Somehow, it feels fitting to sit on the stomp of a 500 year old cut down oak-tree, as i am writing this sad news. As Spock said in "The Final Frontier" : It is a reminder that all things end. And it is of endings that I wish to speak to you today. In the perpetual rush of everyday life, we sometimes forget just how fragile that life is. We mostly forget that .. all things end.
Yesterday evening, our beloved dog Neelix encountered the end of his mortal existence on earth, as he was killed by a passing van while running into the street. Death came swiftly and painlessly and he did not suffer, but his absence leaves a gaping hole in our everyday life. I shall spare you the details of how it happened, for those things have taken their course, and we can only live our lives in the one way street of linear time. Ever forward. In that split second of total horror, when you wish you had the cosmic powers to reverse time just a few minutes , it is there that we find how powerless we mortals are.
"Its only a dog".
Yes, perhaps. But most people who speak that line, as well-intended as it might be put, probably don"t have one. Neelix came into our live almost 2 years ago, ringing in a new chapter in our lives. Up until then, both Nyana and I had been as free as a bird. Our cat Maggie (bless him) is besides a giant snuggel-puss when we go to bed, also a very free-spirited feline that can fend for itself. The addition of a K-9 to our lives marked a new chapter. A chapter where we would soon learn what it was like to have a dog. It took some getting used to, taking Neelix along everywhere ( I remember being able to carry him in my laptop purse when he was a puppy ), we taught him how to walk on a leash, later how to stay by our side when we would go out walking. Because he was such a social and loving dog, who loved to be close to his owners .. Neelix very soon became an intricate part of our lives. Mockingly friends called him "our baby" , and in many ways he was. Perhaps a little spoiled, but always obidient and infinitely kind he would be the furry part of our day. From dusk until dawn, Neelix was there. Lounging in the bathroom as we got ready for work, Out on the porch, defending the garden from stray cats, playing with Kira and Maggie (our cats) and sticking up for them when the got into a cat-fight. He was there when we stepped out for the day. Driving along in the car, Loving the breeze when you would open up the window. He was there when you came home. Extatic to see you, happy to get lots of cuddles and lick to within an inch of your life. He was there when we watched tv, Getting comfortable on the back rest of the chair. He would be there when we went to bed.. Lying at our feet and ready to bark when a single strange sound would disturb him.
The hole this little brown friend leaves behind in our lives is large. The hardest part is deciding which is worse, the happy memories that taste bittersweet, or the hundreds of daily things we need to go through , knowing that "we used to do this with Neelix"… The beach, the forest, the fields we strolled through .. We now have to do so alone. The stick i’ll throw out there will never be fetched again. At dinner i’ll slide a piece of food under the table.. only there is nobody there to collect it. It will take a lot of getting used to.
People have a tendency to believe in faith only when it is convenient. In their daily lives they cry out their free will, but when face to face with death and the paralyzing sense of being utterly powerless, they are quick to call upon faith. I don’t believe in organized religion. Don"t believe in segregated heavens and hells, (dogs go left, humans go right, bad humans take the stairs down, bad dogs take the left elevator) but being confronted with something like this does make me think about what i DO believe in. Both Nyana and I believe that everybody here is here with a certain task to perform. When that task is done, you are recalled. To where of when or why is beyond our mortal comprehension, so we seldom speculate. But the life force that turns a few billion billion atoms into a loving, caring, playful dog (or a loving caring person for that matter) does not cease to function upon the arrest of its physical life-signs. It goes forth unto another plain, another task.
Everything has its task.
So we look back at the task Neelix has performed for us. Offering us something mutual to care for, bringing a dependent and very loving life-form in the close knit bond that is the "knights castle". He taught us what it was like to be loved unconditionally. But most of all he brought us home. Before we had Neelix we where completely free to go and stay as we pleased. We would be out the door every weekend, When Neelix came it all changed. We had to take him into account. Look at where we could go.. and soon discovered a whole new world of "dog friendly activities". Walking in the fields, sitting on the porch petting Neelix, Reading a book while he would be sleeping in your lap. Neelix "grounded" us in many ways and showed us the meaning of the word "home". The new house we bought last year had a wonderful little garden that we picked out, so Neelix could roam around there. So where we live ( ever so peacefully) today, is also part of His doing.
It is in what we believe, that we find solace. It is in the memories that we find comfort, it is in the ever passing flow of time that we must swim. A man is the sum of his memories, of his experiences. And it are others around us , humans, animals .. that shape the world we live in. In that thought I find my comfort. And to those willing to strike a difference between man and animal in the way we should think about life and death… i can only ask : Why. The cosmic processes that shape our very existence have entrusted our little furry friend with its own little personality.. Able to love, to care, to play, to comfort all those around him. Why should those cosmic powers divide whatever comes after that life onto a homo sapiens only club. As I read in the words of the magnificent Brie , allow me to paraphrase. If my dog ain’t in heaven when I get there, i’m not interested in going.
Thus life goes on, day by day, and in what we remember and what we believe lies the comfort for the nagging sorrow, as does in the kind words from our friends. A crisp bark echoes in my mental ear as Neelix plays fetch on a greater plain.