Behold our menorah from the sixth day of Chanukah. Behold the third candle: snuffed way sooner than the others. At this season commemorating miracles, God performed another one. The shrunken candle spoke to me of God’s love and comfort, and the eternity of a beloved soul.
You see, Tevye, our shocking-smart Cockapoo, died earlier that day. Our grief was (and is) stunning. At 16+, his days were limited. The vet had told us that kidney failure would soon-ish have its way with our sweet boy. During his last months, Tevye’s growing frailty, physical and cognitive, was hard to see. Still our “Velcro dog” shlumped his way up and down the stairs to be near us.
We count our blessings. With a granddaughter’s bat mitzvah days away, Tevye could have died then. Or where he would have been boarded. Or we would have realized a dreaded scenario of having to tell the vet to “let him go.” Or he could have suffered greatly.
None of that happened. We were as blessed in Tevye’s death as we were in his life.
Grief is overwhelming. I think I’ve moved past it, only to bubble over yet again. The house feels empty, barren.
I look to Judaism for help: the web points me to Kaddish versioned to include pets, and to Rabbi Barry H. Block’s A Prayer for a Pet Memorial Service: http://bit.ly/2EkybiH. It’s a balm. I will recite it religiously.
Facebook oddly mimics Judaic death rituals. When I scraped myself together to post about Tevye’s death, the post felt akin to our synagogues’ condolence notices. As I respond to each expression of sympathy, and especially to others’ memories of Tevye, I feel like I’m sitting shiva. It helps.
I’ve long brewed over the vernacular of death. I’ve disdained “passed away” or “passed.”
“Lost” is ludicrous: you lose a phone, your glasses…not a living thing. Your dog is lost when he jumps a fence and posters with his picture go up. And so, I’ve been saying the truth head-on: Tevye died.
Then there’s the matter of the “Rainbow Bridge,” meant to convey the image of a sprightly pet crossing into its next, certainly happy, life. I adore rainbows, but this fancy leaves me unmoved.
My daughter, whose dog died a few years ago, promised that Tevye would be waiting for us when our time comes to leave this life. She’s 99% sure, she said. I hope so.
In the meantime: dearest Tevye, fare well.