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art theplaceMy dog died.

Not to be Debbie Downer or anything, but that sentence has been ricocheting around my head all weekend. She’s gone. Sixteen years old, with 15 of those as a member of our family.

I got the phone call from my mom Friday evening. Already a few beers in, I wasn’t paying attention to my cell vibrating and only realized she tried to contact me with the subsequent voicemail left. 

Apparently, my dog knew it was time for her to make her exit. Though she was very frail, somewhat blind and deaf, she somehow managed to push her way our the screen door of my parent’s house, mosey across a busy street, wander down an embankment, only to fall into the nearby river and drown. Though my neighbor heard her bark in the distance, his valiant attempt to jump into the rushing waters and revive her proved too late. 

That said, it has been 41 years since there’s been at least one dog in my parent’s lives, 30 for myself (my entire life). Dog owners all can attest to the mere fact that your dog is like your child, your brother or sister, who is ever-present in all matters of the household, for good or ill. When life is all rainbows and unicorns, they’re there perpetuating the happiness. When life hits the fan, they’re there with a wet nose, loving eyes and the power to make a bad day disappear with the simplest of nudges and snuggling.

So, I’ve been kind of sauntering around downtown Waynesville in this dreamlike state, one of wonder and reflection, where I find myself taking a personal inventory of my own existence. It is a surreal sensation that always comes when I’m informed of a death. You float along the sidewalk, your senses keen to your surroundings. The air is sweeter, the passerby voices blurring to where all you hear is the sounds of birds or an airplane way up in the bluebird skies shining down upon you.

Death. The one thing we cannot escape. The one thing we all have in common. The one thing that awaits us at the end of this haphazard yet glorious rollercoaster we call life. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the sheer notion of death. Not that dying weighs on my every thought, but I ponder death to make sense of who I am, how I conduct myself and what it is I want to do to make the most of my time on this floating rock in space. 

For only being three decades old, I sure as hell have seen a lot of death in my time. My parents were married for 13 years before they had kids, so I’ve not only grown up in an older family, I’ve also been around older friend’s of my folks. And with that, I was born an old soul, someone who finds enjoyment from the ancient mysteries and characters of flesh and blood in the world. 

And throughout my travels, I’ve experienced a lot of funerals. Tragic deaths as a result of car accidents, motorcycle wrecks, suicides and drug overdoses, too many beloved friends to count, where I find solace in keeping alive their smiles and laughter in my slumber. And then you have final goodbyes of elderly relatives and those who fought hard against sickness, who are tying a bow on a life, well, lived. 

I’ve never met a stranger, and because of that, I’ve been lucky enough to make an innumerable amount of dear friends within my endeavors. I wander endlessly, strike up conversations, make sincere connections, and keep moving along with that new friendship attached to my being like an endless hoop of charms. Nowadays, as a journalist, my star-crossed encounters with humanity have jumped exponentially. 

The downside of all these beautiful friendships is the idea that someday this person won’t be around. Someday they’ll be gone — poof — just like that, which is something I always remember before I act or react to a situation. It keeps my intent in line with the cosmos. I want everyone I adore to know just how solely unique and mesmerizing they are — everyone should realize that about themselves. No one should wake up wondering if they matter and go to bed with a sigh of alienation and forgotten dreams like a dusty photograph of youth and promise tucked away in a book on a shelf in a room you can’t seem to get the courage to enter.

And even if there are certain individuals you have eliminated from your field of vision, that doesn’t mean you should leave the last interaction open-ended or negative. Sure, you might go left and they might go right, but I want that person to know, no matter what, I’ll always cherish the good things we shared together, in past friendships and former relationships. 

Death isn’t the “end all” we make it out to be. It’s the beginning of something to someone, for when one fire slowly burns out, it’s embers float above, in every direction, sparking another fire to erupt and illuminate the darkness, full of color and warmth.

Head out your front door and remember what it means to truly be alive. We only have so many chances and days to soak in the wonders of the universe, to seek out and find the most important thing on earth — ourselves. 

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

 

Hot picks

1 The Water’n Hole Bar & Grill (Waynesville) will have Dirty Soul Revival (rock/blues) July 18.

2 “Heritage Day on Main” will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 18 in downtown Franklin.

3 Derailed Bar & Lounge (Bryson City) will have Heidi Holton (blues/folk) July 25.

4 A special Chilean dinner and performance will be at 7 p.m. July 23 at The Classic Wineseller in Waynesville.

5 Groovin’ on the Green (Cashiers) summer concert series on the Village Commons will have Joe Lasher Jr. (country/rock) July 24.

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