“One day we will see our animals in the eternity of Christ” Pope Paul VI
I believe this, too. And, why wouldn’t we? Animals are living, breathing spirit beings.
Grieving the loss of a beloved pet takes time. It is not simple, nor easy. There is no right or wrong way; we grieve in our own personal way.
Prior to finding Harley’s lifeless body, a friend and I were searching for her in the neighborhoods surrounding the grooming salon where I had dropped her off earlier in the morning. We happened into an alleyway filled with brush and bramble. We were able to only walk in a few feet to call out for Harley. As we left I turned and saw a female cardinal sitting on a branch. Briefly, our eyes met as it cocked its head this way and that and in that moment I knew Harley’s spirit had made a visitation. I brushed aside the thought, however choosing to keep a positive attitude we would find her soon. And we did.
I believe once a spirit is freed from the confines of the body, the spirit returns to Divine Love. I also believe spirits have access to the earthly realm for a time, perhaps forever. We looked for signs Harley was still with us in spirit.
The old saying ‘when angels are near, cardinals appear; became very important to us in the year following Harley’s passing. The appearance of cardinals after the passing of loved ones is a long-held belief the loved ones are visiting to let those left behind know all is well. We had many visitations from cardinals that first year, beginning with a cardinal flying alongside my husband’s truck as he drove down our street the day Harley transitioned from this world. A cardinal frequently perched on our back fence in the early morning or as the sun sank into the horizon, sang from a nearby tree, or on occasion flew across the yard at eye level. We held a somber celebration of life on the anniversary date and sat in our backyard watching for cardinals. The next morning as our daughter was in her car leaving for work she snapped a picture of a cardinal that had hopped up on our front porch stoop and looked as if it were trying to get in. Cardinals have become important to us.
Mourning, for many, involves rituals; they help us deal with grief by giving it expression. Harley’s ashes are in a walnut box, and the first year, we carried the box to the mantle in the morning and back to the bedroom at night to sit on the nightstand. We wanted Harley to be surrounded by those she loved day and night. I also had a memorial ring made containing some of her ashes. There are all sorts of different memorials and ways to honor those who have passed on.
Many people wonder if getting another animal after a beloved pet has transitioned dishonors the pet or would appear to others as if we are ‘replacing’ the pet. Some people feel guilty about getting another pet. We needn’t. A beloved pet cannot be replaced any more than a human can be replaced; we are adding to our family and only we will know when the time is right. Like grieving, there is no time frame.
We have since added two more Yorkies; one months after Harley passed on, and the other a few months ago. The two newest additions are half-sisters and couldn’t be more different, but I think God had a hand in both Tasia and Kaiah coming to us when they did. I was not entirely on board with adding a puppy so soon after Harley, but Chardonnay, Harley’s blood sister, needed a boost from her depression. Chardonnay had never been without her sister save for a few short months.
Tasia joined our family and in her quiet way began knitting the pieces of our broken hearts together. From the moment we picked her up she curled in my lap, spending the majority of her time next to me or in my lap when I was home, so much so I became concerned she wasn’t healthy. My husband reassured me she ran and played while I was away. She accompanied me almost everywhere and still does. Tasia has a gentle, quiet spirit and I realized she sensed my grief and in her own way offered me time to heal. Today, she is still a quiet, gentle spirit mixed with a generous helping of playful puppy.
Kaiah, well Kaiah came with a lifetime supply of sugar and spice, heavy on the spice. Exuberant doesn’t even begin to describe her, and yet she has a gentle, sweet spirit, very similar to Harley. The moment she was put in my arms she and I connected; she is my shadow.
Neither Tasia nor Kaiah replaced Harley. Tasia, with her gentle, quiet presence allowed me the time to heal. Kaiah gifted us with joy. I can’t imagine life without either one of them, and in each of them, I see glimpses of Harley from time to time. Truly, love never dies…..