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.