A Prayer for Jessie – The Importance of Importance
I hate it when Handsome’s out of town, even for just a day or two. But I do love it when he comes back – our reunions are fun even if he’s only been gone an hour, but if he’s been gone overnight, we explode! I sniff him all over, while he tries his best to hold me tight (and can’t). And eventually we just stop and look into each other’s eyes, and feast on the fact – all is okay, we’re together again.
The problem, of course, is that I’m not the only being he ever cares about seeing. If I were, he’d never leave! For example, he tries to visit his parents every month or so. And because he’s afraid to put me in an airplane’s cargo hold (and I’m too big and excitable to qualify as a Therapy Dog and sit in the passenger section), the only times I’ve ever been able to join him on those trips are when he drives there, which takes a couple of weeks at least. I love it, but he can’t do it very often.
And, just as with me, he worries about his family a lot – some say too much. So when he hasn’t seen them in a while, he gets anxious. So it’s good that he visits, and he always feels so much better when he comes back home.
Well, except this last time.
A few days ago, he showed up, and we gave each other our usual crazy greeting, but I could tell something was off. Was something wrong with his parents, or his niece (who, I’m very proud to say, gave me a new human cousin a couple of days later… WELCOME TO LIFE, JACKSON!) or his nephew, or…?
No, it wasn’t any of them.
“Knucklehead,” he explained to me, “I just spent a half hour on a plane, the longest flight of my life.”
Now you know, we pooches aren’t all that good at math, so I struggled with this, not coming up with any answer. Till he explained, “I spent the flight next to the sweetest woman, who explained to me that she was flying here because her son had just been killed. And not out of anger, or even a robbery. He was killed, the police believe, by mistake. He had just dropped his girlfriend off at her house, the girl who seemed like she might be The One for him, and on his way home, he was shot. Apparently by someone who thought he was someone else.”
My heart sank. We always hear about these things happening, but here it was, right in front of him, and now me. “He was her only son. And he was a really great guy, whose life and career were just taking off. And somehow this woman had to go through this – for no explicable reason. And she’ll never get over it, not for a second.”
We are all programmed to believe that we will outlive our young. That’s why it’s so hard for a dog when one of our puppies doesn’t make it through birth. But to raise a child, and raise him well, and then have him snuffed out just as life begins to bloom into accomplishment and romance? This is too much for anyone to take.
Handsome asked her how she was able to be so together at this point. “I’m completely numb,” she smiled kindly.
Then something happened kind of beautiful. The flight attendant asked them for drink orders, and Handsome wished to himself “I’d love it if she’d order something alcoholic, because I’d love to buy it for her – and she could sure use some help today!” (He’s not normally a big one for using alcohol as self-medication, but since she’d be greeted at the airport by her grieving daughter, this could prove an exception) But she just ordered a cola, and the attendant moved on.
Till about five minutes later, when she leaned into him and whispered, “Could I ask you a favor? Could you wave that nice man down and ask if he could slip a little whiskey into my Coke?” Handsome exploded in joy, “I was WISHING you would ask that! Yes, and I’ll buy it for you! It’s the only thing I can do to help!” He ran up and ordered the drink – and do you know what? They gave it to her for free!
As the plane landed, he took her hand and wished her all the strength humanly possible, to get through this. And she looked him in the eye and said “Please pray for me.” And they disembarked, probably never to see each other again.
Well as you can guess, by now, he had me whining on the floor. No wonder he’d felt distant.
Especially as he was feeling so… fortunate! Here he’d just spent a fun day with his parents, and was about to welcome a new baby into the family. And coming home to the friendliest pup in the world. It wasn’t fair – everyone should be having the time he was having, and not suffering this horror.
So he asked me to write this. To tell this story, and to think about what it means to me. And I’ve thought a lot, and here’s what I came up with:
I get letters from you guys, all the time, often very full of love, but complaining about your parents, or siblings, or your kids. I know deep down you love them more than anything in the world, but just as I can take Handsome for granted at times, or he can forget how important I am to him for moments, all of us can detach a bit from how much we love, and are devoted to, our closest companions.
So take just a second, and put aside how annoying they might be, and think about how you’d feel if your mother, or father, or brother or sister, or uncle or aunt, or your child, were suddenly taken away from you. And how they’d feel if you were robbed from them forever. (And if you’ve already lost one of these people, let that feeling come through – how you miss them, and what it would be like to talk with them, laugh with them, hug them, or maybe sneak that drink to them!)
I’m not trying to guilt-trip you, not at all. I just want you to feel the love that life and stresses can make us forget.
You see, there’s one other thing about that woman. Her name is Jessie. That’s the name of my favorite cousin, a great great dog owned by the family that just had the new baby. And Jessie died a few years ago – a loss they, and I, can never replace.
Coincidence? Maybe. You’ll just have to decide for yourself.
But if you can do what I asked, just take that moment and feel all that love in your heart – with its joy and its pain and its frustration – then I think you and I, and everyone reading this, will have fulfilled that woman’s request to Handsome. Our love will come together to become a beautiful prayer.
And maybe, just maybe, all that love will give her the strength she needs, to get through what she has to. Till the day she can join her son again, and maybe, just maybe, find out why things like this have to happen.
Because this doggy has no idea.