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When the Lilacs Bloom: Remembering Past Companions
23 Apr
By 2020
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By Randy Pierce

I still feel the deep hurt and well of tears for my animal companions who have passed away when a particularly poignant reflection of their time with me is brought into focus. This is true whether it’s on a more personal anniversary, such as my twelve years without my dog Modi as of April 19, 2012, or when simply learning of a friend experiencing the loss of a beloved pet.

I reflect on my very fortunate time spent with each of my now deceased pets with a hearty appreciation for the times we shared together. Despite the overall positive experience in remembering, it takes very little for the feelings grief to gain strength again. This is all right; it is simply a measure of the depth of my love and appreciation for them and the resulting magnitude of the loss.

I always try my best to express my empathy for those dealing with death and loss. I attempt to give the same countenance I urge myself to accept. I wish for my suffering friends the courage, strength, and support to manage the hurt until the solace of time might leave the good memories to overshadow the pain and grief of loss.

As I’ve just passed the anniversary of losing Modi and approach another date of significance for the death of Ostend, my first guide dog, I’m reminded of the words I wrote after Ostend’s passing. I share them here and hope they may resonate with all, especially those who truly understand the bonds we forge with our beloved animals!

When the Lilacs Bloom

Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Today there is the fragrant scent of lilacs on the air. Just over five years ago on April 19, 2000, I said farewell to my most loyal and loving Modi. On that day, my family through Rick and Monique gave to me a lilac bush to plant in Modi’s honor. Modi had the chance to approve of the bush before it was planted since we had time to prepare for Modi’s passing and this was time for the most loving farewell I could imagine. Each June near to my birthday, the lilac offers forth its fragrant bouquet in full view of my bay window into the back yard. Each time I detect the distinctive fragrance, I take time to warmly reflect upon the great companionship shared by Modi and myself. I consider it a delightful tribute to a more great experience than some may ever know. Such is the way of those magnificent bonds we forge in our lives. There is of course tremendous sadness with their passing even as there is a stronger and more marvelous connection which will outshine the bitter sharpness of pain and grief when first we lose beloved friends. So on April 19, the leaves of the lilacs may begin the budding rebirth of spring time so that in Modi’s passing anniversary, I may feel the continued yearly power of life and the continued potency of those many loving memories. Now we are in the season when the normal lilacs bloom and upon my table sits a vase full of them lovingly cut by my mother to ensure I could share in the delightful reminder. As my birthday remains a few weeks ahead, the bush from Modi is just starting to bud flowers. His is a Miss Kim Lilac which delays long enough to give me an annual birthday gift from my boy. Yet amidst the scents of the present lilacs and the recollections of Modi comes a sharing time.

Yesterday, May 24, 2005 at 5:54, my magnificent Ostend had the last beat of his heart while cradled in my lap. I laid in exactly the same room as I had with Modi some five years earlier and all the pains were equally sharp. Perhaps more so in that Ostend was a sudden and unexpected parting. Ostend had a tumor inside of his heart and it was bleeding steadily into his system. He was valiant and stoic to the end much like his counterpart in my Modi. While I know a myriad of marvels with each of these boys and while Ostend and I have a legacy of adventure in which our unique travels shall always hold infamy for our worlds, this is the time in which pain and sorrowful grief must powerfully overwhelm what will eventually become the same warm reflection I share with the memory of Modi. I know I must honor his life and our companionship with the strength to strive towards those times and so shall I manage. I already feel the hope of looking forward to that time even as I know it is far too recent a wound to my own heart for such to be readily reached. Still I take some small comfort in knowing such will come.

Modi left me in the early precursors to springtime, when April showers begin the return to the lilac’s life. Ostend said farewell when that precursor of life has surged into the bountiful flowers. They each shared such a similar and pivotal part of my life and my love for each was never diminished by my love for the other. That is the marvelous gift of love that requires no rationing to share its splendor with all those whom are valued treasures in our world. I shall love them each continuously with the fervor which is our way together. When the lilacs bloom I shall be reminded of the love which never wavered from each of these companions. Though it is always with me and I will reflect often upon this love, I am simple enough to appreciate the value of symbols and the reminders of the world around me.

In respect and tribute to Ostend he shall have his own symbol. There is a place in front of my home which has called for a planting. To this location I shall build a small shrine with a marvelous plant as centerpiece. There is a blooming bush known as a “bleeding heart” which in my visual days was always a delight to me. In honor of his bleeding heart and the pain to my own heart, such shall be my tribute to Ostend as well. It blooms a bit later than the lilac and with this effort I will know that when my first boy Modi has sent the lilacs, they are a preparation as well for the bleeding heart approach of Ostend. Equally poignant will be the reminder that in the bleeding heart is a beauty and delight which although symbolic in some ways of the pain is likewise symbolic of the beauty which was so great as to allow such pain. This hurt will go to splendor of recollection in which our beautiful sharing is recalled fondly and with warmth. Each year I shall look forward to the world reminding me of my boys When the Lilacs Bloom.

I love you both my Modi and my Ostend.

18 responses to “When the Lilacs Bloom: Remembering Past Companions”

  1. Colleen says:

    What a beautiful tribute, Randy. Brought tears of sadness in the loss of all of my 4 legged friends but also tears of joy in the most treasured memories of our days together and the love and devotion they all brought to my life. It is my firm belief that they all continue to live with us in spirit and that we will be reunited one day.

    Thank you so much for sharing!!

  2. Paulette says:

    Ah Randy, these posts brought back such memories of those boys. They were such wonderful souls. And you made me think of my Nero too. What joy and love these dogs bring to our lives. They see us the way we should be and make us want to be that person.
    Thank you for those memories and I’ll be thinking of them and you.

  3. Ned says:

    That is a wonderful tribute. Our dogs can be real good pals. We have been down that path three times with companions, and it looks like we will be headed there again in the not so distant future with our four legged friend.
    When it is past time, with our friends seems so short, but their memory stays with us for a lifetime.

  4. Jim says:

    Beautiful, touching picture of Oz on your lap at Gillette Stadium

  5. Kim K says:

    Oh my gosh. This post effected me as much as it did on May 25, 2005 when I first read it. Although this time I am not sitting at my desk when everyone walking by thought I was having some sort of a breakdown as I was sobbing onto my keyboard. I am sobbing again, but by myself thinking of you Randy and your vast capacity for love and your unbelievable gift of expression of that love to so many both two, and four legged, in so many ways. Thanks so much for sharing this again.

  6. Jen W. says:

    Thank you for this wonderful blog. I just lost my furry soul mate of 13 1/2 years, my little baby girl Noelle. She had been more faithful and true to me than I ever could have been to myself. Only a dog knows how to love like that. I am having a hard time getting through these days, I got married last weekend and Noelle was supposed to be part of the ceremony. She was a cancer survivor, or so we thought, in the end, the cancer took her body, but it NEVER took her spirit. She was a strong girl and brought humor to my life, even up until the days before her death. I am still having a hard time accepting that she is not here, it hasn’t even been two weeks. It is helpful to know that the pain will be replaced with the happy memories over time. Thanks again for sharing….

  7. Paula says:

    Randy – Thank you so much for the beautiful tribute to Modi and Ostend. I SO wish I had met Modi, and you know what a privilege it was for me to meet Ostend. I only wish our pets could live forever. I will always think of Modi and Ostend when I see the lilacs each spring. My love to you, Tracy, and the incredible Mighty Quinn.

  8. John Swenson says:

    What touching and heartfelt words. They caused me spend a few.moments remembering the many pets I have shared my life with. Thinking of you today Randy as you remember Ostend.

  9. Randy says:

    Thanks John and to so many others from last year. I found myself wonderring how Noelle’s memories are reflected a year later.

  10. Lise says:

    You are an amazing writer and share your spirit and the spirit of Modi and Osten in such a way to bring joy to the heart in remembering both of them. I send our best to you during this season of re-grief knowing that the love you shared with them will bring you through to tomorrow and the brightness of everyday.

  11. Randy, your amazingly moving tribute to Modi and Ostend brought back memories of Sally carrying each of her 3 loving cats to the Animal Hospital on Ferry Road. They had been such special company to her over a period of 19 years and each lived to be approximately 17 years. In all of our years together (51+), I cannot remember a sadder time for her. I take pleasure in believing that, somehow, they have been reunited.

  12. Doug Kilgore says:

    Thanks for sharing this again Randy. It was an honor to have mer Ostend. Just gave my Willy a weepy man hug, and also thinking of my beloved Murphy cat, who passed on Good Friday 2012 just shy of her 20th birthday, with my hands petting her as she left, and who also lays, appropriately, under the lilac bush. :’)

  13. Randy says:

    Strange how I was brought here today for the first time since losing Quinn this January. It was a hard read for me though watery eyes don’t slow the blind reader since it’s my ears doing that part of it. Some good reminders for me as Autumn is snuggled to my feet and I think about this. I did not make a memorial for Quinn as nothing appropriate resonated for me. I think his Legacy looms largest in the accomplishments and people he reached. No slight to Modi or Ostend in this. What really stands prominently for me is how amazingly fortunate I’ve been for all these wonderful canine companions (present Autumn company included!)

  14. Randy says:

    With the anniversary of Modi upon me I’m back reading this again today though I suspect few read down through the comments, I do and my own comments have value to me through time. THere’s an old Chinese proverb that a man cannot cross the same river twice for neither the man or the river are the same. The reading still evokes emotion as does the anniversary for Modi, Ostend and Quinn as well. Tomorrow I’m going to run the Boston marathon for my first time and Im doing it in honor of Quinn in particular but really some part of all my life is always dedicated to the wonderful dogs who have been so much a part of my life. Last year I could not face this blog with the loss of Quinn so strong but today I am here and amidst the romber reflections is much love and celelbration for my pups. It was a particularly tough winter this year and the buds are not yet on the lilac as I walked outside to a beautiful morning and checked. We still have snow in the yard but I know those lilacs are coming and that is true metaphorically for me amidst all my challenges. Fifteen years later Modi you are still well loved and well remembered and you’ll have a mile on the Marathon route that is dedicated to you, a difficult mile as you get mile 19 in honor of today being the 19th, the day we said Farewell.

  15. Joan Locke says:

    With every mile, I know you will not only have thousands and thousands of people cheering for you but you will also have three special dogs in heaven smiling and barking. They will be so proud of the special parts they have played in your life and if you feel a little push, you will know where it came from.

    Will be keeping up with your race tomorrow. GO RANDY!!!!!

  16. Ben Frost says:

    Randy, you’ve reminded me of the wonderful, mournful poem by Walt Whitman, writing about Abraham Lincoln – When the lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed… As you run in tribute on this day, remember that those who have left are not truly gone, so long as we remember.

  17. Vicki Orkin says:

    Thank you for sharing those loving thoughts. I have lost 6 beloved dogs over my lifetime. I always get another one because I just can’t imagine what life is like without a dog. I have lived with dogs since I was 6 years old. I particularly relate to where you said your love for one is not diminished by your love for another, so true.

  18. Randy says:

    So yet another year has gone by so quickly and yet so full as is my life these days. Yesterday was my second Boston Marathon and while I finished, it was not a running like last year’s accomplishment but a trial of determination amidst the newest round of medical challenges. I did not have one mile for various people or pets who touch my life though Modi, Ostend and Quinn were talked about much on the Newton Hills as Jose and I were trying to distract me away from the pain and assorted challenges.

    Autumn has become quite the love in my life and there is still more joy in my reflections than the sharp grief more close to their deaths. I am proud to say that my book project includes a chapter about Modi which is complete int he first draft and review. It was amazing how much influence into my life I found in tha tmarvelous boy. he is the foundation upon which all of my relationships with my dogs have been built and what a solid foundation he provided. Thank you Modi for your gifts which are with me still!

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