Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Thing about Breathing

There’s a thing about breathing. We forget to do it. Or we go through the motion of it so mechanically we’re startled the second our lungs make a false start. Over the past few weeks, I’ve woken in bed with my chest rattling, wondering how to enter into the next blessed sleepy moment. Don’t waste time speculating what has me riddled with breathlessness. I’ll come right out with it. Among other stressors, the grief over losing my dog is walloping me. Yes, all the non-dog people of the world, now is the time to have a good laugh.

But the dog lovers. Those who’ve also loved and lost (or can’t imagine when that day comes). Well, I know you get it.

I had to teach myself to breathe again while restless in bed the other night. Training air to enter in through my nostrils and pour out through my mouth. And when I forced the inhaling and exhaling, concentrating until the act of breathing grew more natural, I eventually fell asleep.

Why am I sharing this?

Because a few times over the course of the last few days I’ve thought about the movie Sleepless in Seattle when Tom Hanks is sitting in his Seattle home opening up to his son about missing the boy’s mom, his deceased wife. Hanks talks about this breathing thing.

Then, as I’m only pages from reaching the end of a great book club read (The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty) earlier today, I hit upon this line. “She hadn’t  realized she was holding her breath. This kept happening too. She had to remember to breathe.”

As convoluted as we humans can be, there really are universal strings that will always tie us together.
When we grieve and experience loss there will be moments we forget to breathe.

Which brings me to one of my favorite openings of all time. “From my first breath in this world, all I wanted was a good set of lungs and the air to fill them with—given circumstances, you might presume for an American baby of the twentieth century. Think about your own first gasp: a shocking wind roweling so easily down your throat, and you still slipping around in the doctor’s hands. How you yowled! Not a thing on your mind but breakfast, and that was on the way.” ~ Peace Like a River

I’ve decided it’s in the trusting—the trusting that the next breath will come that I’ll push through this. And in the slowing down and feeling, no matter how painful the emotions may be.

With confidence and somewhat bashfully, I’ll admit I loved our dog more than I have loved most people. It makes sense to me my breath would stop on occasion, tripped up like ornery bike gears.

Stumbling upon lines in great books like those listed above regarding conscious breathing and remembering Hanks talking to his kid, I’m reassured I’m not alone in this. Sometimes we need to go back to the basics. 

It’s here as we experience the raw art of breathing that we are able to humbly identify how vulnerable we all are.

Here in the inhale and exhale of grief.


  1. All I can say is wow! I hope it gets easier every day to deal with your loss.

    1. Thanks Rita & thanks for how you've been there for me.

  2. I'm not laughing. I fully understand the pain, and you have my deepest sympathy.

    In dogs, we find a love and devotion that is beyond anything we'll experience in this world. A dog will cheerfully go to death fighting for you.

    A dog will forgive anything you do, if you'll just show love.

    Who else does this? A hint...initials are JC.

    Finally, in thinking of those I have loved and lost (canine and human), I tell them, at the going down of sun..."I wish I had met you sooner, that I could have loved you longer."

    Peace, Wendy. The sorrow will fade, and dissolve into small crystal shards. They'll never go away, but their presence is the ultimate proof of love.

    1. Beautiful words, Andrew. Our dog added so much to our lives. Miss her big time. Thanks for what you wrote.

  3. I was not a dog lover before we welcomed Darby into our family. She's a black English Lab, which means she's a much smaller, tamer breed of lab. She's seriously part human and listens (and obeys) better than my children--which endures her to my heart. :) I love our Darby Rose and I can't imagine the day she'll be gone. I often tell my husband: "She's the dog we'll compare all other dogs to for the rest of our lives." I feel your pain, Wendy. I'm so sorry your lost your dog. Praying for you as you learn how to breath again.

  4. Thanks for the kind words, Gabrielle! Our dog was our first baby. Yep, part human. Completely get that. Some days are better than others. I appreciate your response to this post. Means a lot.

  5. I miss your thoughts, Wendy! I'm so sorry about your dog. Praying for you tonight.

    PEACE LIKE A RIVER is one of my favorites. Yes, one of the best opening lines penned!

    Love you! Can't wait to return here when I find normal again. :)

  6. Love you, Melanie. So cool to know you are a Peace fan like me. Thanks for the prayers.

  7. I've lost a few doggies in my life, and I feel I understand a little of what you must feel... I totally can see how it is easier to love a pet more than humans. So sorry :(

    1. Thanks Julie. We've been blessed with a spot of joy in this. Just five months after Korah passed away we've welcomed Panda into our home. She's a bundle of love and it has really helped me to smile remembering Korah and appreciate just how much of a "dog person" I am and will probably always be.


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