We had an awful snowstorm the day I decided to put Atlas down. The vet’s office was closing early because it was the day before Thanksgiving. I knew everyone working there was eager to get on the road because travel was already treacherous and getting worse by the minute. Alaya and Wayne rushed to make it before they closed so they could say their good-byes.
While we waited, I took Atlas on our last walk. He always loved the snow, and though it complicated some of the decision-making that took place, at that moment it was welcome. Atlas was happy. He got to walk in the snow. Then while he was surrounded by the three people he loved, he went to sleep forever. While I never wanted to say good-bye, it was about as peaceful of a death as I could hope for.
The next morning, on Thanksgiving Day, I went for a walk to be alone with my thoughts, and I’ll always remember there was a strangely beautiful snow phenomenon. Snow crystals shaped like feathers had formed everywhere. Some were almost two inches in length. I’m sure that seemingly random detail will always be etched in my memory. Just as I’m sure seeing snow fall will always fill me with a bittersweet sense. I have so many happy memories of Atlas romping in it. It was my favorite time to walk in the woods with him. Yet I’ll always wish he could still be beside me enjoying it too.
A few days after the Thanksgiving storm, it warmed up again and I was livid. I could not bear the thought of the world seeming happy and alive. How dare the sun shine brightly. How dare the stupid birds sing like it was spring. It was a metaphysical slap in the face. Thankfully it was short-lived.
Winter came back with a vengeance. And I needed it. While others grumbled, ready for the snow to be gone, I was silently grateful. I needed time to mourn. Now in the interest of full disclosure, I am not the one who has to deal with moving the snow around in our household, but I still had to deal with walking Halley on leash when she had to go out. And I still had to clean off the car and freeze while I drove to work with a broken heater. Still, I welcomed winter.
Today, however, is the first day of spring. I’m glad we have had four solid months of winter because at least now I don’t feel I’ll go into a murderous rage if I see green grass or flowers. At the same time, I won’t mind if we have two more months of snow. While I’ve needed time, I don’t know that I can say I’m healing. I do know I still haven’t figured out how to stop missing Atlas so acutely. I recently read a comment about how Liam Neeson said six years later he still sometimes expects his wife to come through the door. I get it. At the same time, that revelation terrifies me. I guess a lot of people face the same dilemma. We go through our days. We can still laugh and smile even, but forevermore something will be missing. I don’t know that I’ll ever figure out how to stop missing Atlas.