I half-assed a minor in philosophy. Why? My parents strongly advised me against it. They said it was a waste of time. They were speaking from experience. Circa the Paleolithic period or whenever they were in college, on the first day of class, the professor points to an empty chair and asks, “Can someone tell me if this chair is actually there?” My dad stands up from the back of the class, sits on it and says, “Yes, I’m sitting on it.” He gets up and leaves. And I should’ve listened to them.
Some twenty years later, I enrolled in a class called Philosophy of Death. This was after failing Intro to Ethics and barely passing Logic. Sounds about right – common sense but not enough brain to use it. I signed up in the months leading up to my dog’s passing. I figured it would help me rationalize my way into accepting his death. He was weak. It was hard to see. He was limping, and 12 years old, so I knew it was coming. I just wanted to prepare myself better than I did the time before that.
I had another dog, his brother, who passed away two years prior. Having one dog left made it way easier to process the pain. I could hold him and get the same feeling. It was a vague sense of comfort. He didn’t know what was happening and that he would never see his brother again, I did. But still, we shared the pain.
Every day, I’d leave class enlightened. I’d think, death gives meaning to life. We need the finality to give justification to do anything. Because that’s what life is. It’s not thinking, it’s doing. You find reason in life via the action of living it. But these were all thoughts. They weren’t action. The day was drawing closer and all I had were seven essays to show for it. He kept limping, I kept drinking (not nearly as much as I should’ve). He didn’t know his time was ending, I did.
The day came.
It was at the height of the pandemic. I watched my parents carry him out of the door, masks on, tears in their eyes. The vet would’ve put a mask on my dog if they could’ve. Regardless, I was down another brother. He left the living room. He never came back.
I broke down. My on-and-off-and-on-and-off girlfriend was with me, trying to comfort me. Emphasis on “trying.” I ignored her. I ran to the piano, hoping it would help. This was when I was still playing regularly. I lifted the lid. But I didn’t play. I just watched everything around me with excruciating detail. His beds, his toys, his stinky ass pee-pads. I normally hated seeing all his toys tossed around the house, but now all I wanted was to throw one with him. I closed my eyes, the tears pouring down my face. I let it all out. I started playing. My fingers were slipping off the keys. I struck the shit out of every octave. I had no dynamics. It was all distorted. Loud. Angry. Confused. I was begging for answers that I would never receive.
It didn’t matter how much I prepared for his passing; there’s no survival kit for someone else’s death. There are only so many words I can tell myself, only so many keys in a piano, so many classes I can enroll in, and so many essays I can write to understand the finality of a goodbye. Of him transitioning from a moment to a memory.
I see another goodbye coming and I’m running as fast I can from it. But I’m limping, just like Toby. I don’t want it to come. I don’t want it to come. I don’t want it to come. That’s what she said. I don’t want it to become a memory. I have so many of those. I want it to stay in the present. I’m torturing myself for what the future holds. Life has been such a gift. Unfortunately, I tend to exchange all my gifts for store credit.