“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Dear Suzie,

it’s been slightly more than a month since your passing and I still miss you every single day. The waves of grief are no longer overwhelming – it no longer makes me want to collapse on my bed and cry. It’s true, it does get easier with time but it’s also true that we can no longer be the same again when we lose somebody we love. I don’t think I ever want to be the same again after your passing, because that would mean not loving you. I would never wish that. The pain was overwhelming but it’s the kind of pain that’s worth going through. I never regretted opening my heart up to you and I don’t. However, there are some days where the waves of grief overwhelms me again. It could be as simple as thinking of you or listening to another’s story of their beloved pet – and then I’d come home and find myself sobbing all over again.

As I type this, I am starting to tear. Only because I feel like the ending to my 2015 is a bittersweet one. Losing you was the obvious pit of my year. But God has also been kind – knowing I would lose you, knowing how much that would break my heart, he blessed me with a few small peaks too.

The first was reconnecting with an old and dear friend from my past. I would have never imagined that we’d ever reconnect like that again even though deep in my heart, I have always cared for her. It started with a meal then we decided to work out together and then it occured to me how much I did miss her presence in my life. Isn’t it funny how life works, Suzie? I bet you were all part of this grand masterplan – making sure that we’d all be okay first, tying up lose ends before you had to go. You met her in your puppy days and you met her for the last time this year before you passed away. It’s like things went a full circle.

The second was getting to spend more time with my niece who’s truly wise for her age. I’ve always wanted to go vegetarian and though younger than me, she gave me that courage to become a Pecastarian. She inspired me through her vegan lifestyle. I’ve truly enjoyed my conversations with her – somehow she reminds me of you in a human form. You know that little spark in your eyes when you’re just about to go for a walk, or when you smell apples or rock melon? That spark that I love so much? I see that same spark in her eyes when she talks about things she’s passionate about. She’s got such a strong moral compass and in those ways, she reminds me of you.

The third was this – you know your groomers, the ones you love? They took in an abandoned dog hoping that she’d get along with their dog but unfortunately that didn’t work out. We were all desperately trying to find her a forever home today. The poor girl, she’s been abandoned three times and even went to SPCA. A friend I met during my thesis film shoot responded. Coincidentally, her first dog shared the same name as this dog and to add on further, her family and her were looking to take in a new dog. When she went down to meet her, they connection was almost instant. This was the best news I’ve received today and the best way to say goodbye to 2015. Knowing I was part of helping this poor girl find her forever home and knowing she has one now – it awakened that part of my soul. I can’t quite tell what is it exactly. I’ve always loved animals since you came into my life but since you left us, I haven’t been ready to take in another dog. The whole family isn’t either. But I am ready to help other dogs and animals in any way I can. I know this is what I need to do in life. This is it.

Of all these peaks in my 2015 to counter balance the tremendous pain of losing you, there is one person I need to especially thank. I think you know who it is and you love him quite a fair bit too.

It’s Marion.

Suzie, I’ve been an emotional wreck this year. From the stress of my thesis projects, to your fainting episodes, to the stress from freelancing in film shoots while seeing your health deteriorate and to that awful day when your vet told me that we’d have to prepare for the worst – he was silent, patient, gentle and relentless in his love. I was going crazy and I lost my mind a couple of times. I was at the brink of just giving up but there he stood with loving eyes, he didn’t leave no matter how much I pushed. I wanted to be alone in my darkness, in my sorrow. I  didn’t want anyone to see the mess that I was. I was embarrassed. No matter how much I pushed, he stood there waiting. It was his gentleness. He didn’t force me to stop, he didn’t yell at me, he was just so patient and gentle. I always thought I needed a man to be stronger than I am – little did I know the kind of strength I had imagined in my head was not the strength I need. I didn’t need the roaring strength of a lion, I needed the gentle strength of a horse. He cried with me in my pain because he not only knew how much you meant to me, he built a relationship with you as well. Losing you was just as painful for him as it was for me. Knowing that you were nearing your last few days, he’d come over as much as he could so he could see you. If I were to be honest, I thought we wouldn’t make it this year because of the mess I was, but he was so relentless with his love.. he soothed my soul and managed to calm me down.

I thought 2015 was the suckiest year ever but when I look back, it wasn’t so bad after all. As much as it drove me mad when I lost you, I realised that God was also blessing me. It would be unfair to tell Him that none of this blessings did not matter if I could not have you because if I were to be honest, you lived past your time. He allowed you to fight to stay a little longer than expected so we could build more memories. He gave us both more time to prepare ourselves for that final goodbye. Your death was inevitable but we shared the best moments together – you and us (the family). I’m even thankful I didn’t get a full time job this year or go on my grad trip because it allowed me to spend so much more time with you. On top of it all, He allowed an old friend and I to reconnect, and found an abandoned dog a forever home. If I cannot see the blessing in these things, then I am truly blind. But I see it now, the beauty of it all.. and therefore, I call it a bittersweet year.

I am honestly scared of what 2016 might bring. I need to find myself a job and there’s the other thing – it’s our first whole year without you. But I’m going to take it a day at a time.

Suzie, this isn’t goodbye, but this is me telling you that I’m going to take a long while here on Earth before I get to see you again. My purpose in life is not done and you awoke the purpose in me. I intend to fulfill it. I miss you so much. It’s an ache I can never satisfy but it’s an ache I will live with. It will be like a trophy scar. Like the trophy scar on my left wrist which is a dog bite from another dog. You’re the trophy scar of my heart. Go have fun at the rainbow bridge k? Run around, play ball, make doggy friends, find Frisky and the other Suzie, find Lady and all the other dogs that were part of our lives. Be happy k? We miss you, you miss us, but we’ll see each other again.

In losing you, I have found parts of you in other people. You will always exist in my life. I guess this is the phase of grieving where the tides are tamer and the water is more still. You will always be loved.

“Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.

“I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

“In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

“Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

“Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

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