No matter how many times you experience significant loss, it never gets any easier to endure. When a part of you dies, grief, seemingly unbearable, crashes over you like waves. Gigantic, powerful waves. Fighting against the drowning wears you out. Wears you out.
At 12:20 PM on New Year's Eve day, J.B., my beloved dog, finally gave up the ghost. I slept on the floor by his side the night before because I just knew it would be his last night with us. I couldn't bring myself to call the vet, so we let him go on his own.
The morning before, he ate a few last morsels of fried chicken but didn't move from his bed the entire day. The evening before that, he had gotten up and dragged himself into the living room when Jop came home just to give and receive some love. The evening before he passed, he had no energy left for even that. But later, in the middle of the night, he kept raising his head and looking around. I believe he was looking for Jop, but I couldn't bring myself to go upstairs and wake him up. J.B. seized up more than once, expelling a loud noise, but he didn’t let go. He went back to sleep, raising his head and looking around every so often.
He waited for his other daddy to come home before he went. Jop had to take care of a friend that morning. As soon as he returned, J.B. tried to get up from his bed to no avail. Finally, I carried him outside where he was able to stand up one last time. He wagged his tail. Tried to walk to the barn to look for him. Finally, Jop came around, sat down on the back porch steps and started to rub J.B.'s face. Scratched him under both ears like he loved so much. Just as I walked back out, J.B. threw back his head, seized up and fell to the icy ground. He tried to come back one last time, gasping for breath in long intervals. But we told him to go. Please, go. Held him till his gasping ceased.
He was gone. We buried him under the weeping willow tree in the grave we had dug back on Labor Day weekend. Back when he first began his long and arduous journey toward death. Long because he didn’t want to leave. Arduous because he didn’t want to let go. Didn’t want to stop chasing the chickens or exploring all the smells in the barn. Didn’t want to stop barking at the sheep or grazing with the horses or greeting the customers, his tail wagging all the while. Didn’t want to stop pushing his snout so hard against my chest it felt as though he wanted to crawl inside.
He didn’t want to stop loving.
J.B., who we adopted at three months and named after my favorite author James Baldwin and both of us (Jop Blom and Joseph Bernard, the name my birth mother gave me when I was first born) is my inspiration. He lived life with passion and never met a challenge he couldn't conquer. Like all dogs, he was unconditional love incarnate. He pulled me through many of life's greatest challenges, his devotion abiding. Two weeks shy of 14-years-old, his life spanned three decades. His indomitable spirit was the strongest I've ever known.
I’ll find you
In the morning sun
And when the night is new.
I’ll be looking at the moon,
But I’ll be seeing you.
Farewell, old friend. So long.