Aging Pets

She’s Free

Life is short. Sure it’s trite, but it’s also true. We’re reminded so often because grasping this is vital to our decision-making in day-to-day life.

I lost my friend in Florida. I have other important friends, people I love dearly, but she was special, and she was one of my few tethers to the world. She was one of my reasons. We didn’t talk much lately because of my depression, but I can’t express how important it is – was – to know that she is here.

I’m not religious. Still, my dear friend is one of those lovely people who you think of like an angel. It seems someone so special and so vital to us all will always be here. How could she not be when so many of us adore her and need her?

Bella is one of those people you choose again and again. You are reminded literally every time you see her or speak with her why you adore her so. You’re grateful all over again for having known her, for the opportunity to love her and be loved by her. I expect we’ll all be looking for her in the animals and the people we meet and in the places we go, but that’s a good thing. She set the example. She’s one of the people we imitate, the one who taught us how, showed us the right way. We’ll hold onto her for as long as we’re around.

I’ll especially think of my precious friend when I take a picture of someone or something in the snow. She loved snow pictures. As much as I hate the cold and the snow she loved it, the look, the feel, the possibilities, the newness of it. She doesn’t – didn’t – get snow in Florida. I’ll think of her when I see a pet rat, when I use the things she made for me, when I learn something new about hurricanes, sickness, university research, drug abuse, any time I add to the things she already taught me. After all she gave me, I’m selfish in my longing for one more moment, one more hug, one more chance to be a better friend, to apologize, to be able to get past my fear of hurting her (with neglect – fucking depression makes us afraid to ask for the things we need most or to give the thing we most want to give, love, connection). I’m selfish for writing this. I’m selfish for hurting. She’s the one who’s gone. She’s the one who deserves more time. She’d tell me it’s okay. It’s not okay.

On the one hand I am terribly sad for me and for all the people who love her, and there are many of us, but I’m also elated for her; she got to let go. She has no more obligations, nothing left to explain or make excuses for, to teach, no pain, no worry, but I doubt she wanted that. She loves people. Loved people. And they loved her, and it seems like she never said the wrong thing or reacted the wrong way or didn’t empathize. She always made time. For all of us. And when we were with her she was entirely there. Sincere. Passionate. Compassionate. Showing love and being loved. She was in the moment, but she planned ahead, too. She had beautiful ideas and vision, but she always started from gathering facts. Even my envy of her was more adoration than anything. I could never aspire be like her because of the depression, but I could appreciate and love her for exactly who she is – was – and just be grateful for her presence in my life and in the lives of so many other humans and animals. This mourning will take time. I think of her often already so it will be hard, all over again, each time I have to remember she isn’t one of us here anymore. She was always one of the best of us, but she is gone now.

As much as I wish more of us, including myself, could be so wonderful and loving and adorable as beautiful Bella, I’ve one last thing to envy her for even if it’s not something she wanted. She’s free.

It’s not fair, but then she was right about this one, too. It was never supposed to be fair. We learn to appreciate and work with what we have. She taught us knowing we’d pass it along, build on it, make it even better. We’re strong when others are not, and they’re strong for us when we’re not. Between us, we will get it done. We’ll help each other through. I wish I could thank her one more time for all her help. Perhaps I’m thanking her when I help someone else. I suppose that’s how it works.

All this time I was afraid to hurt her because I might not be able to give to her when she needed it. Now she’s gone, and I’m the one hurting. This is that reminder that life is short, and we need to recognize our freedom before this. She’s free now, but she was before, too; she gave her love and her time freely. It was me who was afraid. Bella was never selfish, never afraid. It was about the journey. She always knew it had to end.

Good-bye, love. We’ll all miss you. I miss you. I will always miss you.

This is not a tribute. All that is on the 19th. This is the love and sadness and self-pity you go through when you find out a week and a half after the fact that your friend is gone. This is being afraid to connect while desperately wishing for the strength to connect.

Bella is a human. This is included in “pets” because Bella was a fellow rat breeder. That is how I met her.

I can’t find any photos – there weren’t many – and I suspect they’re lost with much of the other old records I had before the loss of most of my data on an old computer eleven or so years ago. I’ll edit this if I can find the one of the two of us at the Seaworld. She was only about 60 (20 June ? to 23 December 2018), maybe a bit younger. Hug the people you love. Today. For all of us who are afraid to give, to take, to reach out. . . afraid we’ll hurt someone when, at some later date, we’re too much of a mess to be there, just do it. For me. And for Bella who was never afraid, never too busy, never too much of a mess. ❤️

Photo of my golden retriever walking in deep snow in my front yard (when I lived in Kansas City, Missouri - this would be about 2005).
Bella got a huge kick out of pictures of the dog playing in the snow.

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