Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good-Bye, Friend(s)

Tuesday morning, the Matron received the difficult news that one of her favorite work colleagues, Edward, not Ed had died.

Grief, but she soldiered on to Stryker's first 8th grade conference, a report so sound it was a little salve to her day: straight A's, good leader, well-liked, responsible.

Way to go, darling! (okay if you read this Stryker your mother swears she barely mentions you anymore, per your request but she just could NOT restrain herself)

Conferences pushed the day into evening. By the time the van turned the corner toward home, it was 5:30 and the children? Actively -- no wait, vibrantly -- crabby. Your family has nothing on this one in the Bicker Department.

But when the lock turned and the front door opened, everything changed.

Jekyll was on the floor by his bed and all was not well. His body was strangely twisted, he was struggling to breath, and emitting tiny periodic yelps. Jekyll was dying. This time it was clear.

Everyone, including the intrepid Matron, immediately burst into tears. Stryker lifted the dear sweet darling back into his bed and the Matron wrapped him in a blanket. Scarlett and Merrick patted his head. Quick as a whip, the call was made to the vet; the Matron did not want this dog to suffer and she didn't know how long the death march would wind.

Just as she stepped out the front door, the dog bed and the dog in her arms, she knew. He had already left them. Easily, in his own bed, in her arms.

Sixteen and a half years is a long time to live with and love a being, human or canine. This was a long hard good-bye. He stayed in his bed until the children were asleep, wet-eyed and spent. John wrapped the loyal friend in a beautiful fabric purchased precisely for this moment.

Yesterday was the first time in sixteen and a half years that nobody fed Jekyll his morning nuggets. Noted and missed. The blanketed quiet body on the back porch? Strong presence.

So the Matron thought she would have a nice quiet time during her weekly office hours, catch up on grading and recompose. She would set aside her grief about Jekyll. Yes, she knew she would have to look at Edward's closed office door all day, but she steeled and prepared herself.

What she was not prepared for was yesterday's steady stream of unwitting students who stopped by to see Edward, knocking on his door or leaving a paper and often, popping a head in her office to inquire: "Where's Edward?"

She ended up telling half a dozen students that their beloved professor had died, handing out tissues, and sending three directly to the counseling center for therapy. In the midst of that fun, she walked a friend through a rough hour in an even rougher protracted divorce.

She was also not adequately prepared for the somber tone the entire institution had, the tears that she met in every office, the sense of being at a wake at work. And, as it should be. Edward had been a thirty year presence on campus. Everyone was weeping.

No papers were graded.

Last night, they buried Jekyll. Stryker poured Thurston's ashes over Jekyll's body and their shared resting place was marked by a purple flowering bush and a marble head stone. She'd post pictures but remember there's that gremlin who has taken over her computer and decided that she will never upload a picture again- at least until the tech guys take a look at the issue.

Yesterday? One long hard day.

But even though today is gray and grief has long tendrils, the Matron is grateful to be here. Death will take her too and sometimes, she needs to be reminded to be more attentive, appreciative: present. She'll live a little larger for the next few days, buoyed by spirit that extends beyond what she can see, the collective spirit of those gone before her -- the millions.

27 comments:

Minnesota Matron said...

Oh - and dear friends - thank you so much for your wonderful, supportive words on Tuesday. They mean much! I love the internet :-).

Jaywalker said...

Oh Matron. What an odd thing this internet is that I have been thinking of your dog, that I never met, in a far away country, repeatedly in recent weeks. And I bet I'm not alone. And your beautiful writing about him made me cry.

Much love to you all. What a day, poor you.

mysterycreature said...

The second person you made cry is me.

I am so sorry and so touched by your wonderful words.

Best wishes to you and your family

Amy said...

I am so, so sorry. What an awful week.

Kizz said...

A long hard day indeed.

Peace.

Professor J said...

I am so glad that Jekyll died in your arms. A gift. My thoughts are with you as you walk through these days of sorrow.

Michele Renee said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your losses. Thank you for sharing your words about your beloved coworker and family dog. Your words have helped others remember things they need to remember.

Suburban Correspondent said...

I've been weeping over my own little crises all day. This certainly didn't help...

Kelly said...

The purest, most simple love is for a pet. That's what makes them so hard to say goodbye to.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Such grief in your world--I'm tearing up with sympathy and in response to your eloquence. I'm sorry--and your end lines remind me that it's the dying that makes living so special.

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Oh, I'm so sorry you had so much grief all at once. Your post was poignant and beautiful, especially how you end it on a meditative note about being grateful for life. Guess we need real loss to remember that from time to time...

~annie said...

Nothing to say except that you are in my thoughts. Peace.

Beth said...

I am so sorry to hear about Jekyll - what a loss for you, your children, your entire family.
It's hard. I know.

Anonymous said...

Mary,

Frequently, words seem so trite, yet still, I offer my condolences.

I refer to it often, so powerfully does it evoke love and loss, Joan Didion's "A Year of Magical Thinking." She quotes the Episcopalians: "In the midst of life, we are in death."

Each death really, a reminder of who were were, what we are, what one day, we will no longer be.

Thank you, Mary, for writing.

Cha Cha said...

Oh, Mary. My heart goes out to you, your family, your collegues, those poor students. There's a lot of grief in your world right now. But I'm so proud that you're seeing the joy, too. I'm glad you're in my world. And I'm wishing you peace.

Dorrie said...

So sorry for your losses.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

No place to rest your weary heart.

I am so sorry for your losses.

XO

Mrs. G. said...

I think this is the seventh time I've cried today.

Emm said...

Oh dear. I recently happened upon your blog, and enjoy it so much. It has helped me laugh during some dark grieving days.

I'm so, so sorry for your losses. You had some wonderful friends, for a long time. May they rest in peace, and may you find peace as well.

MJ said...

What a day you've had. Despite the grief surrounding you, you managed to console others. I can't help but think of the Prayer of St Francis of Assissi and just switch the words as needed:

Make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

MJ said...

I neglected to mention that there is a second verse to the Prayer of St Francis that you may also find of comfort. You can google it if you are interested as it may be rendered suitable for Jekyll's funeral...

Wenderina said...

I would never wish this kind of a day on anyone, but I agree it intensifies your feelings of gratitude and makes all the other crap drop away. An aching heart beats strongest.

The Other Laura said...

My thoughts are with you today. I am sending light.

SUEB0B said...

Oh, what a day. I am so glad your dear Jekyll got to go home from the safety of your arms. But so sorry for you. Crying.

Ulrike said...

so sad, so exquisitely expressed.

much love, sent with tears in my eyes.

Ree said...

RIP dear, darling Jekyll. We have all loved you.

FlourGirl said...

I'm a tad late to the party, but just wanted to express my condolances on the loss of your beloved family member. May Jekyll rest in peace!