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A meditation on grief and consolation

  • 28 June 2022
'The past is in us and not behind us. Things are never over.' – Tim Winton ‘History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.’ – James Baldwin Baldwin’s and Winton’s words came fresh to me over the weekend, as I lay our dog’s body into the cold, cold ground. Cinder, a black, beloved miniature schnauzer, had a great life, if one cut cruelly short. She was a happy, cherished animal, who knew we loved her. Like pets across the country and the world in recent years, Cinder got our family through a horrible time. After several trips to the vet and emergency vet, medications, pain relief and surgery, we have had to let Cinder the miniature schnauzer go; the vet had told us there was no hope of recovery.

Cinder was a happy, energetic, loyal, intelligent, loving, joyful member of our mob. We’d often laugh out loud with her. She was our little friend who loved walks, loved to be held, hated vacuum cleaners, tubas, cats and posties. She loved to play, to sing along with music, and especially loved every morsel of food she consumed. Like a Greek tragedy, her great love was her undoing; unbeknownst to us, our terrier ate an acorn, which lodged in her small intestine and damaged her bowel beyond the point of recovery.  

Joined by our son, I dug four feet down, two feet across, into wet, clayish soil. Deep into the darkness. We can see Cinder’s resting place from our bedroom window, not far from a little apple tree we’d planted some weeks before. She would have loved the spot, we think.

Driving through misery, paying the piper’s bill, and then picking up the remains, as well as her little blue coat and collar, I was surprised to find myself struck speechless. Rendered mute, strangled by grief, I was unable to thank the nurse, who kindly accepted my nodded thanks.

Back home, gentle rain fell as we placed our pup’s shroud into the earth and covered her with soil and a blanket of autumn leaves. A little form that was something, was now nothing. Somehow lesser. We were returning its elements and nutrients into the soil. Her little spirit was returning to God knows where.

Our neighbour came along to introduce us to a dog he was looking after, just as I was about to shovel the first