Over the weekend, I was at World Domination Summit, something I had looked forward to for a year, since I learned of the inaugural event, something I was committed to since I purchased tickets in the first wave last September.
The weekend was a challenge for my introverted self, a challenge I am proud to say I rose to (in a bumpy, Muppet-y kind of way). I met wonderful people for the first time; I shared hugs with people I’d only known as back-lit photographs and typed words.
My heart swelled.
And then, on Sunday evening, as I was about to walk into the wrap-up, my heart broke.
I received the news that my beloved Kaylah, a chocolate lab who has been my daily work-from-home companion and buddy for ten years, had died a few hours earlier. My only comfort was knowing my husband had been with her, petting her, close to her, for her last moments, her last breath.
I wrote these words the next day. I will have more to write about WDS – and the people I met there – in the days and weeks to come. It really was a fantastic weekend, filled with community and inspiration, kindness and enthusiasm.
But right now is about grief. I can come back to making the world better tomorrow.
I woke up this morning to the click of the bathroom door closing. Ed was up. I lifted my head to peer at the clock, and thought, “oh, it’s late… time to get up and feed Kaylah.” And then my heart broke all over again.
Kaylah died yesterday.
Those words shatter me, have cut my heart into shards that wander around behind my ribs, piercing every soft thing they touch.
Yesterday, Chris Brogan asked what superpower we would like to have. Today, I want the powered circle (or triangle, in the original comics) that Iron Man has, to collect these shards in my chest, so that I do not feel their edges every time I take a breath.
A light would shine every time I used it – my heart, this broken thing.
Kristina reminds me over and over that Kaylah lived a life of love. She was loved, yes, beyond all conventional concept of the boundaries of dog and human. She also gave love, shared love.
Kaylah brought joy to everyone who met her. Every single person. She was a dog with character and integrity – more than some humans I’ve met.
She taught me much about forgiveness and compassion. There was always room for redemption with Kaylah, even when I’d been thoughtless, forgetful, impatient – human.
Kaylah’s love was bigger than any of that. We get to keep those memories.
Kristina has been so wise and generous with her heart through all of this, feeling so openly, in her raw, fierce way. She said last night that she doesn’t know how to be a good person without her dog, reminding me of the maxim,
Be the person your dog thinks you are.
Kaylah loved Kristina – all the goodness and the fierceness and the big heart of Kristina. I reminded her that Kaylah didn’t put it there – Kaylah saw it there.
I took photos in a little park nearby after one of our last visits to the vet. It was her last kind-of healthy day. It was her last trip to a park. They are my last photos of her.
This guts me.
The last photos. She’s gone. I’ll never pet her again. Not once. This is unbearable.
Everywhere I turn, every corner-of-my-eye glance holds some fresh awareness that she is not here. I reached over to dry my hands on a towel and swore I heard her nails ticking on the hardwood in the hall to the kitchen. My heart leapt at the sound, truly leapt, then crashed and burned in the same instant as I realised it couldn’t be true.
Later, I came home and noticed the faded, floppy red rose that must have bloomed in the heat while I was away. Next to it, the yellow rose was in bud again, which made me think that yellow roses are for friendship and remembrance, and how Nana always liked them. Yellow roses make me think of Nana, every time.
I wondered what Kaylah’s flower would be. What would always make me think of her?
And I knew.
She loved to hang out with me in the first warm days of spring as I made photos of spring greens and new life. She’d trot out as soon as I opened the door. I made photos of the delicate new blossoms on the apple tree while she sniffed the warming earth beneath.
She loved the apples, too. As they dropped each autumn, she would stamp at the back door with eagerness, rush out to find the juiciest one, and bring it back to eat on the deck with all the pride of a champion.
Yes. The apple blossom. That’s the one.
And then I realised that she won’t be here to eat the apples as they fall this year. And it started all over again – the scattered pieces of my heart spilled out in sobs and tears.
I went down the hall and noticed the gate was gone from the top of the stairs, and I was ruined all over. Of course we don’t need it there now, but it had been there for the last seven months. It was there for Kaylah (after her surgery). She needed it and we needed it for her.
The pain of this is everywhere I look, fresh and raw.
Kristina posted on reddit, asking for encouragement that this would get better. The responses were amazing – heartfelt, poignant, tender, personal – all from strangers. The one that hit the hardest was from the guy who still calls black t-shirts on the floor, four months later.
So raw, so real, so exactly how it is.
Today, I saw a man riding a bicycle, his dog running beside him on a leash – tongue lolling out, tail waving high – and that dog looked so damn happy. It was a beautiful thing and I didn’t begrudge it to them for one second.
It was life, doing exactly what life is supposed to do. I want it still for and with Kaylah, and I can’t have that.
I miss her so much.