The innocence of children often has the excellence to reveal the most significant truths of life not through the baggage of knowledge but through the treasure of uncorrupted experience.
Christopher Nicholson is a Wildlife Photographer based in Seattle, America.
Sitting at the desolate veranda of the house, my little son was weeping with his head buried deep into the warmth of his palms. What his little mind was going through was difficult to conceptualise but what I was sure about was the fact that this was going to be an experience that would alter his life.
Our 12 year old dog, Jeffery had passed away early that morning and we had just returned back home after burying him in our backyard. Life would surely take months to come back on track, given how much we had loved and shared with Jeffery as a family. My son was just a month old when he had walked into our garden one sunny day and when we offered him bread and milk, he refused to leave for days.
A street dog, with a thin built but a robust voice- Jeffery was himself a puppy when he had arrived and had over the years grown up into a handsome and well-built dog. My wife knew that Jeffery would bark off the night and slept in peace with our little son on occasions when I couldn’t be back on time from work; he would accompany me for jogs on the beach-side and become the loved playmate of our son Richard.
From family holidays to gardening expeditions, candid chats to isolated afternoons- Jeffery was an integral part of the family and we all loved him dearly. The last two nights saw Jeffery in an unusual stupor, a calmness that we hadn’t witnessed in all these years. The vet had come over and said that it was indeed a fever that would heal on its own and was born out of an infected intestine but ironically none of that healing had taken place.
Two days passed by and Jeffery’s health was worsening, he wouldn’t eat or drink and remain in a slumber. This morning as I opened the door to attend to the milkman, I did not hear Jeffery’s usual bark. I went close to the fireplace where he had been asleep last night and called out his name. Jeffery did not move. I called out to my wife and we took a closer look at him only to discover the bitter truth that Jeffery had passed away.
Richard had to face the reality that his playmate had left us and we were afraid what impact it would leave on his little mind. Richard hadn’t seen death so far and this meant that this incidence was going to be even more difficult for him to understand, how were we going to answer all the questions that he would ask? By the time we had finished staring with tears in our eyes and a pain that refused to recede at Jeffery‘s body and those familiar eyes that once glowed with affection and now had been half shut, his shiny fur coat that Richard loved to kiss, that long twisted tail of his that was now immobile and his benevolent face that now looked sublime in divine grace, we prepared ourselves to face little Richard who we expected would still be asleep in his room.
At the door of our hallway, were both of us were standing, we saw Richard looking at Jeffery’s body. “Papa why isn’t Jeffery responding, shall I take him out to the garden for some fresh sunshine?” When we told him that Jeffery was gone, we expected him to burst in tears and be devastated, but that day something remarkably brilliant happened. Richard laid down hugging Jeffery and held his paw in his little hands; we left the two friends together to say their goodbyes.
We returned back late that evening after having buried Jeffery with all the love and an immense sense of loss. Back home, we saw little Richard sitting alone on the veranda with his face covered by his palms weeping loudly, the ball that Jeffery loved playing with by his side…that night when we sat at the dinner table, Richard produced a beautiful surprise and asked us all to close our eyes.
Fatigued by the day’s pain and the terrible feeling that refused to go by, we were in no mood for any surprises. Our eyes opened when we heard a familiar fragile bark, only to find a little roadside puppy in Richard’s arms. The little puppy was hungry and cold and so a warm bowl of milk with biscuits was enough to comfort his wretched soul, later Richard told us that he had found him wailing in the garden when all of us had left to burry Jeffery.
Richard gave us one of the most remarkable lessons that life has to offer with his utter innocence, he told us something that even reading a hundred books couldn’t possibly have. When we had left Richard alone in the room with Jeffery that morning so that both the friends could say goodbye, Richard had promised Jeffery to bring home another desolate dog.
Richard began crying loudly as he told us about this promise, and told us all to love his new friend as much as we cared for Jeffery because that alone will allow Jeffery to rest in peace. As we sat down to eat that night, there was an immense sense of peace- nobody could ever take the place of Jeffery but the meaning that little Richard had drawn from his death had us all surprised.
We are all essentially the same soul embodied in different bodies, to love Jeffery meant to love every other dog. Next morning we found that Richard was out playing in the sun with the little puppy that he had brought home the day before, with tears in his magnificent, small eyes he called out to me and said ‘Papa, Jeffery has not gone far,he is here with us all.’