Losing the Love of Our Lives
Last week I saw a meme that read, “After completing my free one-month trial of 2020, I wish to cancel my subscription.” I laughed out loud and thought to myself how close this hit home. I too was done with 2020 already.
The first week of January, I tried to set my yearly goals as I usually do. I tried to set intentions. I tried to focus on one word to motivate me through the year but it all seemed pointless.
We knew Barkley was dying, he had his first seizure on January 1st and we were well aware that this was the beginning of the end. To be honest, setting goals and intentions seemed impossible because I couldn’t bear to imagine a future without him in it. So I tried, that was all I could do.
I won’t take you through the last three weeks of Barkley’s life; I just can’t go there right yet, the pain is still too deep. I can tell you those weeks went by very slowly and were extremely heartbreaking for us. I can assure you he was never alone, he was constantly loved, and he was taken care better than most in his last weeks on this earth. He was our everything and we gave him everything we had.
Barkley passed away on Wednesday, January 22nd. I lost my grandma on Saturday, January 25th. Like I said, I was ready to cancel my subscription.
Ben and I define our lives not by the years that we’ve lived or successes we’ve had but by the dogs we’ve so cherished and loved throughout them. To say we are pet-people is an understatement. We don’t have pets; we have family members – fur-babies – best friends forever.
Our everyday revolved around Barkley, just like many other adults our age plan their lives around their human children. We’d wake up and see Barkley, all 95-pounds of him, totally sprawled out on the bed. He’d always fall asleep between Ben and I every night, his head on one of our pillows, but eventually he’d toss and turn his way down to the foot of the bed where he could take up as much space as he wanted. Chewy would then sneak in between us and cuddle all night 🙂
Barkley hated to get out of bed in the morning, which started a “five more minute” trend in our house that went on for years. Just five more minutes, always used to cuddle of course.
Mornings consisted of letting Barkley out, feeding him, and throwing the ball. Barkley’s insatiable need to play was one of the things I loved most about him. From the minute he jumped down from the bed, he found a ball and wagged his tail all day in excitement for it.
Ben or I always took Barkley to work – we always joked he was a working dog. He never spent a day alone at home. That was such a special thing about Barkley, you could take him anywhere – from the bakery to full-blown construction sites to restaurants and bars – he always behaved himself and was constantly making new friends.
Barkley knew he wasn’t allowed in the kitchen at the bakery so he would lay right at concrete line that divided the kitchen and the warehouse so he could still watch me. I treasured having him close by; his personality and love for life were infectious, making everyone around him smile and feel loved.
At construction sites with Ben, Barkley would bounce around joyfully all day – he loved working with dad! And he never stepped on a nail, fell off stairs without railings, or was bothered by all the noise. Barkley lived to be around his humans.
One of my favorite memories of Barkley was from a day he went to work with Ben. I went up to visit the jobsite and couldn’t find Barkley anywhere. I was walking around the outside of the house calling out for him when the neighbor from across the street jogged over. She said that Barkley had gone over to their house – they were throwing their 3-year-old a birthday party at the time – and asked if he could stay for awhile because the kids were having so much fun with him! It melted my heart; Barkley adored kids and always loved a good party.
In the evenings, we’d throw the ball for Barkley for hours if he wished. Rain or shine, we took him to the beach nearly every day. He LOVED to swim, fetch for shells, and paddleboard. Truth be told, I’ve never been on a paddleboard alone; Barkley was always right there with me. Even when we’d go kayaking, he’d hop on our kayak – he just loved to go along for the ride.
Barkley was sweet, kind, loving, caring, goofy, and loyal. Everybody loved him, even friends and family who proclaimed they weren’t dog people. Barkley’s 24/7 smile, wagging tail, and outgoing personality made him forever charming and oh-so-loveable. I always told Barkley he was the love of my life but not to tell dad, it’d be our little secret.
For anyone that knows us well, you know just how much we loved that dog. I often times wish there was a word deeper, stronger, and more intense than love as that’s how we felt about Barkley.
The past two weeks have been filled with unbearable pain and a deep, dark sadness. I find myself bawling sporadically throughout the day, the kind where your mouth is wide open, you’re wailing, you’re drooling, you can’t see because you’ve cried your eyes shut, and it feels like you’ve just done 1,000 sit-ups because each breathe hurts from so deep within. I haven’t been sleeping or taking care of myself and my needs. I was living off vodka, potato chips, and take-out the first week because I couldn’t bring myself to face the world, to go grocery shopping, or to cook again.
I lost all interest in life – I didn’t want to do all the things that I love, that usually bring me peace, joy, and serenity. I didn’t want to bake or cook or go to yoga or take a bath. I felt so empty and life seemed to lack any purpose at all. All I could think was that I’d do anything to bring Barkley back.
This week I went back to yoga and even signed up for real estate classes to get me out of the house every morning. I’ve started a mostly plant based diet and have been making all our meals from scratch again. I won’t lie and say I’m doing okay. Filling my days with all these distractions has been exhausting. I find myself going to my car to cry during class breaks and I weep away in silence on my yoga mat. But the important thing here is that I am trying again and that’s all we can ever do as humans; give life our best each and every day.
Death and grief is a strange thing. We all experience grief in different ways. For me, I choose to accept the intense pain and live through it thoroughly as I do with feelings of joy and happiness. I choose to honor my feelings and let them flow. I strongly believe that for true healing to take place in your heart, mind, and soul, you need to let yourself be.
We are human BEings, not human doings. I chose to let myself just BE over the last month, I chose to let myself cry when I needed to, break down when I couldn’t cope any longer, and I chose to let myself put work and all other things on the back burner.
I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I love, appreciate, and live life with everything I’ve got. I especially love the little things and I take joy in things as simple as crisp air on long walk. It’s a beautiful thing to live life so fully, however, that also means when life gets turned upside down and filled with negative emotions – grief, anger, and sorrow – I also feel them just as intensely.
Though challenging, I truly believe my ability to be honest with myself, honor my feelings, and work through the pain rather than rush it allows me to fully appreciate everything this life has to offer.
By giving Barkley everything I possibly had to give, I have no regrets.
Life is forever changing and there is a season for everything. It is our jobs as humans to adjust to change gracefully, be present always, and to accept that life will change again. This past “season” of my life has been all about Barkley from the moment he started showing signs (of his brain tumor) on April 1st, 2019. I will forever cherish being able to take care of him with all my heart and soul these past 10 months. I also recognize that a new season is beginning, which I will also choose to give all my heart and soul to. I can sincerely say I am excited and thrilled to make RylieCakes my first priority moving into this new season of life.
I’m not sure there’s anyway to sum up a post so deep and personal. It is what it is. Hug your loved ones close tonight, maybe bake some brownies, and don’t forget to lick the bowl!