When we lost Darcy B.
A couple of weeks ago, one of our family dogs, Darcy, passed away.
Darcy held a special place in my heart. She was my first dog. She was supposed to be “our” dog, but she quickly became “my” dog. She was quirky and spunky puppy. While she was a little less spunky as she got older, she never lost her quirk and anyone who knew her could attest to that! Even the way she ran when she was a puppy was quirky. Oh, how I loved that dog.
She experienced so much in her little life, a near cross country move, several apartments and houses, camping trips, law school, the addition of another pup and two little boys, and lots and lots of love (probably more love than she wanted at times, I described her as a “touch-me-not”. She was never much of a cuddle-er. She loved to be near and the occasional belly rub and scratch behind the ears, but once she was over it.. she would just go lay at your feet). I used to tease that she was the dog that would live forever, recalling when she was only 2 years old we received a prognosis that she had one year to live — but fortunately for us she went to live on for another 8. She has the funniest little bark, she sounded like she was saying “WOOF!” each time, she was never much for fetching, or doing much of what you would think a dog would do for that matter. Oh, and did I mention she smiled for pictures? She sure was a quirky dog, but she way my quirky dog.
As I was retelling a friend about the events of the week of her death, teared up as I realized something beautiful. Darcy even blessed our family in her passing.
It was late Sunday night when we could hear her whimper. She wouldn’t get up on her own. She was outside so my husband picked her up and we set down some blankets and spent some one-on-one time, petting her, giving her some food and just spending time with her. We weren’t sure if she would make it through the night. We were grateful that she made it through the night and determined we would assess each day as it came. She seemed to perk up the next few days, eating well, walking around and spending time with us, even spending the evening out on the front porch with me as the little boys played. Then Thursday came.
Thursday was the day she left us.
While dealing with the sadness of losing my best friend (Darcy lived up to the saying, that a dog is man’s best friend), I was worried about how I would tell my three year old about her passing and how he would handle it. I knew from my work and experience with children that it is best to use the actual term “died” and to not use analogies, like “sleeping” or “passed way”. I wasn’t as worried about him missing Darcy, because, like I mentioned earlier she was mostly my dog (and as she got older, she wasn’t much of a fan of the rambunctious children). The question I feared the most was, “Mommy, are you going to die?”.
I did not want to have to answer this question. Truth is, I wish I could shield him from death. Honestly, I wish I could shield him from all of the bad things in our world. But the truth also is, I can’t. I can only prepare him. I can teach him how to process through those big emotions, and model it for him, and be there with him in those big emotions. This was my first experience of parenting through a big experience like this. I realized this is where the rubber hits the road in parenting. This the tough part.
I picked him up from school and we sat down on a rocking bench and started talking. I told him something sad had happened that day and that Darcy was not going to be at the house when we got home because she died. Then with out skipping a beat, he exclaimed “Is Darcy in heaven?!”
I was a bit surprised by his reaction, and with a smile, I said “Well, yes. Yes, she is.”
“She in heaven with Jesus?!”
“Yep, buddy, she is in heaven with Jesus.” I smiled.
Later we hopped into the car and I called my husband over the speaker because he wanted to hear how the conversation went. And as soon as he answered his phone, my three year old exclaims, “Daddy, Darcy is in heaven with Jesus, he built her a new dog house”.
You see, we have told him that Jesus in in heaven preparing a place for us and that someday we will go to heaven.
And that is the blessing that sweet dog even gave us in her death. This was my son’s first experience with death. Throughout the week later my son saw me cry and I explained to him while I was happy that Darcy was in heaven, I still miss her. He would give me a hug.
Oh, my sweet Darcy girl. We wouldn’t have had this precious conversation without her. She forced me to have a conversation with my son about something that was hard. She reminded me that I can do hard things. I was able to have a tangible conversation about death with my son. He was impacted, no doubt, but it was not like losing a person that was so close. Dogs sure are truly something special. I am pretty sure most of the time, we don’t even deserve them.
Oh, and you might be wondering…he did later ask, “Mommy, are you and daddy going to die?” and my answer was, “Yes, buddy, someday mommy and daddy will die and go to heaven, but hopefully not for a very long time”. Which is the truth and I am committed to telling him the truth in these things. I have seen the world of my dear friends shatter by the death of a spouse, and their child’s parent. While I don’t want him to worry. I also need him to know the truth. We were fortunate to have this first conversation about our beloved pet. However, death is apart of life and it is not something that can be ignored.
Death, whether it be our own or that of a loved one, is a reality of life. It is something that we all will eventually face. And that is one of the more difficult truths we must deal with in life. It’s something that we can acknowledge, and take proactive steps to make sure our families are taken care of after our death, but is not something we can avoid.
And while losing a pet is not the same as losing a spouse, child, parent or friend… it is sad.
But today, I am grateful, grateful for the life of my sweet Darcy B.
This was originally published on Amanda Batsche’s personal blog