A year ago today I wrote this post, and these words:
… today is not just any day; it is the birthday of someone very special who is no longer here. The first birthday will always be the worst – at least, I hope so.
I was right in that today is not as bad as 8 February last year. Our lives are changing and the beautiful dog that we inherited when that someone died is now the happiest and most constant thing in our lives. She is eight and a half years old now; her owner would have been 84 today.
The dogs are scattered about the state: M in the city with us; G in Sunbury; another, the little brown and tan kelpie, out in the eastern hills; the old black-and-white sheepdog passed away in Ensay. The cat that went to Perth for a new life is gone now, too; although he settled in well, a year was enough for him.
The dogs and some of the cats were the lucky ones. There are other animals who seem to be alive in the back of my mind, still living as always up there on the farm. But when I stop and think, I remember they are gone: the lone goose, the old brown brumby, the grey horse who had died a few years earlier and who had been there my whole life, the two poddy sheep and the rest of the cats.
It is as though they exist just out of focus until I try to look at them too closely and then they are gone.
But I did not start this meaning to write about animals. I meant to write about loss and beginnings. This date has come up again, and all of a sudden I realise this is the beginning of a departure.
In a few months I will leave Melbourne. In many ways this city has no relation to the person that we lost, but it is much closer to her home than the place I will move to next. It is also the city where we brought M and it is the city where she has become our own.
By June this year things will have changed yet again, and it will be nearly two years since the loss that shook us all. I feel a little more lost, this year, further away from Ensay and from the person that we lost. A year ago my grief was raw. In fading it becomes more complex.
I go outside to sit on the step with M against my knees. These days this beautiful dog stalks magpies on the paths and parks of Melbourne suburbs in lieu of sheep in the paddocks of Ensay. She doesn’t seem to mind.
I think about the complexity of grief. Amongst it, a realisation that a year ago I felt as though I was minding M for someone else. Now, I think of her as part of the family. My responsibility is to her and her happiness, not to her previous owner.
I never thought I would write in such a public space about something as private as grief. But this loss feels that it should be shared, perhaps because of that web of people across the state and across the country who grieve as well. I don’t know if they will all remember the date today, but I know that the loss I feel is present for them too.
Incongruously, the words from a song in Evita come to mind:
Where do we go from here?
This isn’t where we intended to be.
We had it all, I believed in you.
You believed in me.
Where do we go from here?