You mustn’t be frightened
if a sadness
rises in front of you
larger than any you have ever seen;
if an anxiety,
like light and cloud-shadows,
moves over your hands and over
everything you do.
You must realize that something is
happening to you,
that life has not forgotten you
that it holds you in its hand
and will not let you fall.
~ Ranier Maria Rilke
I love listening to Pandora radio when I run. It’s the perfect balance of control (I create my own “station”) and surrender (the algorithm takes it from there). It is surprising to me just how often the soundtrack along the way matches the theme of my day. On Sam’s deathaversary, there were songs about sadness, goodbyes, resilience, stamina and even suicide. On Tim’s and my wedding anniversary, the soundtrack featured an unusually high proportion of love songs. Maybe I’m just in tune with the songs that suit my mood, but I am starting to think it’s more than that. I don’t think it’s coincidence. It’s almost enough to believe the Psalm’s promise, that Life might actually hold me in the palm of His hand.
On the last morning of my little black dog’s life, I was out on a run with the defective hunting dog. Every, single song featured death or goodbyes. Each and every one. Death. Goodbye. Nary a hostile Indigo Girl or Dixie Chick in the bunch. After “The Day the Music Died,” I noticed the consistent themes. By the time Natalie Merchant was singing “My Beloved Wife” (about a man grieving his wife’s death after 50 years of marriage), I started to worry. In truth, I was already worried. Tim and I had been up early with the little black dog. By “early” I mean the middle of the night. He was having trouble catching his breath, but he perked up when he saw me trudging sleepily up the stairs. At one point during his ordeal he dashed – and I mean like a young pup – down the stairs to steal cat food. He also climbed up on my – I mean his – favorite chair. It was as though he was snatching of few of his life’s little pleasures just one more time. He eventually settled down for a nap.
By then the sun had risen, and it was time to wake our sons and get them off to school. I called the vet to get an appointment for the little black dog, thinking that the good Dr. Doolittle would simply adjust the heart medications to solve everything. I had enough time to run the pup before the vet’s office opened, so I put on my headphones and out the door we ran.
By the time Paul and John were crooning in my ear, “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me…” I let out an involuntary gasp. The uphill grade might have contributed to the gasping. “… whisper words of wisdom, let it be.” Tears started to well in my eyes, and I thought, Not today. Please, not today.
It is always too soon.
Several death and goodbye songs later (I’m not making this up), I return to my front door, with Phillip Phillips singing, Gone, Gone, Gone. “I’ll love you long after you’re gone” (key turns in door), “gone” (door alarm), “gone” (look over left shoulder to dog’s usual waiting-for-her-to-come-back-home place). He’s perfectly still. Gone. Like the soundtrack in a movie, uncannily coordinating the music, lyrics and action.
I’ll just say right now that I would like Helen Hunt to play the role of Charlotte in the movie of my life. She looks beautiful even when she’s crying. The real me, however, did not appear nearly so attractive, crumpled next to my beautiful, pet-quality, Cavalier, sobbing no, no, no. Sweat, tears and snot dripping together into that whole grief-stricken mess. It is not a pretty picture.
Or maybe Ellen DeGeneres. Because I love her. And she makes me laugh no matter how sweaty, teary and snotty I am.
Because even though I have crumbled down to the floor, even though nobody knows that my sweet dog is gone – not a neighbor, not my husband, not my kids – the synchronized soundtrack makes me feel that I am not alone. While it is somewhat unnerving, it is oddly comforting to hear the perfect song.
My son asked me recently if I hear God’s voice audibly. Not yet. But I often “hear” what I think of as angel messages, sometimes in song, often in the voice of the people I love most in the world, and occasionally as an idea that pops into my own head. It can be enough to make me think that somehow the universe still holds my little black dog. And me. In the palm of His hand.
Wishing you light and strength on your healing path. And the perfect song to go with you.