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STRIVE TO LOVE WELL BECAUSE LIFE IS FRAGILE

Life may be long or short, difficult or easy, pretty or ugly, even boring or exciting. But one thing is for sure -- life is fragile.

We buried one of our miniature dachshunds the other night. I watched and prayed while each one of my children knelt down and kissed Pogo's little body goodbye. I assured them that she was already in heaven since such a wonderful little dog would certainly have been chosen to be an angel. After a short service, my 8-year-old twin boys each took part of her favorite blanket in their hands, now wrapped around her body, and lowered her into the small but deep grave.

Pogo Puppy, as we fondly called her, had died the night before. She had a strange, unexplainable bone marrow disease and she had stopped making red blood cells. It took only a month for her to go from the frolicking fun-loving "pogo stick" of her short two-and-a-half years to an invalid who needed to be carried around.

After the final minutes of Pogo's life, when she finally gave up the fight, my daughter declared through sobs and tears, "I had my hand on her heart until it stopped." At that point I remember thinking that it would have been better if someone had taken my heart out and stomped on it, rather than make me watch my daughter go through this trauma.

I've been noticing the different levels of grief in our family. We go from the parents who supposedly understand the fragility of life, to a 13-year-old who seems to understand some of it, to 8-year-olds who just keep saying, "Why did she have to die?" And then there is Pogo's doggie buddy, Limo, who just keeps sniffing and searching to find his lost friend.

My husband and I are in the counseling business, and we work all the time with people who have lost loved ones and who are going through the grieving process. When I look at our family's grieving process, especially in the light of the terrible losses some people experience, part of me wants to hide my feelings for Pogo because she was just a dog.

But then I think: How can I be ashamed of love or of grieving the loss of any living thing? She was a large part of our lives and I will miss so much about her. The silly "baby talk" Pogo brought out in me and the way she would not just passively accept affection but had to return it with her kisses. How can I not grieve such a void in my life?

I know from my education that part of the grieving process is retelling the story of the loss, and I catch myself wanting to talk to everyone about Pogo and our grief. Maybe that is why I am writing this. It's a way of telling the story. It also feels like a way of honoring Pogo with a memorial.

Whatever else it may be, life is fragile. And remember, when the end comes, the only real question we ask ourselves is not: "Was I well loved?" but rather: "Did I love well?" So love well. Whisper a kiss on everyone you love tonight. And say a soft good night and maybe even a sweet goodbye. For you never know when those fragile things will break.

AMY REMMELE lives in Williamsville.

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