.