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April 28, 2013

by Stephen Damon

During the past week I have been participating in the Spring 2013 Zen Hospice Project. The experience has been extraordinary in many ways. This morning I’d like to share something I wrote for one of the exercises we were given yesterday. We were asked to write a letter to a loved one who had died. Everyone else wrote moving stories about their siblings and parents and life partners but I chose to write a short letter to my dog, Zoe who died almost two years ago. Since my last two posts have been about dogs I thought it might be good to share it with you.

Dear Zoe,

I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner. It’s not that I don’t think of you—I do, every day. I feel you in my heart wherever I go and whatever I do. There’s so much I want to tell you about Miriam and Catie, and of course Buddy, but I don’t think I’ll have time to get into all that—not today, anyway.

All I really want to say is that I miss you very much. I miss the way you licked my face in the morning. I miss the way you used to sit behind me when I sat Zazen in the morning. I miss the way you used to snuggle with me on the futon during my afternoon naps. Yes, I still take those naps, but I miss your company. And yes, what I miss most is playing basketball with you, three times every afternoon. You know, I haven’t picked up a ball since you’ve been gone. In fact, I took down the basketball hoop about a year ago. I miss the way you used to bark too loudly when we played. I’m sorry if I ever yelled at you to stop. Do you remember the time when a neighbor stuck her head out of the window to ask us to stop because she had to study? Do you remember the way I smiled, but muttered something underneath my breath as we walked into the family room?

Now our basketball court is a quiet patio where I come out to read my Buddhist books. Yeah, I’m still reading that stuff. I should tell you that after all those retreats, I finally got ordained as a Zen priest. Do you remember all those trips we took to the Zen Center in the mountains and how funny I looked in those black robes? Do you remember all the deers that would cautiously come close to us as we made our way to the small pond? I will never forget any of those things.

We had a lot of good times, didn’t we? I will always remember our last moments together when I held you in my arms and whispered, “It’s okay to go.” And you went. I wonder, where did you go? I’ve told that story to a few friends. I used to cry when I described how you trembled in my arms, but now my sadness has turned into a tender joy for those last moments where we became as one and I felt you move through me as you disappeared. I will keep those moments in my heart, always.

Thank you for spending your life with me. You taught me more about patience, kindness, and love than anyone else. You were my friend, my teacher, and my companion.

With all my love, I am your Bone Daddy!

From → Zen Buddhism

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