Good morning, from Henry. It’s the first morning after Carl’s funeral and this space “in between” yesterday and forever is stretching out before me like a giant fog-filled ocean. I’ve been waking up at sunrise every day. Carl and I always tried to motivate each other to get up early. These first moments of the day are hard. The last ones are, too. I try not to move for as long as possible because, when I do, the reality of Carl’s physical gone-ness is sharp and raw. I pray that the dogs will keep sleeping. But they don’t. Louie, my Chesapeake, kisses my face with his big ol tongue until it makes it hard to breathe. Ella, my dumpster dog, stretches her graceful legs and white paws towards my heart, reaching her sweet nose for a kiss, too. And then there’s Henry. Carl’s dog who has been a part of my own dog family since the moment they met. Henry tips over on his side a little bit and then comes “the smile.” Anyone who has met Henry knows about his smile. He’s all teeth and grins and a stubby wagging tail. He creeps across the bed over me and the other dogs and whatever else is in the way and snuggles in close for belly rubs and kisses too. Just when I think I won’t be able to do it, something pulls me forward. The day feels brutal, but then there are these dogs. I attempt to lift myself up because this is equally hard on Henry and he needs me to help him, too.

Yesterday, before everyone else arrived at the church, I had time alone with Carl’s body. It felt good to be with him and break down in the way that I needed to, without anyone except my sister watching from several pews away. I cried hard, my head resting on the side of the casket. But after a little while I felt Carl’s presence and an incredible peace washed over me. Pretty soon I noticed that a soft smile had crept across my lips. As difficult as this is, I know it was meant to be. I brought Henry with me to the church because something inside of me knew that he needed this closure as much as me. Henry got to say goodbye to Carl, too. It was beautiful, really. And afterward, Henry laid down on a church pew next to me, head and all, and I saw and felt his body get washed over with that same incredible peace that I had experienced too. He tipped over for a belly rub and we both felt a calm as though both of us were being held by Carl’s love. Neither one of us moved from that spot for a long time.

I am so grateful that Henry was not in the car with Carl that night. Henry and Carl were INSEPARABLE and so it is a miracle that, for some reason, Carl left him at home. I have seen the car and I know without a doubt that Henry would not have survived that wreck. But here he is. Finding moments of happiness in cheddar cheese and snuggles with my other two dogs and trying to bring frozen horse turds in the house from outside.

Carl was a 6′ 5″ gentle giant. Henry is a 6.5″ Popeye-like little renegade. Henry’s personality is as big as Carl’s. I love that little dog and somehow, someway…we are just gonna have to try to help each other through this.

{originally published Nov 15, 2014}

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