In college I visited Ecuador where I heard the leader of the Cañari tribe speak about a variety of topics. One of the areas that she touched upon was their belief system around death. They tended not to mourn death but rather celebrate it as a part of the life cycle. So it was celebrated rather than viewed as a loss. That idea resonated with my 21 year old self and I tended not to cry during funerals or upon hearing about someone’s passing. The one major exception to this was when my dog, Kelme, died. I balled uncontrollably and the memory of it will always stick with me. He was very sick and need to be put down but even at his worst, he was still attentive to me. Trying to lick my face as he had always done. In the moment that he passed, he put his head down on the table and he tongue stuck out in one last show of affection. There are plenty of other details that I’m sure are gone but that memory has the ability to bring me to tears in an instant.
Memories are far from perfect. They are at best half truth. We erase far more than we remember, emphasize things that we value heavily and only have one perspective to take in. Despite all of the self-serving mechanism, it’s still possible to get surprised by what sticks. I never imagined that my dog’s tongue sticking out in his last moment would be one of my most poignant memories. Yet here I am, typing through watery eyes based on a decade old memory. We don’t always get to choose what will be important to us. I had a very well designed belief system around mourning that lasted through two grandparents and other relations. Yet it was undone easily by a 30 pound animal. Because we just don’t always know.
The scripts that we create for ourselves inside of our heads can seem perfect. We know what we want from the world and how it should play out. Then the world gets its vote on how things are going to go. Despite our best intentions, sometimes we have to relent and accept that something got in that we didn’t expect. I truly believe that those things get in for a reason. Our plan for ourselves is not always as complete as we’d like to believe. Sometimes other forces intervene. I don’t exactly know why Kelme’s death affected me how it did, but I’m glad that it did.