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March 20, 2023

Bestest Kiva

By Thomas Elson

Three years after my dad died, I found this.

Maggie --

My only solace today is knowing we both heard the same words, “I have lent her to you for a while. For you to love while she lives, and to mourn for her when she is gone. Maybe for twelve or fourteen years, or maybe for two or three. But will you, till I call her back, take care of her?”

You did that magnificently, Maggie. I attempted, and Kathy did with her usual skill and verve. Thank you for letting me be with her for a while. I can count on one hand the number of times she and I were separated.

She will be interred with a native limestone marker -- where I can see her and be with her every day -- facing west where she can see you.

If it is permissible, and, possibly, even if it isn’t, please ask Father Mike to say a prayer for her. It need be only a short one, since her heart was always where human hearts should have remained; and, also ask Father to remind St. Francis how lucky he is, because tomorrow morning he will be awakened by a sweet little girl standing on his bed sniffing at his ear.

And to you, my sweet little Kiva, I cry as I touch the divan and that section of the bed you called your own. I cry as I pick up the final strands of your hair.

This morning I stroked your still-soft ears and patted your belly, distended with fluid. I whispered into your ears, telling you how much you are loved, how much you will always be loved -- by Kathy who loved you fully-clothed in goodness and grace, by Maggie who found you, saved you, cared for you, and loved you. I told you that you were safe then kissed your head.

You came to us so beautiful. So treasured and loved. I felt the unbreakable bonds between you and Maggie, your history together. I watched as you sat beside the front door for three days, then walked toward me with your eyes and soft layered fur that one of Kathy’s students called “her royal coat.” Initially, so cautious, then came your playful bounces and energetic hopping.

On long afternoons, you came with your brown eyes and curled up against my hip. I found joy and inspiration in the softness of your neck. You were -- and are -- a conduit of grace for me.

Grace, yes, and joy. I was always happy to see you, always smiled when you approached. I remember moments of your sweetness, snuggles, naps under my study table as I struggled for ideas to overcome my ignorance.

I recall the warmth of your weight on my feet; you next to me during my surgical recoveries, and how you always knew which side to snuggle; our rides together with Kathy, grandchildren, and by ourselves. Our trips through Niles, to the Kaiser-Permanente offices and hospitals, to the gym, to restaurants -- Falafel and La Piñata, to St. Christina’s continuing education classes. And especially when I was called to the church at 3:00 a.m. because the burglar alarm went off.

All day I have carried the weight of your death on my heart. Tomorrow is coming, and I fight to focus on the words to tell you what a thousand pats and ten thousand kisses have meant. I type a little, cry a little, type a little, spend minutes looking at your pictures. Type a little more. Within minutes, my eyes burn from tears, my body feels weak.

Thank you, sweet girl, for being with us. Thank you for sitting with us in our joy and my grief. Thank you for being a furry means of grace to us. Thank you for staying with me even after you left.

You are what God had in mind when He created life. Now, my sweet little Kiva, you are safe with Him until the world is made new. You are the bestest dog in the history of dogs.

I folded the papers and placed it in my cedar chest.

Article © Thomas Elson. All rights reserved.
Published on 2022-11-14
Image(s) are public domain.
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