Beautiful Friend, the End.
And just like that, it was today.
‘Today’ was delayed often these last few weeks because there were good days between the bad days. Days they wanted to look to, as if an unforeseen source would regenerate his tired frame.
It was sunny, crisp and November—a little warmer than you might expect. This fact made it more difficult for her, she thought, like the earth should have begun its grieving too.
A few days before, she had watched her father from a bathroom window. They were neighbors and shared a garden. The stately dog, with an ancient expression, was resting in the grass and she lost her breath at the sight.
A final space for him had been set—a space next to his sister, who they lost a few months before—and he stretched, perhaps intuitively, on that designated space. He lolled, watching his best friend prep the garden for its winter slumber.
When she welcomed ‘today’ she hadn’t known; she had started her morning work, sipping coffee. She had anticipated ordinary. She had planned to write and read—her expectations for nearly every ‘today’ she met; but this one was interrupted by a text from her mother: If you want to see Gunnar, today is the day, unless Daddy changes his mind again. I know you already said your goodbyes, so it’s ok.
And so, she reluctantly pulled on her shoes, not processing the approaching goodbye, not in any real way.
As if defiantly, Gunnar was having one of those good days. Nothing like the days he spent asleep, or unable to control his bowels, or with labored breathing, or unable to walk without his now-spindly back legs giving out. No, this day his eyes were bright and kind—that’s the thing she loved most about him: his sad, kind eyes.
His gaze met hers and he sat down. She fell gently to her knees and touched his forehead to hers. She rubbed his ears the same way she had since he was a puppy and he groaned softly because it was his very favorite thing. She whispered to him as tears rolled silently from her cheeks to his fur, that’s a good boy, Gunnar. You’re such a good boy.
She felt the touch of her mother’s hand on her shoulder and it was time to let him—his soft ears, his kind eyes and his sweet spirit—go.
They exited through separate doors—she didn’t want to watch her father carrying their beloved pet to the truck. Approaching the steps to her own home, she waved to her sweet boy. He sat happily and proudly, smiling, from the back window of the pickup as it pulled slowly away.
Two hours later, she woke to a gentle buzzing on the pillow beside her. The bedroom was dark and heavy—a mixture of sadness and sleep. Her phone: a missed a call from her mother.
Her farewell had been final.
She walked slowly to her boys’ bedroom window—the one that overlooked the gardens.
She looked out to see her father. Finishing. Smoothing. Removing too-large pieces of rock. Making the edges of this forever-space as clean and perfect as they could be.
She watched her father turn the family gargoyle—the one they had named ‘Joe’ when her oldest was only two. A final gesture. He turned the big statue until his wings and face watched over Gunnar’s sleeping body. Protecting him, keeping him some sort of company and she knew it was the most beautiful gesture she had ever seen.
As she watched her father put his tools back into the shed, she saw the flurry, the first one she had seen this year.
And it was done—he was gone.
And the earth mourned with her.
Originally posted to elephant journal in November of 2013; you can find the original here.