I thought it was “goodbye” when you took your last, soft breath. You’d fought a long, good fight, and it was time to rest.
I knew I needed to give you peace, even if it meant relinquishing mine. I knew I needed to help you find comfort, even though it left me inconsolable.
I thought it was goodbye as I held your paw in my palm. I felt your warm, soft fur. I kissed your head, and buried my face in your side, feeling the last, gentle swells of your breathing, until you breathed no more.
I thought I would never be whole again. It felt like a piece of my soul departed with you.
I thought it was “goodbye” that day.
But one spring morning, you came back to me. I ran my hand through the dew-dropped grass and felt your fur, sprinkled with rain after a happy jaunt through a springtime shower.
You returned on a warm summer evening when a soft, distant rumble of thunder echoed across the night. I closed my eyes, and there you were: the slow, rhythmic rumble of you sleeping next to me.
I took a walk one clear autumn day, and you found me again. The sun warmed the October breeze as it caressed my face, and I felt the gentle brush of your sun-warmed fur. You greeted me again in the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet, your happy paws unseen, but dancing next to me.
And when I stepped out on a frigid, winter’s night to gaze into the silence of the falling snow, your cold, wet nose found my unsuspecting hand once more, snowflakes melting into my skin like memories. I shut my eyes tight, and left my hand in the frigid air just a little bit longer, savoring, cherishing.
I know now that it never was “goodbye.” It was only “until we meet again.”
Now, when I look into the waning glow of twilight and see your gentle eyes, I close my own, take a slow deep breath, and smile, for you are there with me. And when the moment passes, and you go on your way once more, I whisper into the wind “until we meet again.”