I am currently on my journey back to the Midwest on the Lakeshore Limited Amtrak train, and have found myself blessed with a much better view this time around. The sun set over the Hudson River as the world whisked by, I held Charlie’s tag while finally shedding my first tears of the day, having somehow held them inside until I had made it to my sleeper car. This trip was heavy. I wasn’t sure how I would feel at the ending, if I would want to stay longer or if I would be ready to return to Milwaukee, and it has turned out to be a mixture of the two.
The veterinarian (or the angel of death as I’ve been referring to him), let me know his ashes would be ready the day I return coincidentally, synchronistically, like how the morning of his death I opened the cupboard to find it bare; after watching a monarch butterfly land on a freshly planted tree. Though I’m eager to have his remains back where they belong, I am not necessarily looking forward to being alone in that place again, the place that once felt like home but no longer truly does. I hope over time my heart will recognize it as a place of comfort.
During the past week, there were difficult moments, mostly when the quiet stillness seeped in, causing my mind to replay his final moments like a film I couldn’t stop in my mind, which is when I would turn on videos or music to fill my brain instead. I have been finding podcasts about grief helpful, and especially the ones where they acknowledge losing an animal companion can be just as painful as losing a close friend or family member. Our relationship was pure, no arguments, ultimately forgiving, and unconditionally loving. My darkest thoughts have included that I will never be unconditionally loved again and I try to brush those aside.
However, what was great about New York is that it’s the perfect place to stay busy and distracted, and unlike back home, I would get out every day to explore, walking mindlessly around Brooklyn admiring the graffiti art and shops. This trip was good for me, empowering, and it showed me there is a future and fulfilling life beyond what I have lost. I want to bring my sense of adventure back with me, and not only explore my own neighborhood more frequently, but also my inner universe, where the rivers run deep in my veins and stars appear beneath my eyelids, questioning why the films that play in my head repeat the way they do and what makes my heart sing. What makes me feel whole. I used to tell Charlie “it’s just you and me buddy” like it was us against the world, but now it’s just me. Though he has taught me so much about who I am and who I want to be, where I want to go.