Death is a ubiquitous predicament.
You could be a 75 year-old man passing out in your office while secretaries chirp and bustle about–the paramedics take you out and the papers quickly resume their shuffling. You could be the one with lasting power who gets the privilege of watching everyone around you die first. Or, you could go quickly, at the right time, and on your own, err, time’s terms.
But not me. At 28 I’m still far enough away to feel excluded from the fate awaiting everybody-else-but-me and always thought it was me and Pua who were immune to that fate. The undisputed facts backed that up.
Pua had been with me since I was 12. I welcomed her into this world the summer after sixth-grade, heartbroken over being dumped by an elementary first love. Pua’s mother was my tutu’s dog (who we were babysitting) and her father’s owner was a classmate of mine who lived down the street. He (the owner) was a dick and it was he, no joke, for whom I was dumped. It shamed me for a good long while that I should raise his bastard dog but she was everything you could ask for in a friend. Quick to forgive, slow to anger, always barked at strangers, intuitive, loyal, and wholly lacking pretense.
Pua survived the cats, the birds, the fish, and all my friend’s pets. She survived a stint at the pound, breaking loose when I was on a trip, always out for a big-nosed adventure. Other people saw her end as a matter of time. I saw it as an abstraction at best because I knew her better than them. Waking up without her panting contently in the corner of my room, unimaginable, like looking out the window to find the mountain-view mountain-less.
Nevertheless, she was ready before I. She was less romantic than me and yearned not for permanence or meaning, already having made her peace with countless long walks, good food, and plenty of smells.
She was to go out with her head up and ass clean. Her last meal was steak, enjoyed from a grassy beachfront yard and an infinite expanse beyond of pastoral pink clouds and the most gentle lapping of sand you’ve ever heard. As the world around us performed for her one last symphony, I crumpled over, hugged her neck and heaved with the waves. Her back legs had given out a few days earlier. Prolonging her existence would have be a selfish disservice to her lifetime of grace.
Don’t get me wrong, the process was slow. Well-documented were the signs of her reduction. We both new she was no puppy, but still, mostly for my own good, I’d whisper to her that we’d always be together. The softer I said it, the more I believed she believed me.
Erosion is exceedingly beautiful from a distance. Take, for example, Hawaii’s emerald green, jaggedly peaked, waterfall-prone, time-worn revelations of inevitable form.
A freshly formed island stood alone in the Pacific. Over thousands of years the heavens shed tears for the lonely rock. The tears struck the island one by one, each of countless running down the island’s bare cheek. Eventually, a thousand years worth of tears formed a groove for the tears of the next thousand years. In a timescale unappreciable to the animal being, tears from the heavens refined the volcanic body and revealed the land’s deeply ravined beauty. I can’t quite see it but right this second these here mountains are being reduced to their most base, essential state of being.
Perhaps erosion creates softness, time sanding down the uncouth edges of youth. Beaches, river stones, and that sweet, fertile, life-sustaining soil–thank the heavens for erosion. Perhaps too erosion is harsh and sudden and revealing of the most vulnerable of fissures. Erosion is a complicated thing.
I sit with my 5 year old niece and my 88 year old tutu at dinner. We go to a place, most Wednesdays, that has familiar food. Tutu and my niece like familiar food and they always get their favorites, both needing occasional reminders of what their favorites are. They both then tell us that this is the best grilled cheese/cobb salad they ever had, better even than last week. These two little ladies barely fill up the dining room chairs, two fragile ends of the most precious spectrum.
Its nearly impossible to address death directly, at least for me, with other people unless I’m 100% comfortable with ruining their bliss in the rare chance it was something that did not cross their minds, at least not for some time, that is, until I just mentioned it. Shit. So it is with tutu. I wonder often if she wants to talk about erosion. Instead we occupy ourselves with the familial history of that couch over there, with the blue fabric, which has spent more time with my family than me. Its a mission-era piece. Well-built. There’s a brief silence and we both look down to the ground, awknowledging the impermanence. Yet Tutu doens’t say bye, she whispers bye for now, and I hear it well.
Facing Pua’s non-existence was harder than bearing her absence. What’s left are my memories of her beautiful green valleys. Erosion is indeed beautiful, but only from afar.