Written by Dr. Cate Drost
It has been a while since I wrote a blog post, truly, since I’ve written much of anything. You see, I have been grieving, and I find if I spend time with myself, and my thoughts, they circle back to the loss, and relive moments- hundreds of little memories.
In March I lost my partner, whom I loved. He had the best heart. Zac was blonde, with deep brown eyes, powerfully built and could easily make me smile.
I learned so much from him. He was patient and kind, and funny. He loved food- he would try anything! He approached both food and life with enthusiasm. Every day was an adventure, he was always up for a road trip, but even if we just went for a walk, time spent with him made me feel lighter, and full at the same time.
Zac was smart, and so capable. I was endlessly surprised at what he knew, and could teach anyone who cared to pay attention. He had a way of pointing out your small failings without making you feel small. He was brave and trustworthy and took care of my son and me. Zac knew to be strong when I was weak, but mostly allowed me to call the shots, despite my being smaller, slower and more cautious.
When he collapsed, I heard him call to me. He couldn’t move and was scared. I pulled his head into my lap and through tears told him he was going to be okay. He looked at me, and quieted, glad to have me there. I waited desperately for help to arrive. I kissed his face, and pleaded with him to stay with me, that we had years, lots of time still together.
My house is tidy. My hair is reasonably clean, the laundry pile is small. The lawn is mown; the peas are climbing their trellis in the garden.
But, it hits still. Sometimes like a punch, sometimes a slow pain that captures and clings. The grief finds those quiet times; trying to sleep, in the shower, driving in the car. The ball of grief grows in my throat, my teeth hurt, and it rolls through my chest and my belly and flows through my arms to my fingertips.
My brain returns to that day again, the moments before- when all was still okay because I didn’t’ know. Then, each agonizing moment after when I knew he was dying, but praying I was wrong.
And I will remember how he smelled, and how it felt to hug him.
I will force my brain back farther, to pick a moment of our wonderful time together. How it felt to dance, to fly, to feel him follow my every breath. The lump that makes it hard to swallow doesn’t leave, but my appreciation and respect for my Zac allows me to inhale, to exhale again.
Sharing he was gone was . It was too hard to say, and felt unreal. I told my close friends and family, the others that loved Zac too. But my grief felt too private, too precious to share. I still have not done so widely. No Facebook posts, or tweets from me- in fact this writing is the first.
I am sharing with you because experiencing grief is entwined in the job of veterinary medicine, because love is given to the creatures you bring to our doors. And, often, we are part of the loss of those loved souls, and party to the grief at their loss.
Zac is buried in his pasture. The very same patch of green that would have him squealing with glee on his way to graze now holds his body. I see the mound of brown earth that encloses him everyday. There are still strands of his long, gorgeous blonde mane that can be found if you look carefully around his stall. His feeding amounts are still carefully recorded on the barn blackboard, and on his empty stall.
Comfort comes with knowing I appreciated him completely. I never felt cross with him, in fact, I always felt like the luckiest girl to have a chance to be his partner. Zac was a one-in-a-million horse.
Please don’t deny your grief, sadness, or sorrow because whom you have lost is not human just as love, joy, and appreciation are not felt just for humans. Where there is love and loss there is grief. Accept this.
I also accept that the time spent with Zac was precious, and a gift- grief at his loss is part of the package. Horse, cat, dog, rat- it matters not. Rejoice in the gift of loving that animal. The grief comes from that very same place.