Even the old folks this winter remarked on how long and endless it seemed. When we finally did see spring temperatures the trees remained black and lifeless for days and with the north wind it certainly felt like autumn. A few weeks ago I finally made the choice to end the suffering of my last old dog, Reny. September 2011 his brother (Bucky) slipped away one morning from me and in the spring of 2012 we had to put Baron down. Those three were with me since I was fourteen and losing them all has left a tight place I haven’t yet been able to unravel or quite understand. Maybe I never will, maybe it is just sad and sad takes time no matter how we touch it or tug at it.
Last week the wind picked up and with the epic amount of dryness we were experiencing 25 wild fires attacked our state. One came within two miles of our house and we were told to evacuate. 7,000 acres burned just south of us consuming homes, buildings and thousands of trees. Its raining outside right now, and its been raining for two days straight and how it seems like a slap in the face to those poor folks who did lose their homes.
We rushed home, having received several calls and text messages from friends and family, to two voice mails from the sheriff, telling us to evacuate. Mom and I looked at each other and simply agreed, Let’s Go. We each packed a bag and while I was bolting to hurry and choose (in five minutes) what I would want to save I realized that there was really nothing. I looked around and my three dogs were gone, maybe all that was holding me in that house, as they had aged so badly that moving them had been out of the question. We had been planning to sell anyway, what is there to save? Everything is replaceable, that’s what insurance is for, right? Some jewelry, pictures of course, my new dog, throw it all in the car and go.
We drove out and got close so we could watch the flames, see the smoke and I understood how fire can be healing. And I thought, Let it all go. All I needed was in the car with me, all that was important in my life was safe. We went to family and watched the planes go and go and go, listened to the sirens as fire trucks came from cities all around. Mom went to her mom, as grandma was also beginning to burn in her own fire and slip away from us. That was Wednesday of last week and I went to grandma on Friday, watched over her and Saturday we all went to her side. Grandma’s three girls: her only daughters, her only grand daughter, as it should have been I guess. We were her firefighters, standing by, watching in helplessness as we had already done all that we could and the fire had not been stopped, nor put out. We watched as her fire consumed her and we waited for her to let it finally take her away from us. In my mind I saw her shed the blind and deaf corpse she had become, shake it off like a phoenix with a flap of wings made of fire and say, “I’m done with this shit!” And I understood how fire can be healing.
Funeral arrangements are amazingly surreal. I think the three of us, sleep deprived and utterly stricken, probably worry that we’re not doing something right. As though we are somehow not making the right decisions or something. Maybe that’s how everyone feels when they do these things. Losing someone is never right, how can funeral decisions be right? Right? I lost my Grandma (my dad’s mom) last fall and the loss of this grandma means I am without grand parents now. That is surreal too. I hold the image of that phoenix and hope for the strength to fly out of these ashes too. That tight place in me, that sad thing, feels like a solid black rock. But… maybe its coal, maybe I just need the courage to let it burn.