My Layla June. I was about to write a letter to you. It’s six months without you today and I’ve thought about you all day. I pulled out my phone and your brother immediately furrowed his little brow, shooting a very clear look my way. I put the phone down and settled my arms back around him, letting him settle his weight onto my back arm while I rubbed his belly and behind his ears with my other hand.
I wish you could see him. He’s wily and uninhibited and has a boldness that makes us widen our eyes and laugh loudly and say your name in an understood and confirmed way. This was all you. I caught him in my bathroom a couple of times recently and am absolutely certain you’re here, playing and romping and calling him in to mess with things he shouldn’t. He never once ever came into my bathroom further than a hesitant paw or two before bolting out, remembering this is the room where the baths happen. Now he’s in there pulling things out of the trash, running out guilty, encompassing what can only be described as the Layla June spirit. You would be so proud.
I was at the dentist today, left waiting on the next step when I realized it was right around the time I held you in my arms and let you go, those six long months ago. I felt a wave wash over me, remembering that moment like it was yesterday. The way you looked, how you smelled, the softness of your fur in my arms, how you started crying when you saw me because you knew and I knew and it sucked so much. Maybe you didn’t know if I would come back but I hope you never doubted me for a second. I would have never left you there alone and I hated checking you in to the hospital. Mama did not do well that day, Layla June. It was like my heart was slipping out of my body and I was following right after, my head and body slumping over.
Some people think a dog is a dog. Those people are dumb. You were my little girl, my best friend, my constant companion, my wise little teacher, a tiny furry queen. You rested with me, danced with me, pounced on me, sat on my shoulders, my stomach, my arms, my lap, my feet, whatever you could climb onto. I still feel like I’m missing a piece of me, I still expect you to brush against my feet as I wash my face, still wait for you to skid into the room at full speed when I use the bathroom, running in to put your paws up on my knees. You taught me what confidence looked like, how to not take any shit, to go after what you want, and a whole lot about how to rest deeply and well. You taught me that you can be tiny and go through a bunch of shit and still be an unstoppable, determined, sweet force to be reckoned with. You went through more horrible things than nearly any human will encounter in their life and you did it all within a handful of years, and then instead of holding a grudge or being afraid, you loved with more abandon and lived more fully than any human I’ve yet to encounter. Your wisdom was a thousand times the size of your little body.
Selfishly, I wish you were here. But when I talk to God about you, I give thanks that you’re healthy and without pain and happy and running amok up in heaven. I know you’ve made a million friends and have as many snacks as you want and zoom around, your smile wide and bright. Even when I’m angry and even if I have to choke the words out, I thank Him for taking you because I know you needed healing we couldn’t get for you here.
Six months flew by so I know I’ll blink and it’ll be a year and then two and then five. I have no idea where I’ll be or what we’ll be up to by then, but I know you’ll be with me. I feel you when you visit and you’ve left so many signs for me, starting with that first day when I laced up my shoes and ran and ran and ran, praying for a sign you were okay only to find a giant metal ladybug under my feet. I feel you when you’re here. Make sure you’re sweet to your brother when you’re here with us, baby girl, don’t mess with him or anything (we both know you’ve got a feisty spirit about you, you got it from your mama, after all).
When I started to write and your brother called me back, I laughed to myself. It was a quick reminder that we need to give our love and attention to what is, instead of what we’re wishing was or what used to be. This isn’t to say I don’t love your brother or that I wish you were here instead, Lord knows I am wrapped around his paw. It means so often I get caught wishing things were different than they are that I miss out on the joy, love, situations available to me right here and now. In other words, even though I miss you with my whole heart, I still love my Bear with my whole heart, and even though the math doesn’t make sense, it seems to work out just fine. You two are like my own personal Whoville, growing my heart sizes bigger than I knew it could be. Even without being here, you continue to teach me and change me and grow me into a better person.
I love you as big as the moon, Boomer. I always have, even before I met you, and I always will, now that we’re here without you. I miss you and I’ll keep trying to make you proud.