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Holding the Tension

A year ago today, I spent the day holding our beloved dog Duke as we waited for the vet to come over and put him to sleep.  Just a day and a half prior he began to show signs of illness and we discovered he had an aggressive liver cancer that only shows signs when the tumors start to bleed and the animal is near death.  It was a terrible day and also a profoundly holy one as I had the privilege of holding his beautiful body as he passed over from this life into the beyond.  Duke’s death left a large hole in our lives, he was such an amazing companion and teacher.  Even with our sweet Tune, I still miss Duke each day and long to hold him against me one more time.  The sadness of this anniversary began to wash over me last night.  I don’t know why bearing losses is woven into the fabric of this world, but I do know that we are called to great sorrow over it.   It is not enough to praise beauty, we must also cry out and lament that what we love is gone or is not yet. I believe that the spiritual life is holding these two in tension — praise and lament — which is also the way the psalms show us how to pray. 

We went to the Burke museum today to see the Native American arts celebration they were holding this weekend.  It felt like the right place to honor the memory of a noble creature who radiated his presence through our lives and continues to do so in story and memory.  We watched beautiful dancing, heard engaging storytelling, and watched Native artists at work in their crafts.  We also got to see a beautiful photography exhibit which recently opened there called Yellowstone to Yukon with stunning photos by German photographer Florian Schulz.  I ended up buying the accompanying book, but if you live in Seattle it is worth the visit to see these images blown up.

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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7 Responses

  1. Christine, I wish I had seen this sooner. I’m holding you in prayer for comfort in your grief, and also remembering petting and talking to my sweet Zorra girl as she left this earth. Billy Collins’ poem “Dharma” could have been written about her, too. The love we give and receive from our precious animals is so powerful and deep. Blessings and comfort to you as you remember Duke.

  2. Thanks Suz, I agree about how much my grief honors Duke’s meaning in my life. I find that comforting in a strange way.

    Thank you Carla, I know you understand that love too. I love the image of our holy pack, I will hold that close to my heart.

    You are most welcome Jules and thanks for your words of comfort and understanding.

    And thank you St Inukshuk (by the way, living in the NW, I love the name) for sharing glimpses of Earl and Baruch and your tender blessings.

    I am very grateful for the kindness offered me here. Blessings to each of you, Christine

  3. We never forget those whom we loved and those who loved us – creatures and people alike. I still miss my soul mate, greyhound, Earl. I still miss Baruch, the full-of-the-dickens-fuzzy-stubborn beagle. Yet, I am better for having them in my life. Each has taught me something about myself and nudged me to grow.
    May your tears be healing and may the ache of missing and longing remind us of the depth of love.

  4. I, too, know how you feel. Losing an animal that we love is a very intense pain – one that many people cannot understand until they themselves experience it. I’m so sorry for your loss…

    I followed the link to the photographer’s website…he does some really incredible work! Thanks so much for the link.

  5. Oh Christine. It is just so hard, so profound, so beyond words. My love and prayers are with you, Duke and your holy pack tonight.

  6. Oh, Christine…I am crying with you! Our animals are so incredibly special…my two are my little “soul friends.” I am not sure why. My twenty-year-old girl is getting to close to needing to be put down…pacing for hours for a reason we don’t understand.

    What food for thought…the balance between praise and lament. I will wrap my mind around that one for awhile!

    An anniversary like this is a painful and profound event. May the sharpness of your grief lessen once again. In a way, I feel it honors how much you loved Duke. Grief is holy.

    I saw Duke’s picture on one of your blogs. He was a very beautiful dog, Christine.