Called Away

   "Every person gone has taken a stone
    to hold and catch the sun. The carving
    says, "Not here, but called away."
                           -William Stafford

It really is hard to believe, but ten years ago today we slipped off our little Stella's leash for the last time and let her run on ahead, to find a good spot and wait for us.

I wrote several poems for Stella, and it bothers me that they were all written in the weeks and months after she died. It seems wrong that death inspires writing in ways that life doesn't. I should write more out of love for the living, is my point.

It's and good and happy thing to remember Stella, who was such a bright light in our lives, who loved to run and play. She was very intelligent, and knew all her toys by name. But today is the anniversary of her passing. Her Rainbow Bridge Day. So here are a couple of shavings out of my novel in progress.

We all stayed with her together until it was late, then Dad and Mama went to bed. Papa went upstairs but I could hear his rocking chair creaking overhead until much later. I did not go to bed and did not sleep at all that night. I left the light on, pulled pillows down onto the floor and laid there beside my dog. I talked to her and watched her breathe. I cried and told her about Heaven and who would be there to meet her, naming all the dogs that came before her and lived a while and went on ahead to wait, and many humans too. He told her it was OK to go, that she had done her job and completed every task and been the best best friend a boy and his brother could want. She should not worry about her family, I said. Our hearts would break, but we would be alright. And we would get along by cherishing her memory which would have to be more than enough until God sent along another dog for us.

            I left my place on the steps and went and sat with my back against the tree, beside my friend. I decided my thinking had been terribly wrong, that I should just dispute the whole idea of dead. There was nothing about Sadie’s life and what she was – like loyal, patient, and playful – that is subject to the claims and premises of death. Even if the Church did not believe that pets have souls, that they go to Heaven when they die, I didn’t care. I had looked into the eyes of dogs and cats, horses, hamsters, enough to see that God was looking through at me. There was love in them, and God is love, so I had been taught. I thought maybe no one really dies at all, that dogs are just as alive after we think they’re dead as they ever were when we thought they were alive; that some men are just as dead when they think they are alive as they will ever be in time. But when they came with the truck and the shovels and an oval stone the width of a man’s chest, we buried her body under the tree near Apache and the others. We took turns digging, as we do, lowered the wrapped bundle on bits of rope that bore it down and down.

from Charlie's Crossing
a novel in process
(c) 2010 by J. Kyle Kimberlin
all rights reserved

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