We said goodbye to a dear family member a few weeks ago.
Ruby, our fluffy, red, huge-hearted Golden Retriever, was with us for 11 years – through moves, babies, and camping trips – her all-time favorite.
From day 1, Ruby shadowed my every move – lying underfoot when I meditated, sprawling behind my desk when I worked (which I always envied), and waiting attentively at the kitchen entrance for me to drop a crumb of food.
In the absence of her shadow, life at home feels empty, lonely, and eerily quiet (and for a gal who enjoys quiet, that’s saying something.). I miss the way she nuzzled her nose into my feet when I sat on the couch. She’d look at me so endearingly, as if to say like Piglet said to Pooh, “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
Memories of Ruby will live in our hearts forever. She left us with too many parting gifts to count – or recount.
Here are just a few of the qualities Ruby expressed – and helped deepen – in us over the years…
Appreciate this life, and each other. Ruby’s death is a sobering reminder about the impermanent, fleeting, and oh-so precious nature of this life. When a Great Indian Epic was asked, “What’s the most wondrous thing in the world?” He replied, “The most wondrous thing in the world is that all around us people can be dying and we don’t realize it can happen to us.” By opening our hearts to this truth, a deeper appreciation for life can emerge. On the contrary, forgetting – or denying – this, may lead to a life of mere survival. Don’t forget to appreciate your life and loved ones while you still have the chance.
Forgive yourself. When Ruby first passed, I was flooded with regret and disappointment about all the things I wished I’d done differently: Walked her more, thrown the ball more, and employed more patience when she stole food from our son. (It didn’t help that he thought it was hilarious.) I was forced to acknowledge my mistakes and ultimately, forgive myself. Rather than burying the things I was troubled by, I consciously chose to spend time reflecting on them, so I could assess what really mattered, and then decide what I wanted to learn from and what I wanted to let go of. I was reminded once again of the importance of self-compassion, seeing that I didn’t make mistakes from a place of ill-will, and realizing that I, like everyone else, am a mistake-prone, fallible being. Going through this process helped me let go of repetitive, critical thoughts that have helped transform feelings of guilt and shame into acceptance and forgiveness.
Love unconditionally. There’s a poem by Hafiz that reads, “Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.” Ruby loved like the sun. She didn’t only love us when we threw the ball, fed, or walked her. She also loved us when we were down, inattentive, or frustrated. Her eyes would meet ours with a glimmer of love and understanding no matter the circumstances.
Don’t hold back. Ruby lived with passion and gusto. She tore toys to shreds, vigorously chased balls (despite shaky legs and lopsided movement), and let out howling Chewbacca sounds when people she loved came to the house. Ruby taught me to reflect on the places in my life where I hold back, and why that might be. Her embodiment of fearless playfulness is a constant reminder to let go of limiting fears that inhibit me from expressing myself to the fullest.
Patience. I have the tendency to get ahead of myself – days, weeks, and sometimes months ahead of myself. When Ruby was first diagnosed with cancer, I was preoccupied with the end: When would she die? Would I be able to handle it? How would it look? What would life without Ruby be like? With the help of meditation, I was able to catch this train of thought and treasure the remaining moments I had with Ruby. An exercise in patience and trust, I saw that I could be of greatest service to her if I stayed in the moment – no matter how painful. In the end, it reassured me of the resilient nature of the human spirit. By staying present with what is, we can open to a fuller love that helps transcend worries and pain.
Thank you for the many gifts you gave us just by being you, Ruby. May your teachings touch the lives of many.