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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pretty Penny

Was it just this morning that I wrote a pithy little post about how we as writers tap into the darkest horrors of our hearts? Yes. But a lifetime has come and gone since then. And a life.

This day was awash in premonition of the heartbreaking variety. I knew somewhere in the deepest part of me that I was to lose something important. Something irreplaceable. I had a very weepy, panic-inducing day with work and my boyfriend. Unsure. Uneasy. 

When work ended with only minimal upset, and my boyfriend assured me all was well, I still cried. Unable to articulate this anxiety, except to tell him “I feel like I’ve dodged a fatal car accident.” 

Not two hours later, I walked across the parking lot of my apartment complex to retrieve our laundry. The screen didn’t latch properly. I didn’t know this until I heard a small bark. Saw the tiny figure of my beloved Penny—my rare and beautiful Chihuahua bestowed as a gift two years ago by a dear friend--dart into the dark street to find me. 

The driver of the car could never have hoped to see her little black body. 

She was not able to dodge the fatal car accident that had gripped my heart all day.

I watched it unfold as if in slow motion, like some horrific nightmare. I was stuck, unable to move.
Penny screamed.

The car stopped.

I ran. 

Darkness Comes

She lay on the ground twitching. My daughter Bella cried. I picked her up and held her. Head lolling to the side at an unnatural angle. Her dark, soulful eyes still penetrating. Heart racing. 

Then. Spasms. Heart slowing. A skipped beat. Then. The last beat her heart would make in this life, this form. The eyes that held such wisdom glazed over with the sorrowful absence of Death.

She was gone.

I've seen the aftermath of Death's visit. But not until tonight have I felt life slip away under my fingers. The last heart beat. 

And so, after the many tears of three little girls and arrangements with a vet to handle her body, I sit alone in my room, eyes red and swollen, crying for this little being who brought so much love into my life.

How do you judge the value of a life?

Penny taught me unconditional love. She loved me with loyalty and single-mindedness, no matter how impatient or distracted I became. Her deepest desire was to just be near me, loving me and receiving my love.

That’s it. So uncomplicated and beautiful. 

And I too often took that love for granted. 

Penny wasn’t a yippy, high maintenance dog. She just liked to cuddle. To sleep under my blanket at night, curled up on me. To squeeze her small frame into the space between me and the side of my chair as I read or wrote. 

All she ever wanted was to be close to me. And she died in that pursuit. 

I cannot handle any more pain.

I wonder how much the Universe really thinks I can take. We obviously have different ideas about my limitations. 

From the Mouths of Babes

Penny & Madelynne
My children, they are handling this much better than me. They offer back to me the wisdom I have tried to teach them. 

“Her soul cannot be hurt by death,” my 8 year old Madelynne tells me. Madelynne, who just celebrated her 8th birthday yesterday.

Birth. Death. Cycles.
“She is finding a new body,” my 4 year old Lexie informs me. And so they consider what body Penny might choose for her next incarnation. 

While I sob. Inconsolable. My boyfriend tells me to breathe. He sounds vaguely fearful that I will stop altogether and forget to start again.

And all through this, I write her story in my mind. Because as a writer, I cannot seem to process the events of my life without putting them to story. 

The words pull the pain out of me and give if form and meaning. The words quiet the demons, at least for a time. 

And I think of Bella, who wanted so desperately to write an alternate ending to this sad story. 

“I wish I’d been there and had grabbed her.” “I wish this was a movie and Penny was still alive.” “I wish we could make it different so she was still with us.”

And I wish.
I wish I’d chosen a different time to get my laundry.

I wish I’d latched the door.

I wish I’d done 100 little things differently, anything that would have led to her being under my covers right now, while I wrote a blog on dating younger men as originally planned. 

I wish. 

And yet.

My boyfriend’s wisdom has kept this longing in check. “If we could keep going back to fix our lives, we'd never go forward,” he tells me. And he is right, as is so often the case. We have only one setting. Play. There is no Universal Remote that can rewind or fast-forward. I cannot zoom myself out of this pain, or beam myself back to that moment before the car crushed my puppy. I can only keep walking forward.

It’s all any of us can do.

In life, Penny taught me about Love.

In her death, Penny has taught me about Life. 

She was only 2 ½ years old. She should’ve had many more years with us. A freak accident changed that fate. Life is unpredictable and full of challenges. There is pain and joy so blended together it’s hard to tell them apart. But I have learned tonight never to take anything for granted. 

If I had known last night was the last time I would feel Penny curled up in bed with me, how would it have shaped my experience of that moment?

I don’t know what the next moment holds for me. But I know that I need to be more conscious of staying in this moment. Giving and receiving love. Being happy. 

Writers tap into the darkest horrors of the heart. But through the words we use, we can transmute those horrors into beauty. 

Thank you Penny, for the Love, Life and Laughter you brought to our home. You will be missed.

Pretty Penny
April 15, 2008 to November 1, 2010

"Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud..."
— Yann Martel (Life of Pi)
Spirited Reflections: Soul Journey: 

I call to you, my brother wolf,
howling in the misty twilight
of the new moon.
Do you hear my soul’s song,
echoing through the trees?
I am here waiting for you;
to join me on this lonesome journey.
Come walk the ancient path with me,
across the sky, past the stars,
To the cave of souls;
where we might take our long rest
with those who have passed before us.
Can you here them calling?
Chanted whispers, of family and friends,
gently weaving their way through
the great celestial bodies,
leading us home.

By Ranee Dillon


  1. This is beautiful, I am crying. Penny would have loved this post. Stay strong :)

  2. I've lost beloved family pets in the past, and apart from the grief and sadness felt, there's something else I always feel.

    When a person who's a loved one is lost to us, everyone we know has sympathy & respects our grief, but with the loss of a pet, lots of people can't or won't relate to our sadness, expecting us to 'get over it', but we know that we probably never will, and as far as remembering our loss is concerned, we don't ever want to. I always feel as though I ought to do something specific, to keep those memories alive.

    You have done, Kimberley. This post is a beautiful tribute to Penny, to her life and to her memory. She'll live in your heart forever.

    Be strong love.

  3. Dave,
    Your words ring true. Not everyone can relate to the grief felt in losing a loved one of the four-legged kind. Even though I have lost family pets in the past, this is the first time I've felt this level of grief. I think because Penny was Mine. Or rather, I was Hers. We bonded in a way I never have with another animal. The bond happened even before her birth, when my friend (a shaman and unique kind of dog whisperer) told me one of the unborn pups was meant for me.

    When I met Penny, we connected at a psychic level. Heart level. I never thought I'd fall so in love with such a tiny little thing. But her heart was bigger than anything. And her love, so complete. I wish I'd had more years to bare witness to that level of love.

    Even still, the tears haven't stopped. But writing helps. This blog forced me to move past just grief and to transform her death into a celebration of her life.

    And this cybervillage has connected me with friends who do share the empathy of that bond and loss with a dearly departed animal. I feel blessed in this.

    So thank you. Thank you to all who have shared your grief, love, support, hugs, empathy and celebration of Penny's remarkable life. I am so grateful.


  4. oh, sweetheart... I've lost a few pets of my own - my first 3 budgies - never gets easier. I wish l could give you a hug right now. I'm so sorry this happened, for you and your little were with her, though, ok? remember that. It's always been my one regret about losing Darlin, that I wasn't there to tell her I loved her. Even writing this makes me remember how much I loved her - I hope some day remembering penny can bring a full smile to your face, even if you cry afterwards. *hugs you* For what it's worth, I still miss darlin, and - it's been...2006? 4 years, and she was just a budgie. one that landed on my head and groomed my head, but 'just' a budgie. *hugs you*

  5. Kimberly:

    This is truly an elegantly written tribute to your beautiful Penny and the amazing gifts and lessons she bestowed upon you on her short time here on earth.

    I know Penny was amazing. You and your girls are, too. Thank you for sharing this sad, sad story. I know your angel will be with you, always.


  6. Laurie, Your empathy and love is heartfelt and appreciated. Thank you.

    Than you. Yes, she really is an angel. My heart is still swollen with pain and loss, but I know in time I will feel that connection and love again without such sadness.

  7. I am very sorry you and your family lost your adorable little dog. I know that although small in physical size pets fill so much of our hearts and lives. I am sure that Penny is with you and your family even now and will continue to be a loving guide and friend just as she was in life. The tragedy of losing a pet is horrible, but try to remember the love. A pet's love is such a special gift, I don't think it can ever die or even fade with time.

  8. thank you Jason. There really was, and is, so much love. <3 thanks. :)

  9. Jason. I enjoy your blog but is there a way to follow or get emails? Also, what is your twitter Id? Do I already follow you? Love your work, btw. And thank you again for your empathy and concern. It's true that Empathy is the soul of human connection.

  10. I found you while looking for other NaNo writers. I am so sorry for your loss. Writers always have to try and seek out words, but sometimes there are none. My sympathies to you and your girls. -Pamela

  11. Pamela,
    I'm so glad you found me. Sorry we had to "meet" under such sad circumstances. Promise most my posts are not so sad. Thank you for your condolences. Writing this helped. And the outpouring of support has been so healing!