Sunday, January 27, 2008

Looking For Her Everywhere; Finding Her in My Heart

Lesson Number Sixteen: There is Life After Death, If You Believe

The first thing I did after she died was put together a little photo album. I spent an entire evening digging through many of our family pictures from the thirteen years before and pulled out many photos of Bijoux. There were photos from her first night home, including my favorite one of her laying on top of Jim. He was on his back on our kitchen floor, and she was sprawled out on him, her paws towards his face. She was looking at me (I took the picture while I was laying on the floor also, but I was at Jim’s head, looking at Bijoux straight on) while she had a knotted-up sock hanging out of her mouth. Not only do I love the photo just because of how cute she looked, but it was also quite colorful, as Jim was wearing a red, white, and blue t-shirt that we purchased during the INXS “Kick” concert tour very recently.

The other pictures that "begged" to be included were some from Bijoux’s first birthday party, a photo of Bijoux standing (all four legs) on top of an end table in the living room, a picture of the toddler Dylan kissing her, and of course, the pictures from the day before her death. This photo album did make me cry, but it also made me laugh.

As I looked at her “super-sized” light blue water dish, I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. It was made of a heavy duty plastic, and seemed such a substantial thing to throw away, but I couldn’t imagine that I would be able to find anyone who’d want it, either. To pack it away in a box would be equally unreasonable. After some thought, I finally decided that I would plant some flowers in it. It was a nice way to recycle and remember at the same time!

The other activity I chose to engage in was writing a book about Bijoux. I learned so much from this little animal—there was so much give and take—that I felt I could honor her by writing about her.

Over the next week, I used a regular notebook to jot down a phrase that would jog my memory about every single thing I could remember about Bijoux. Although the initial purpose for writing everything down was the book, the act of making all of these notes actually helped my state of mind in a major way. When I finished writing everything I could, I felt enormously better.

On Friday, six days after Bijoux’s death, I left the house at 4:30 a.m. as usual, to teach my spin class. Driving down I-88, I was singing along with a song on the radio. A commercial followed, and I switched station. I was thrilled to hear a song that I hadn’t heard in a very, very long time. Suddenly, as I sang along, it occurred to me that it was “What You Need” by INXS, the group which we had seen in concert just before we brought Bijoux home—the group whose shirt Jim was wearing in that favorite photo of mine. I knew the song well, but felt as if I was hearing the lyrics for the very first time that morning. The words (copyright INXS) brought me to tears:

"Hey, here is the story
Forget about the trouble in life
Don't you know, it's not easy
When you gotta walk upon that line

That's why - You need
That's why - This is what you need
I'll give you what you need

Don't you get sad and lonely
You need a change from
What you do all day
Ain't no sense in all your crying
Just pick it up and throw it into shape

Hey you, won't you listen
This is not the end of it all
Don't you see there is a rhythm
I'll take you where you
Really need to be"

I find that there are two types of people in the world: people who believe that things happen for a reason, and people who deny any sense of mysticism or fate—they claim that whatever has mysteriously occurred is “strictly coincidence”. When I was younger, I would have belonged in the second group of people. However, as I have experienced more and more of life, my beliefs tend to fall into the former category. Depending upon which camp you’re in and how badly you like to argue about the ways of the world, this is where it could be possible to find comfort.

As I went through my day that Friday, completely excited because I felt as if I “got a sign” from Bijoux saying that she was okay, about half of the people I reported this to looked at me like I was completely nuts. I didn’t care, though: I felt so good. In order to recover from the grief I was experiencing, I grasped at anything that could be taken as a sign from Bijoux. Strangely, after not hearing “What You Need” on the radio for so long—perhaps years, or had I just not noticed it? —I heard it many times over the next two to three weeks.

One particularly spooky experience happened on a day when I was driving my car around a Naperville neighborhood, with a co-worker in the front passenger seat and Dylan and Jason in the back seat (school had let out for the day). We were distributing flyers for work and spent about an hour driving through residential areas that were close to the health club.

We turned a corner onto a new street, and noticed that there was a beagle whose leash was tied up in front of the second house on the right. The dog was adorable, and sleeping. Just as we drove by, his eyes popped open and he sat up, wagging his tail as he stared at us. A few minutes after that, “What You Need” came on the radio. We had to turn around eventually and pass the beagle’s house again, and when we did, he was still sitting there wagging his tail at us. Dylan and Jason got a kick out of this, and always listened for “Bijoux’s song” on the radio; I think it made them feel better, too.

Time heals all, they say, and something happened that I never dreamed would. I always said that I would never get another dog. After I spent the last several years of Bijoux’s life being on edge about her eventual death, and then actually going through those painful last months, weeks, days, hours, and minutes, I didn’t want to put my heart and soul “out there” for another dog. But another major wave of change was on its way.