2015 has been a wonderful year… and it has been a miserable year. This year has seen me reintroduced into the career that I love, my face on the cover of this paper with an amazing article written by a good friend. I even was lucky enough to be voted Metro’s Best Local DJ.
All these things and more have made 2015 beyond spectacular. But while all these great things are happening, the death toll has been rising.
If I was into end-of-the-world theories, I’d be pretty damn paranoid right now. You may have read one of my previous columns this year about death. I’ve lost three close friends way too soon, a good friend of mine lost her father at a very young age this year, my daughter lost a classmate and, last week, we lost our family dog.
Griswold, named after the family in our favorite Christmas movie, liked to live fast. He was an explorer and an adventurer. We played hell trying to keep him in the yard; anytime he caught us slipping he was gone. Last week while chauffeuring the kids around to games I received a very familiar text from my wife: “Griswold is gone again. We need to get an invisible fence or something.” When I returned home, I went looking for him like I have a dozen times this year. Only this time I found him a lot quicker than usual. He barely made it out of the neighborhood.
I can’t explain my emotions when I found him, because there were none. Only shock: “Is this real? How could this happen?” The next thought was, “Oh my God, the wife and kids are going to be devastated. What do I do?” The kids were going to bed, then school the next day. My wife was about to leave for work. There’s no way I could tell them that night. I decided to wait to tell my wife the next morning when she got home from work and the kids after school the next day. I wrapped up our Griswold in the hoodie I was wearing and put him in my car. The night that followed was one of the longest of my life.
While texting with the wife about making posters to find the little guy, I had to hold back the fact that our little guy wasn’t lost and that he would never be coming back home. I also had to tuck in all the kids, who were worried sick, feeling like they could see right through me. No. 3 made it worse when she asked “What if he got hit?” as I was tucking her in. The intuition in that one is incredible. Of all the times he had gotten out to frolic about the neighborhood, she had never once brought up the idea that he may get hurt. I spent the rest of the night wondering if I was handling it the right way and dreading breaking each and every one of their hearts the next day.
That next day was every bit as horrible as I had imagined. Breaking the news to my wife was bad enough. But having to drop off my football watching buddy, our family dog that loved to hop up in my lap and hug me around my neck, to get cremated was when the emotion of it finally hit me. Even after all that, I still had three kids filled with hope and worry to tear down emotionally.
That conversation went down almost exactly as I had anticipated. A devastating whirlwind of emotions followed by 101 questions that all seemed to be asked at the same exact time… times three. My wife had the idea of having the kids each paint a picture of Griswold while those emotions were fresh in their minds and it was probably the best idea either of us have ever had. The way those kids channeled all of that energy into their respective projects was amazing and therapeutic. I would definitely suggest doing something similar if your family ever has to suffer a great loss.
Our family has been doing our best to move on in the past week. It’s amazing how our much our pets are part of our family. It doesn’t even feel right referring to them as a pet. I’d give anything to have the little guy back. But getting over the loss has brought us together a little bit. Which is what family is all about.