Dictionary.com defines the word heartache with the following:
emotional pain or distress; sorrow; grief; anguish
Each of those words could also be looked up in the dictionary and each would have its own definition relating to the others in the list. Most everyone has, at some point in their life, experienced heartache in some form. Of course, one’s perspective of heartache skews their vision when looking at those around them. For example, a child may be experiencing heartache because their favorite toy broke; a sixteen year old whose boyfriend dumped her for her best friend may feel her heartache is much more valid than the child’s over something silly like a toy. Going even farther, a twenty-three year old bride left standing at the altar when her groom-to-be changed his mind feels a heartache that she is certain is much more valid than the fifteen year old who lost her first crush. I could go on, but I believe you most likely get the idea. All this to say that, regardless of the reason for a heartache, it is not something a person in his right mind would look forward to experiencing.
Like most folks, I have had my share of heartaches in life. Some were of the type common to the majority of the population: a broken toy, breaking up with a teenage boyfriend, or not making the team. Some of the heartaches I have been given are not as common (although I am finding that really they are more common than I once thought): the loss of a baby, the loss of a home, the loss of a parent or grandparent, or the loss of health. Heartache is not a competition. I cannot say that my loss of a parent hurts more than someone else’s loss of _____________–whatever you can fill in that blank with that fits your circumstance. God designed us the same yet differently. We all have emotions, but some (like me) tend to be more emotional. We all have feelings, but some (again like me) tend to get their feelings hurt more easily than others. My reaction to a heartache may be much greater than yours would be to the same one, or perhaps it may be much less than yours might be. Regardless, hurting and heartache are very individual and none of us has the right to say that someone else is acting ridiculously over a loss.
So, why all the talk about heartache?
For me, one of the most difficult heartaches to deal with and accept is death. Death is so final. I remember when I was young–maybe eight or nine. The front of our house had large shrubs that had grown together to form almost a hideout. The shrubs were up close to the house, but I was able to crawl behind them and sit and just be alone in the shade and dirt. One time I crawled back there and lying in the dirt was a dead cat. We did not own a cat, nor did any of my friends. But, someone had lost a cat. I cried real tears as I went to get my dad. As he buried the cat in our backyard, he explained that sometimes animals know they are sick, so they go somewhere to be alone and die. I sobbed for hours for a cat I had no emotional attachment to. Several years later, I would get a phone call telling me that a young man I cared for very much had lost his battle to cancer. Kevin was my first real boyfriend. I was a teenager with a huge heartache that I didn’t know how to handle. Many years after that, I got a phone call telling me that my dad had passed away. In between those two events were heartaches of varying degrees. I am still alive to write about them, so I know that one can survive what feels like a heart broken into many tiny pieces.
Last week, my heart suffered another ache. My husband and I had to make a very difficult decision about our beagle. We had Yogi for twelve years and loved her dearly. She was our daughter’s dog originally, but the last several months, with all the kids moved out, she decided that my husband would be her human. Her world was complete when he would come home from work and allow her to jump up on his lap. She would let out a big sigh and put her head down in contentment. The tail end of those months saw her unable to jump, but doggy stairs did the trick. In the last couple weeks, she even struggled to get up those little stairs, falling off of them on more than one occasion. Her breathing was quite labored. Often we wondered if she would be alive when we woke up the next morning. Last week, she didn’t even show interest in her food. If you know anything about beagles, you know that is a huge red flag. My husband called our vet and made an appointment to put her down. That day was last Thursday. My heart is still completely broken. I miss her begging at the table for food. I miss her excitedly barking when we said the word “walk”. (She actually hadn’t been on a walk in a few months, but she faithfully was walked every night around 6:30–rain, snow or sun.) I miss putting her in the cute sweater that she hated so much! I miss her nose poking out the door when we would return home from an errand. I just miss her presence.
Today, my husband and I went for a walk on a beautiful path near our new home. It didn’t take long on a warm day like today for someone to pass us with a leashed dog. The heartache started all over again. I thought about how much she would have loved to sniff all the smells of a new path. I felt guilty for not walking her more and guilty for putting her down. The feelings of being a horrible person rushed in and grabbed hold of my hurting heart, tormenting me even more. Her box of treats still sits on the top of the desk. Her sweater is in a box on the steps. A piece of my heart went with her the day I petted her head as she breathed her last breath in the vet’s office. Right now, I wonder if I will ever heal…if the sadness will ever go away. It seems, right now, that will never happen. The heartache hits at unpredictable times and the tears flow regardless of how hard I try to stop them.
I miss you, Yogi, very much. Rest in peace little beagle. I pray I see you again someday and we can walk and sniff to your heart’s content.