dogs, musings

After the thrill is gone, he’s gone to a better place…

I always pay attention to the music that plays when Bill and I are on our way to or from a euthanasia appointment. It may seem weird that I do this, but music makes up part of my psyche. It’s important to me. So I listen carefully just before and after I lose a pet.

In 2012, when we lost our dog, MacGregor, we were on our way to North Carolina State University Veterinary School to attend his death. On the way there, the song “Far Side Banks of Jordan” by Alison Krauss and the Cox Family came on my iPod. That song goes like this…

I believe my steps are growin’ wearier each day
Still I’ve got another journey on my mind
Lures of this old world have ceased to make me wanna stay
And my one regret is leavin’ you behind

But if it proves to be his will that I am first to go
And somehow I’ve a feelin’ it will be
When it comes your time to travel likewise, don’t feel lost
For I will be the first one that you’ll see

And I’ll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan
I’ll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand
And when I see you coming, I will rise up with the shout
And come running through the shallow waters, reaching for your hand

Through this life we’ve labored hard to earn our meager fare
It’s brought us trembling hands and failing eyes
So I’ll just rest here on this shore and turn my eyes away
Until you come, then we’ll see paradise

And I’ll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan
I’ll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand
And when I see you coming, I will rise up with the shout
And come running through the shallow waters, reaching for your hand

I’ll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan
I’ll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand
And when I see you coming, I will rise up with the shout
And come running through the shallow waters, reaching for your hand, hmm

It seemed like MacGregor was telepathically comforting us, even though logic tells me it was a coincidence.

You’d have to know MacGregor to know how significant this song seemed as we drove to his euthanasia appointment. He was very much a country dog– mostly beagle and basset hound. He was afraid of strangers, but if he knew you, he was the most awesome, hilarious, funny dog. And he was a very devoted friend.

After MacGregor died, we listened to music on the way home to Zane. About twenty minutes after we set his spirit free, this song by Rhonda Vincent came on the iPod.

It was a gathering of some 300 people
In the little church the crowd began to swell
Quite a send off for a simple country farmer
For many loved and knew the old man well

And as his bride of 60 years came forward
She bravely walked to where his body lay
A hush fell over all that stood around her
She smiled through tears as she began to say

I will see you again
For this isn’t the end
You’re my forever friend
And I will see you again

Ever since a simple carpenter from Nazareth
Walked the mountains and the shores of Galilee
Ever since he died and rose again on Easter
Death doesn’t have the same old victory

Tonight I’ll lay my head upon his pillow
And cry until the breaking of the day
But even in the pain of separation
There’s a hope inside my heart that lets me say

I will see you again
For this isn’t the end
You’re my forever friend
And I will see you again

Jesus, He made a way
There is coming a day
So I will hold on ’til then
And I will see you again

I will hold on ’til then
And I will see you…again

I’m not a very religious person, but this was playing on the way back from seeing MacGregor’s entry into the next world… I found it very comforting.

Yesterday, when we lost Zane, I played the iPod again. On the way to appointment, there was a song by Folk Uke. It was definitely not a religious song. However, on the surface, it seemed kind of appropriate. It was called “Try to Say Goodbye”. Folk Uke is a very irreverent band, and this was not a comforting song.

If you knew Zane, this might seem appropriate… He was kind of a wise ass, even as he always tried so hard to be good.

On the way back from the appointment, I noticed the Eagles were playing… and it was this song, of all things…

All day, I got condolences from people paying respects in the wake of Zane’s death. Some were very heartfelt, loving, and kind. Some were pretty tone deaf and borderline offensive. I mostly tried to give people the benefit of the doubt. A lot of folks just plain aren’t good at comforting others. They don’t know what to say, but feel like they should say something. Most of the time, they offer thoughts and prayers, condolences, or just plain write “sorry”. These thoughts are probably better received offline, because about 80% of communication is non-verbal. But in today’s Internet connected world, we’ve lost the ability to communicate non-verbally. If you’re typing on a computer, you miss out on seeing the other person’s facial expressions and body language, which offers so much more of a clue as to what they really mean and whether or not they really mean it. So those words are not particularly comforting. They show that someone has tried to make an effort to be kind and sympathetic, which I do recognize. But are they meaningful, wise, or soothing? Not really, if I’m honest.

Well… I mostly cut people some slack. I appreciate that people were trying to be kind. We are taught that when someone experiences the painful loss of a loved one, we should be sympathetic. If one manages empathy, that’s even better. But a lot of people just don’t get the concept of empathy. Many people don’t have the sensitivity or the time for that, or they don’t know the person well enough to know how to respond. I get that. I really do. It means something when a person makes a sincere effort, even if the effort is a bit bumbling.

However, I think the comment that kind of cut me to the quick was one that came from a family member who typed, “He’s gone to a better place.” I do think I know what she was trying to convey, although more than once, she’s claimed to be an atheist. If she’s an atheist, then no, she probably doesn’t believe he’s “gone to a better place.” Either way, “a better place” is separated from me. She’s basically said my dog is “better off dead”, which is a really shitty thing to say… although I don’t think that’s what she meant.

It’s kind of akin to Donald Trump’s massive gaffe a couple of years ago, when he tried and failed to comfort a young soldier’s wife whose husband was killed in Nigeria. Trump said something along the lines of, “He died doing exactly what he wanted to do.” Basically, it sounds like that means he’d rather be sweating in Nigeria dodging bullets than being at home with his loving wife and their children. What Trump probably meant to convey was that the soldier had willingly signed up for the military because he wanted to defend the country and be of service. However, people join the military for all kinds of reasons. Maybe he believed in the mission in which he gave his life. Maybe he didn’t. He died with honor, though, doing what he agreed to do. And he was many thousands of miles away from his wife and babies when he did it. I’d like to hope he would not have preferred being in Nigeria over being with his family. But we don’t know. Trump didn’t know, either. His words were not comforting or particularly kind. They were thoughtless and insensitive.

As to my relative and her choice of words… well, I am not surprised. She isn’t known for being particularly empathetic. This particular relative, on the day we buried our grandmother, mused aloud if maybe I wasn’t my father’s biological daughter. She cited the fact that I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and a lack of freckles, while Dad was dark haired, dark eyed, and freckled. Also, my dad and I didn’t get along very well, although we did love each other. Fortunately, 23 and Me has put that particular question to rest.

It stung when I read my relative’s words, though, although I do understand that she was trying to be comforting. It would have been better if she’d said, “his suffering is over now” or “you were kind to help ease his way” or something like that. Telling me that my dog has “gone to a better place” sounds like it means that he’s better off dead, away from me and Bill, than at home with his loving family. And when those words come from someone who claims she doesn’t believe in God or the hereafter, they are especially hollow and meaningless.

Zane loved us. It was very clear that he did. Although he didn’t fight death, I doubt he really would have preferred dying over being with us. Is he at the Rainbow Bridge? I’d like to think there is such a place, although logic tells me there probably isn’t. But I do know that he’s no longer sick, exhausted, in pain, or suffering. He doesn’t have trouble breathing. He’s not bleeding internally. He doesn’t feel the frustration of not being able to do what he’s always been able to do. He was a dog who loved to run and play. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and he loved to snuggle in bed with us. In the last weeks, he stopped being able to do those things. He no longer has to live with the frustration of not being able to enjoy soft beds (because they made breathing too difficult), long walks (because he didn’t have the energy), good food (because cancer killed his appetite), or sitting in my lap (because he no longer had the strength, stamina, or coordination to jump up into it). Even if he’s not at the Rainbow Bridge, he’s no longer conscious of the things he could no longer enjoy. That’s a blessing.

This experience has reminded me to be more careful about what I say or write to people who have experienced the loss of a loved one. It’s better to be helpful than harmful. If I can’t be helpful and kind, it’s better not to say anything at all. Even though I love to write, I don’t always have the right words… And I don’t always have to say anything. A lot of people didn’t notice/didn’t comment on Zane’s death yesterday. Although it would have been nice if more of my family members had cared enough to comment, I think it’s better that people keep silent if they don’t have the right words. I’m no longer very close to my family, mainly due to my vehement rejection of Trump and my love for swearing and raucous humor. So they don’t follow me and they don’t know… As for my friends, the ones who really know and truly care about me had the right words. They were enough to make me feel loved. While I do appreciate the condolences left by people who don’t know me so well, I was reminded that when it comes to words of comfort, sometimes less is more.

Incidentally, I think Arran is grieving a bit. This morning, he was lying in Zane’s usual spot, looking forlorn. This is going to be an adjustment for all of us.

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Song parodies

Dear Loren…

It’s Friday, and I’ve had a bit of a sad week. I just found out that one of my beloved uncles may not be around for much longer. He is truly one of my favorite people, but I haven’t seen him since 2014, which is when Bill and I were last in the United States together. I had gone home to Virginia to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and participate in a memorial service we had for my father, who died in July 2014, weeks before we left for Germany. My mom chose Thanksgiving as a good time for my dad’s memorial, since that’s when the annual family reunion is held.

My uncle had a stroke last week, and it has left him severely debilitated. I didn’t find out about the stroke until a few days after it happened. I found out about it on Facebook, courtesy of a friend of the family, rather from one of my actual family members. My cousin just posted that they’ve decided to give my uncle comfort measures and, I guess, let nature take its inevitable course. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable decision at all, but I am blue about it. Like I said… he’s one of my favorite people. His birthday is the day after mine. He has a witty sense of humor like mine. And like me, he loves making music, being in the mountains, and drinking beer (although he’s always stuck with Miller Lite).

But… I realize there’s nothing I can do about this situation from here. As sad as this is, death is a part of life for everyone– even the best people. So, instead of waxing poetic or praying for a miracle, I’ve decided to write about something I find quite funny.

I probably wrote about this guy on my old blog. I’ve just now done a cursory search to find out if I have, but Blogger is so wonky now, and won’t give me all possible results. I started writing my old blog in 2010, but if I search Blogger, I won’t get anything from before, oh, 2016 or so. It’s annoying, and I have over 3000 posts on that blog, which makes trying to find old stuff very difficult. So… if I have written about this before and it’s a rerun, I apologize. I just need a good laugh, for several reasons besides the impending death of a loved one.

Meet Ben Ryan Metzger. In fact, you may have already “met” him. I first became aware of him about ten years ago, when Bill and I were living in Germany the first time. Back then, I read a hilarious blog called Psychotic Letters From Men. The blog, which was discontinued just a few months after I started reading it, was about psychotic overtures of affection or spite delivered by jilted men. Some of the stories were creepy. Many were hilarious for all the wrong reasons. People were sending videos, social media posts, and emails to the blogger, who would repost them with funny commentary. I’m sure it was very embarrassing for the perpetrators, but it was also comedy gold for looky lous like me.

Anyway, Ben Ryan is quite the hunk…. or at least he was in 2009 or so. Two years before he was blogged about on Psychotic Letters from Men, he had a traumatic breakup with a girl named Loren. Apparently, he was so broken up about losing Loren, that he decided to make a video for her entitled Lost Love Story. Here it is, in all its cheesy glory.

Wow… this all seems pretty pointless. He’s probably made some YouTube bank, though. At this writing, his video has over 2.7 million views.

I have watched this video more than a few times. Every time I watch it, it makes me cringe anew. However, if there’s one thing Ben Ryan can take some heart in knowing, it’s that his cheesy love story has inspired so many people. I know I’ve written about him before. I’ve seen several music videos/parodies posted on YouTube paying special homage to Ryan’s “love” for long, lost Loren. This one is especially catchy. You can even dance to it.

I love the syncopated percussion in this. It sounds like it’s saying “dipshit” over and over again.

In fact, I think I might even enjoy this horrible little song more than the movie video, mainly because the sheer crappiness of the singer’s vocals suit the lyrics so well. The person who wrote the lyrics really captured the essence of Ryan’s “love story”, which is a study in pure narcissism. I also love the nasty synthesizer, which gives this song an especially cringeworthy quality that really suits this number and its subject matter. I mean, yeah, Ben has an impressive body, and he might even be a nice enough person, but I think he’s more in love with himself than with Loren, who appears to be nothing more than a possession to him. Maybe he was just really immature when he decided to make this video, but to me, it seems more about him showing off his muscles by tossing hay bales and boulders and moving tractor tires than expressing true love for a girl.

What the hell does riding a quad bike have to do with true love?

I just came across this video, supposedly by Loren’s friends, who claim that it really was a true love story and they were broken up by Loren’s parents, who didn’t want her dating a “poor farmer”. I have no way of knowing if what this person says is true or even if they are actually friends of Loren’s and Ben’s. Maybe their account is truthful. Maybe Ben is really just a swell guy. But his original video sure seems to tell a different story.

Truth or fiction? Don’t know.

I read somewhere that Ben had designs on becoming the next Captain America. He writes in his description that he produced this film entirely by himself, yet that obviously can’t be true. Someone had to film him, right? And of course, he used music. Most notably, he used “When I See You Smile” by Bad English. Actually, it was Bad English that made me think of Ben today. A friend posted Bad English’s 80s era video and it reminded me of this cornfest.

Well, I hope Ben and Loren have managed to go on living after this tragic death of a romance. I see people have had mixed reactions to it. Some people think it’s a heartwarming video. I remember more than a couple of people saying they thought Ben was a hottie. Other people think it’s creepy, corny, or just plain weird. I’m just glad it’s still around to make me laugh when I need a good one.

Hope everyone has a delightful Friday and an even better weekend.

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