Memories of My Friend, Missy

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares. Henri Nouwen


I grew up loving animals and nature. I felt most at home outdoors—walking in the hills or sitting in a tree. I believe God introduced me to his unconditional love through my relationship with dogs.

 

My twelfth birthday I received the most amazing gift ever—a Golden Retriever puppy I named Daniel the Lion-hearted. Danny instantly became my best friend and loyal companion throughout my challenging teenage years. Danny did what great dogs do—he introduced me to loyal love. Danny lived for ten years before he lost his battle with cancer. The day I knew I needed to put him down was without a doubt the most difficult day of my young life. It was so upsetting to have my last act of love for Danny be to end his life. My heart broke and unleashed the expression of a lifetime of buried pain.

 

Love hurts. Caring is costly. It is no accident that it was 18 years before I got another dog. I used to blame my wife, Sue, for not letting us get a dog; however, I now realize I was unconsciously protecting my heart from the hurt of loving and losing again.  It was in February 1996, almost 28 years after adopting Danny that I fell in love with Missy. She was the opposite of Danny in a number of ways—she was a tiny little Maltese girl and he was huge Golden Retriever boy; she was petite and loved to be held and he was athletic and loved to wrestle. She was anxious, neurotic and extremely talkative and he was laid back, peaceful and relatively quiet.   She was a minute Maltese weighing 80 ounces and Danny was a beast weighing 80 pounds.

What they both shared in common was their care for others and their loyal love for me. They both understood how hungry I was for their attention, affirmation and companionship.

 

Missy and I formed a pact–I would faithfully look after and protect her and she would draw out the expression of my tenderness and vulnerability. This unspoken covenant began when I would sleep on the kitchen floor with her as she was grieving the loss of her brothers and sisters. Appropriately, Missy’s life ended in the way it began, with me laying on the floor with her in the early morning hours as she was struggling to stay alive.

 

Once again, my heart is healing from another breach. Missy is dead and I think my heart may have ruptured. I am thankful I have learned a little about grieving and have been fitfully preparing for this inescapable day. It took a courageous and tenacious confrontation by my son, Phil, to penetrate my denial about Missy’s demise. I knew she was dying; however, I dreaded the thought of life without her by my side.

 

As I was wrestling with the inevitability of her death, I was continually praying and asking God to let her die in her sleep. I found myself fantasizing about her breathing her last breath at my request and humbly sharing with others about my compelling faith. What I now understand was that I was not ready for her to die. Missy was at peace—it was me that needed to find the faith that I could survive another loss of love. When I found the faith to trust that God was my BIG Missy, then my eyes were opened and I knew I could do what needed to be done.

 

I believe a miracle was performed—it was a transformation in my heart. I embraced my responsibility to do what Missy needed me to do. Loving is often counterintuitive and costly. With Sue by my side and the care of my family, I had the support I needed to end Missy’s life. It was a wonderfully dreadful experience. I treasure the memories of my last days, hours, minutes and final seconds with Missy.

 

I am surfing the waves of grief. I am expressing my feelings as they surface. I am learning how to be with others more courageously and authentically. Missy is still by my side, running, talking, and being with me moment by moment. I am seeing all the Missy’s around me.

 

5 Responses to “Memories of My Friend, Missy”
  1. Sue Blue 1 August 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Rich,

    What Danny and Missy had in common was YOUR love for them. They are just a reflection of your big heart.

  2. Rich 1 August 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    You are very kind, Sue. LOL

  3. Jon Noto 1 August 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    What a beautiful and authentic account of what you’re going through. Thank you for sharing it in words, Rich.

    • Rich 1 August 2011 at 12:36 pm #

      Thank you, Jon, for your acknowledgment.

  4. Marjorie Bramley 1 August 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Rich, I am so very sorry tohear about your loss of Missy, however, what a beautiful gift each of you gave to each other. We lost our dog Ginger a year ago, and I still grieve her loss. I also really appreciated you sharing the quote from Henri too, he is one of my “favs”. I have written it down in my journal and am sure I will use it in the future. God Bless you and your family.

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Published: 01.08.2011 / 09:19 AM

Category: Grappling with God,Relationships,Spiritual Growth

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