Got me on my knees, Layla

We were gathered around her. All five of us. The doctor held her front paw and injected her. I heard the words slip out of mom, who stood in dad’s arms a few feet away, “Her heart has stopped.”

Huge wails followed from all of us. For several hours later, we kept breaking down. I’m barely holding it together right now.

For many years, it was a recurring nightmare for me: I would wake up and she would be gone. But she fought everything that came her way – Paralysis. Weakening heart. Fungal infections. Tick infestations. Her will to live and eat was very strong. The last few months of her life were filled with visits to the doctor to ease her pain and give her a better life. One her giant heart was deserving of.

Her heart gave everyone love without any discrimination. Not a soul has anything else to say about her but that she enriched our lives. She changed several pre-conceived notions about dogs. She managed to envelop each of us in her never ending cycle of warmth and love.

I will miss her. Like I would miss a limb. She is a part of me and always will be. So that’s not it. Her calming demeanour that got me through several depressive spells will be missed. Sorely. I think she will haunt me for a long time to come. And I’m not sad about it. After all, she taught me how to love. She loved me unconditionally. She gave me reason to live when I felt lost and at brink of yet another abyss. She eased my worried mind with a few tail wags, licks and her reassuring presence. Her zen face, warm body and soft snores were home for me. 

How can I not miss her?

As we set her down in her grave, a part of me wanted to curl up with her there and tell her she made me a better person and I was eternally grateful. But chances are that she knew it all along. Chances are she’s still watching over me. Telling me I’m a fighter and I can beat anything life throws at me. Just like when she was with me.

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Love, loss and chaos

Do you remember the date? I do. It was a dark day (or not) for me and a patient one for you. I was unhappy and masking my pain – like I always do. You were unhappy and forthcoming about it. I stayed up all night to fix the mess that I was in. You stayed up with me.

Grumbling. Teasing. Smiling. Laughing. Nudging. A rainbow of emotions.

I remember the links you sent; so typical of you. Videos, funny ones, were your famous escape route. We fought like we usually did, despite the videos. I don’t think I told you then that I had fallen for you.

But you knew. You mocked my resistance, laughed away my timidity and silently smiled in the cocky knowledge of it all. I sensed your impatience, waiting for me to come to terms with it. It would be long before I strung any words together affirming your assumptions. You threw a metaphorical party. It was more than wonderful.

I never told you this but the date stayed with me; long after you did. After all, it was the first time I acknowledged it. Even to myself.

I struggle now to reconcile the deep, love-filled memories (because they are worth remembering) with the emptiness of the current overwhelming feeling of loss. I know better than to dismiss it all. I know that hate or anger won’t help me right now. I impatiently wait to wrap my brain around the chaos. But this is all a lesson for me in patience, isn’t it? I don’t want to say it is a cruel one. I am tempted to rush into that narrative of pity and ‘oh look how bad things happen’. Not this time. It is just one that I needed to learn.

Chaos and loss take time to heal and settle. I need to take on this world one day at a time. With my best tough, brave face on.

It gets better.

To new beginnings..

From the broken halves of me,

To each and every one of you,

I don’t know where to start. It is a whole lot of nothing. Yet, in the crevices of memory and the curves of my body there lay a whole lot of everything. From being around each other and sharing intimate, wild, unhappy, vulnerable and mundane, to the sudden vacuum and silence. Everyone tells you about the wonderful, marvellous feelings of love. No one ever fully prepares you for what comes after.

The emptiness doesn’t even set in for a long time. You first have to deal with the contradictions that present themselves. The anger vs. the calm. The pain vs. the joy. The longing vs. the hatred. The urge to hold on vs. the craving to move on. All struggling to co-exist in a, now, large available space…

I didn’t realise how tough it would be. I packed away all the memories, the physical remains of a relationship. But the mind, the body, the heart wouldn’t allow me such easy respite. I found myself in a sticky situation; unaware if I wanted to even move on. The pain, the guilt, the memories all were real. Soon they would leave and all I would be left with was the void. I refused to fill this void with another person or many. I don’t recommend such a life to you, though. I have learnt that these voids can only be filled with inanimate objects; never again with people or emotions. It wasn’t logical. It was just that way.

But I digress.

It was hard to imagine that the day would ever come. Death loomed on us since we began but we never took it seriously. We shrugged it aside as a rueful inconvenience. Together.

But I was left to face it in a very real way. Alone.

We had built not a home but a world. A parallel universe. An imaginary happiness. When it came crashing down on me, as she faded into oblivion, I realised no body prepared me for this. We speak, read, write, hear, watch, see, understand and analyse love. Not enough about loss. About losing a friend, a lover, a confidante and a soul mate. We weren’t married but only because it was illegal. We were everything a couple was and more.

I would cease wanting her this way. I knew I would. I was scared of that eventuality; so I held onto everything I knew. Slowly, she transformed into the best version of herself. Present and absent. All at once.

Months together, people, friends, colleagues, family would enquire out of affection, “How do you feel?” I wanted to say all this but I held back and said instead, “Nothing, yet everything.”

But I needed to be loved again. To let go of the gnawing pain and move on. She would understand. She would have done the same in my place.

Wouldn’t you?

A version of this piece first appeared on The Body Narratives.

351 of 365

I freeze in my tracks to stare at the number.

I didn’t want to see that jet black car

Driving past me.

Not yet.

You consumed my every thought.

A phase?

A loss I couldn’t swallow?

A life without your embrace?

I took a deep breath and shook my head;

It was a hallucination of your familiar silhouette

approaching me.

No, it wasn’t you.

173 of 365

‘Carry me with you
to the better world
don’t leave me behind
and alone,’ I say.

Her shut lids,
her blue dress
glared back at me
from the wooden coffin.

Mute or angry
a typical response.
Oh Granny,
Why did you leave me now?

Her frail body
unnerving to see,
I remember the
choices she lived by.

She bought my first drink,
taught me to ride a bike,
She designed my tattoo,
taught me to cry.

I never believed
that she would leave,
despite her illness
and old age.

Now, she’s gone
there remains no one to say.
‘Oh Jia,
stop smoking your life away.