One year ago today I lost my little maltese dog, my fur kid, that had traveled through life with me for a long and challenging fifteen years. It was really hard to lose that little bugger, and the loss hit me really hard. I was weepy for weeks. I tried to settle the loss in my heart and mind by having his ashes on the shelf, wearing his little dog tag around my neck, having a nice canvas print made for the wall. I sprinkled a few of his ashes into the ocean, and tried so hard to let him go. Anyone that has lost a cherished dog knows the pain and suffering that can ensue. I was closer to this dog than I am to most people, and he had successfully faced many health issues prior to finally passing, so it was a little shocking, even though he was fifteen.
When I'd gotten Tilly, I was married. He went to Turkey with me, and then moved to Reading when I was divorced. He gave me a routine that I needed, and let me spoil his little self as much as I could. As I held him when he was put down, I literally felt my heart break. I cracked. It was vicious pain that both surprised me and confused me. I have had and lost lots of animals, including a cat that I am convinced was my soul mate. This little dog, however, became my best pal through thick and thin, and keeping him well through his medical trials became my an important personal reason for being, to a certain extent.
The day after he died, I was accompanied by a small white butterfly on my walk with Ellie, my pug dog. It seemed everywhere I went, this butterfly came. It was small, very active, and was bright white with two little black dots on its wings (like maltese eyes, maybe?) At one point it landed on my arm and didn't even move when I waved my arm to dislodge it. It simply hung on for about ten paces then flitted away. It was strange to have this repeated visitor show up whether I was walking my dog, sitting in my yard or my neighbor's yard, or in front of my house. I started to think of Tilly's energy fueling the little butterfly, and said "Hi Til" whenever one of these little creatures would show up. Silly, but one grieving an animal does these things!
The past year has proved to be transformational. Things are so much better now on so many levels. As I've posted about a lot this year, I now have my two little maltese girls, better doggies than I could have ever hoped for. I have resolved some financial issues that were hovering over my head (including a bill for Tilly's hip surgery) and have more ideas for art than I have time to complete. I have a piece in a show now, and will be entering the UK Quilt Festival this month with new work, too. I am almost done with the City and Guilds Textile course. My health is the same, but I have suffered less because of working from home due to Covid. A fun summer lies ahead filled with art, teaching, and puppy love, and I couldn't be more optimistic.
Such a change from one year ago. I felt sick, old, tired, and just plain weary. I was sad from loss, and then got hit with a serious medical problem that socked me in the hospital for several days. I remember listlessly watching endless movies on Turner Classic Movies channel, thinking and not thinking, trying to figure out what would come next. My yard was a mess at home, my house even worse, and I was not feeling great, to boot. My dear friends did the unimaginable and cleaned up my yard and my house while I was in the hospital, so I could come home and recuperate. I can never repay that kindness. Ever. That was the beginning of my ship turning around.
So today, as I said above, I almost made it. Before getting up I thought about what I could do to make this day special in memory of my Tilman. I thought about going to the beach. About having the girls see what ocean waves are all about. Once I looked at my list of to-do's, however, and saw the thunderstorms coming our way, I decided against it. Instead I ran errands all morning and finally finished it up by about one pm. I went outside to move some plants that need planting, and wouldn't you know, a little white butterfly came flitting by. I haven't seen one yet this summer. It danced around the new roses I'd planted, landing on my long stem red, then coming to me and circling my head. I put my arm out but it didn't land. It happily continued exploring the summer growth, following a cheerful, exuberant path in the air. I couldn't help but smile, and heard myself say "Hi Til."
Only a couple tears this time. It was my goal to not cry about Tilly anymore, especially after a year. Almost made it. Sweet Tilly, you will always be remembered and the gaping wound you tore in my heart is being slowly repaired, one puppy kiss and one smile at a time, as my new little maltese girls grow up into adult dogs. We are starting all over again, and I am sure they will break my heart, too. Guaranteed. This past year has taught me that sometimes the pain of loss can be transformative, though, and lead to better things. I hope Tilly is wherever he needs to be, looking down at his sisters and helping me keep them in line, and knows he could never be replaced in my heart and life. The mystery of life and death. Keep sending me butterflies, little Till. Maybe next year I will only smile.