Loss in isolation feels unreal, and hard to process. Loss that is unrelated to this pandemic other than its timing, feels especially strange. Last week my Ella, and this morning, news that my mom’s two year old puppy died of bone cancer. I oscillate between feeling too numb to process any of it, and feeling like accessing or being present to one grief opens a portal to the vast sadness of collective loss.
In some ways, the creative thinking mandated to find safe ways to take care of both the safety and health of veterinary staff and the needs of families to be present for end of life care of their beloved pets, was a blessing. My mom said that when the time came to end suffering for her pup, the rules made it impossible for her and her partner to enter the clinic. Instead the vet staff brought the care outside. Using a 6’ IV line, they stood a safe distance away while my mom and her partner cuddled with the pup on a blanket under a beautiful spring sky until it was Over. She told me that a brisk wind kicked up, and a flurry of snow squalled around them, as her sweet Frida slipped away. She said it was an option she would want to have in the future, after the danger of this virus passes, to have this kind of moment close to the earth and outside of the clinic setting.
I know that the distance is no greater than normal, that I live on the opposite side of the country and wouldn’t be able to be any closer for something like this particular loss even without the pandemic. Somehow, the mandate to maintain distance, not to get Too Close even if I could, enters my psyche anyway. My brain has started to filter even the desire-to-hold someone outside of my own quarantine, perforating that yearning with anxiety.
When I moved across the country at 19, and lived on my own for the first time, I worked in a coffee shop. I recall so vividly, the day that a customer’s hand touched my own as they paid in exact change, and I felt a shock run through me with the realization that it was the first human touch in longer than I could remember. Discovering this new filter, that fear-tints even the unattainable-desire-to-hug my mother on the east coast after she lost her puppy, feels every bit as jarring as the realization that day. How had had failed to identify the ache I felt from persistent Lack-of-Touch? Having identified this filter, I want to be aware of both its usefulness and its peril moving forward--I hope to only hold it as long as it is necessary to keep me safe, and to be able to lay it aside without anxious residue when its usefulness has passed.