Loss and grief


Two weeks ago today, we had to put our dog down. His name was X, named after the firebrand hero of my youth, Malcolm X. He was a black 12-year-old Standard Poodle and he developed what's called "bloat," where the stomach flips and puts pressure on important arteries.

We could have opted for very expensive surgery with an uncertain outcome but we decided to put him down instead. I still feel a tinge of guilt about that, mainly because he was one of my best friends and trusted me implicitly. Part of me feels like I let him down and betrayed his trust. Everyone reading this has lost someone or something. A pet or brother or sister or parent.

Grief is an odd fellow, isn't he? He constantly reminds you of your loss. For me, it's whenever the doorbell rings, and he reminds me there's no barking. When I get up every morning, he reminds me there's an empty space where my friend slept.

When I take the garbage out, I hear no footsteps hurrying to walk with me to the garbage cans. It's these constant reminders, these triggers, that make grief so hard. I look for an invoice in a cupboard and I see his treats; I look for a screwdriver and see his heartworm pills, I see someone else walking their dog, and a new wave of grief comes and I feel sad again. And just when I think it's getting better, I tell the story of his death and my tears remind me I'm a long way from over this.

Old Mr. Grief has not moved on yet. It's the "everydayness" that's hard, isn't it? I walked this friend of mine every day for 12 years. If you ever walk down by the river in Hudson, you may have seen us and smiled at his big Afro and his prancing gait. When we lived down by Loring Park, a homeless woman sitting on a park bench yelled out at the top of her lungs: "That dog thinks it's the sh%@!" And he did. He was a confident, self-assured, genteel, well-mannered gentleman who seemed to know he was handsome and special. I've been through this before. I know it gets better with time.

Kahil Gibran said that sorrow carves out a deeper space inside us so that we may experience greater joy. I believe this is true, but it's not helping right now. And I also know that it's thankfulness that will get me through this.

This dog wormed his way into my heart, and I am thankful there were no heartworm pills for humans. I'm thankful for my 12 years with him; I'm thankful for his quiet wisdom, his loyalty, patience, and how he brightened everyone's day wherever we went. But most of all, I'm thankful for his constant reminder of how much love I have inside me to give. That was his biggest gift to me.

Goodbye, old friend. I miss you, I love you, and I wish you well on your new journey.

Gary Jader


What is my role?


Since the 2016 election, I find myself getting more troubled about the state of affairs in our country-going from feeling hopelessness and despair for segments of our population to feeling anger and dismay towards others. I'm feeling embarrassed by the shoddy and cavalier treatment of our allies and appalled by the amount of corruption happening in the White House and halls of Congress without any efforts to obey the rule of law or norms of society.

I've learned through the years that what I put out by my speech and actions is exactly what comes back to me, so naturally I worry for our country. What we are saying and what is being said for us surely will come back in some manner and most likely it will not be good. We do reap what we sow.

I asked myself, as a long-time citizen, what do I think is the President's role? These are some of the thoughts that came to me:

To inspire hope within the nations' peoples;

To work for the good of all citizens and those aspiring to become citizens;

To be honorable, honest, moral and unselfish in all actions;

To obey the laws of the country and to set a good example;

To work with integrity with world leaders, keep our word and honor America's commitments;

To be aware that he/she is the face and voice of all Americans.

I then asked myself, what can I do to be an active member of society? There is a saying, evil flourishes when good people do nothing. What is my role, how can I help bring forth good?

Many say vote! Unfortunately voting is getting more difficult and having less impact due to gerrymandering tactics and politicians making it difficult for some populations to register and get to the voting booth. There's also huge amounts of money poured into campaigns by outside donors intent on swaying elections to suit their purposes and pocketbooks instead of working for the good of the local people.

With the interference and manipulation by other governments to sway our elections by confusing the issues, spreading outright lies, and influencing and hindering the voting of specific populations and areas. I shudder to think what's ahead for this coming election season as I haven't read or heard about any steps being taken to deter international meddling in our elections. The interference and manipulation of social media by other governments impacts our trust and even that of the candidates in the results of our elections.

It is understandable based on the level of hatred and vitriol we see and hear every day why so many citizens simply tune out. While I cannot control or change the thoughts and actions of others, I can control my own by:

Speaking up-refusing to accept lying and injustice as normal; being honest and aiming to set a good example;

Being informed-listening to media viewpoints to discern the truth with the realization that what I'm reading and hearing could be coming from outside the U.S.;

Being open-minded with others who have different ideas;

Being involved in community activities by looking for hope and celebrating every evidence of good, justice and love that comes into my experience.

Joyce Hocke