Tsuga: Remembrance, Part One

Because you left us so suddenly on December 5, I never had the chance to tell you the place you filled in our lives. This was never taken for granted, and as I hugged your neck or looked into your expressive face over the years, I often paid tribute–knowing we would someday part–to your gentleness, your affable temperament, and your incredibly soft huggable coat, even though so much of it ended up on my navy wool socks.

Ann and I were prepared to part with you, someday, but it came without warning, and when you were in such pain on the stainless steel table at the vets on Monday night, I did not want to see you and remember you that way in my final memories of you. So I did not officially tell you goodbye.

So I hope you understand why I’ve waited a few days to let the loss of your passing become somewhat, but only slightly yet, muted by time to find words to tell you why and how much you were cherished during your eight years with us, and that you will ever be in our memories for the duration of our time here on Goose Creek and this wonderful space we shared too briefly with you.

As I knew it would, this revisiting of your life here, compressing if it were possible the sum total of all the hours you were goofy or noble, tender or playful, aggravating or stubborn–it has brought me to the point where, finally, I have stopped being brave and strong and stoic. In the house this morning, alone unlike I’ve known alone-ness in your absence, I have mourned for you.

There is such a fine line between grief and joy. The memories that make me smile also make me cry. Like a baby, dammit. It is so confusing. So I hope that, in writing this out, some of the confusion will pass, the smiles will become unblemished by pain and tears, and we can move on with our love, to find its next object. That will not be you. Could never be. But will be loved, nevertheless.

That’s all for now. The chickens need let out, firewood brought in, and all the dishes–including the dregs in the cereal bowl in front of the computer screen–need washing. They sure could have stood a good licking first. You are missed.

Tsuga: Remembrance, Part Two

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Oh Fred, I’m so sorry for your loss. I do remember when you brought him home, the first postings of a pup, the silly things he did. My heart is with you.

  2. My heart and prayers go out to you. I’m sorry for your loss; but, remember it is not complete loss — there will always be room in your heart for Tsuga.

  3. I will send a link to this post to my dear friend who recently lost her yellow lab. I know it will give her great emotional support. Thanks for writing, Fred, as always.

  4. Oh Fred….. thinking of you and Ann and Tsuga too – perhaps he is romping with our Cassie in the green fields beyond the bridge. He was a gem.

  5. Freddie,
    With a tear, I know the pain of your loss, I feel deep sympathy you, knowing your love, for your own man’s best friend, Tsuga. This too, shall pass.

  6. Fred, I have a cousin in England who recently lost her sweet dog of 15 years, and a couple of days ago she sent me a link to a video she had done. It so beautifully says in music, words, and photos what we all feel when we part from our dear creatures. Thought you might like to see it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNghwdqUxZM

  7. Thanks, Heidi. I hope to reach the point where creating a similar program with the many images of Tsuga will be possible, and then to be able to watch it through without the walnut i carry in my throat these days. — Fred

  8. A beautiful tribute and what a good friend… Our two are aging so rapidly now, and I already feel that moment approaching. I wish you and Tsuga had had more time together, but it’s clear you enjoyed all that you had.