Then my 12-year-old daughter received an urgent text from her very best friend, her soul sister.
Their dog Lilah was dying. Could Ellie come over right away?
I tried to get details -- did she mean dying right now? Are they at home? Are you sure her parents want you to come over? Are you sure you want to go....?
Yes, right now.
Yes, they are at home.
Yes, she asked her parents.
Yes, I want to go. I have to go. My best friend is sad, so I am sad, too.
We have put down three pets since my daughter was born, but she hasn't been there for the euthanization of any of them.
It's a short drive to our friends' house, and Ellie and I were silent most of the way. I asked her if she knew what would happen if we were there when the dog was put down. She said she did.
I asked her what she was going to do to be a support to her friend. Be careful not to say this or that, I said. Maybe don't talk about A, B, and C. But she had it.
I'm just gonna be there, Mom Whatever she wants.
I told her she would be safe in following her instincts and her heart, and I knew that she also loved this dog, and that I would be there to support her. I'll just be there. Whatever you want.
Lech Lecha -- Go for You
You never know when the Torah portion of the week will coincide perfectly with the events in your life, or someone else's.
In the first sentence of this week's Torah portion, God gives Abraham a command. "לֶךְ-לְךָ" literally "go for you". Get up, leave your current home, and go on a journey to the unknown. Don't worry, I've got your back, God tells Abraham. I'll show you where you're going (eventually) and there will be blessings for you and your family. You're leaving behind a lot, Abraham, but your time in this place is finished. And don't forget, this mysterious journey I'm sending you on isn't for me, it's for you. Go for you. Go for yourself.
From the time they are born, dogs are brought along on our journey. We adopt them, give them a name, bring them into our homes, and make all the decisions of where they can and cannot go. Inside, outside, in the car, on a road trip, for a hike, on a walk, camping in the wilderness... all of which offer varying levels of freedom, but never complete freedom. Chase the squirrel if you want, go for a dip in the stream, walk off the trail, but eventually your people will decide it's time to go home and you'll be getting back into the car.
I spent quite a bit of time with the dying dog last night. I petted her, stroked her face, talked to her about how her adventures were complete, and she'd done everything she needed to do. Time to go. Every now and then she would move her head a little, or twitch her eyebrows, and I didn't know if that meant "keep going," or "stop," but I kept going. More for me, perhaps. The silence was too much. I was choking on it.
I sang to her (Debbie Friedman's Lechi Lach, Esa Eynai, Misheberach, the Grateful Dead's Ripple, and my go-to lullaby/comfort song, Shlomo Carelbach's Besheim Hashem, which is about how none of us are ever journeying alone.)
בשם השם אלוהי ישראל
In the name of God, the God of Israel
מימיני מיכאל ומשמאלי גבריאל
On my right is Michael, on my left is Gabriel
ומלפני אוריאל ומאחורי רפאל
In front of me is Uriel, and Raphael is behind
ועל ראשי, ועל ראשי, שכינת האל.
And over my head, and over my head, Shekinah dwells
Lessons on Friendship
I don't always know how to be a good friend, especially when my friends are hurting. It doesn't feel like it comes naturally to me, and I often find myself inserting my own ideas, opinions, and stories into other people's moments. "I went through that!" "This is how it went for me!" "Here's an idea for you!" (You could argue this entire post is just that...and I beg forgiveness if I'm being a butt-insky.)
My daughter is a wonderful, natural friend, and I (at 43) am honored to take my cues from her.
- Enter quietly.
- Reach out physically -- sometimes there's no need for words.
- Follow your friend, and keep her needs, moods, and desires in the front of your mind.
- Leave space -- quiet spaces, spaces for laughing, spaces where you just sit in silence and both feel sad.
- Be the vessel for whatever your friend needs to pour out. At one point in the night, my daughter's friend wanted to play a card game. My first instinct was to say, "You should really stay here and experience this. It's going to be over soon." But my daughter was able to see that her friend needed a break, needed to laugh, needed to do something routine, normal. Play a card game, giggle, and reminisce about the dying dog's worst farts.
- Leave quietly.
On our drive home, I tried to put into practice all the lessons she had taught me. I held her hand, waited for her to talk, and followed her mood, which inevitably led back to cracking jokes about dog farts. We cried, and we laughed.
A Blessing for the Journey
לילה, שתוליכך לשלום ותצעידך לשלום ותדריכך לשלום
Lilah, shetolikheykah leshalom vetatzideykah leshalom vetadrikhekah leshalom
Lilah, go in peace, and stride in peace, and be guided in peace...