Goodbye, Old Friend

The medicine man asked, “How old is he?”

As the words tried to form in his throat, the man began to cry uncontrollably.
He thought he was ready, but he was not.
The medicine man quietly excused himself to another place and waited patiently.
What followed (and the medicine man had seen it before) was the good-bye ritual when the time had finally come.
When the time cannot be put off any longer.
When the herbs and healing things can no longer do what they are supposed to do.
When the ultimate act of love and kindness cuts out your heart with a rusty knife.

Why does it always have to be so?
Why do they always have to go?

So, the man gently took his friend’s head into his hands and bent forward to      embrace him for that final heart-wrenching time.
He lingered as their skin touched with the same electricity that had united them for so long.
He spoke words to his old friend that he can no longer remember.
Words of love, devotion, and thanks.
And as he kissed the side of his friend’s face, the tears continued to roll down his own cheeks.
He pulled away, still holding his friend’s head in his hands.
His old friend looked him squarely in the eye and returned the same love that the man was sending through his hands, words, and tears.
His old friend seemed to be telling him that everything was as it should be.
His old friend seemed to be saying that he was tired from his long-suffering.
Tired of not being able to be the way he used to be…the way he wanted to be.
He seemed to know that his time had come and that the man had done all that could be done.
It was his old friend’s greatest gesture of love for the man.
It was as if he had said, “Permission granted.  You did your best.  It is time for you to go.  The time has come for you to let me go.”
So, the man bid his farewells to his constant and loving companion of the past decade.
And, he touched his old friend with Forever Love.
Just as his old friend had touched him with Forever Love.

Heaven’s doors will surely open wide on this day;
An angel will come down to guide you on your way.

So, the man pulled himself away from his old friend and turned to leave.
He passed by others in the medicine man’s office, but he did not see them.
He mounted the steel pony for the long ride back.
And, tears raced down his face on the trail to his camp.
Others on the trail saw, but could not imagine, the reasons for those tears.
The pattern repeated itself.
The man would gather himself only long enough for the well to fill and overflow again.
The ride finally over, the man looked over the area where his old friend had held dominion for so long.
Suddenly, it seemed empty and stark.
The life was gone from the trees and grass.
And it was deadly quiet.
So, the man went about the business of discarding the sickly bedding and other  remains of his friend’s period of illness.
Water partially cleaned the marks on the floor where his friend had laid sick and dying.
Soon, it was done.
But, still a tear would fall at the oddest times as the memories came back.

Time to rid yourself of the unpleasant recent past;
Time to concentrate on the memories that will last.

Throughout that evening (and for days and years that will come), the man   remembered the good times with his old friend.
The memories came fast and clear.
The old friend playing with the older child.
The tug of way with the middle child.
The toddling and prodding of the youngest.
The shoe tied around his neck.
The chase in the dark of the night.
The old friend had made his indelible mark of all of them.
And, in particular, on the man.
He held the chain in his hand and it came to him  what he should do.
He hung the nameplate of his old friend on a nail on the wall beside his bed roll as a tribute to and reminder of the old dog that had loved him so.
And that he had loved so.
For each had loved the other so very, very much.
And it would be so forever.
Greenwich was gone…but would never be forgotten.

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2 responses to “Goodbye, Old Friend

  1. Bob, Had to do the same thing last year with our chow, Cinda. Tonya couldn’t even go along, but as you have said, it was for the best. We had her cremated and is on Tonya’s dresser. Will be thinking of you.

  2. i love that poem about greenwich. brings a tear to my eyes every time i read it.

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