Life (and You) Still Teaching Me

Life (and You) Still Teaching Me


Dear Jonah,

Most days, I’m okay. Really. I’m almost never without you on my mind or very close by. But I don’t dwell much. I enjoy my life, and I eagerly meet each new day.

Meandering along the dog park's back path

Here’s why we love the footpath so much!

I do still feel sorry for myself. Because everyday, you’re still gone. And you’re still nineteen. You don’t disappear at an older age as the years go on. Everyday, my young kid is gone. That hurt, that profound sense of irreparable loss, never fully goes away.

On days when Charlie and I get to spend time at the dog park, we meander along the back trail enjoying the quiet and the solitude. Which is often when I will think about you.

Today, our walk was a lesson in humility and perspective. In life, sooner or later, we all confront loss. The best outcome, perhaps, is that ours will in some way prepare us to be a better presence as others confront theirs.

We met up with two families whose time of loss has arrived.

The first was the gruffest, coarsest man to take to that back trail — a man I variously find to be offensive and an enjoyable distraction. He’s not a bad guy, although recently his political rhetoric had driven me away. But today, he’d been reduced to a quiet, almost unassuming seeker of solace and, if possible, miracles. His 15-year old canine had fought the good fight. Only a year or so back, we’d all watched him rally from his formidable battle with cancer and emerge victorious, rewarded with many months of painlessness and almost youthful canine fun. But today we learned the cancer had returned with a vengeance and there was to be no further reprieve. They had come to the dog park, driving their van down the half-mile footpath so that their weakened companion could enjoy the woods one last time. They were taking him to the vet later that day, and I imagine that by now their canine pal has breathed his last. Dogs and humans together were gathered around this family, offering what words (and pets) of love and encouragement … and gratitude for his excellent life … that we could find.

As we were softly conversing with one another and caressing all of our dogs, an older man arrived with his own pet beside him. Missing, however, was the man’s wife who, for many years, had led the three of them through these woods with a joie-de-vivre that everyone had found irresistible and infectious. We’d loved seeing this couple each time they blessed us with their radiant personas. Age and dementia, however, has been steadily robbing his wife of her life-force and him of his beloved 53-year companion. She no longer speaks English, having reverted to the language of her birth, and she packs a bag everyday in the hopes that the man she no longer recognizes will allow her to return home to her husband. He is irremediably despondent as I listen for a good twenty minutes to his story. He is such a kind, lovely man. He thanks me for taking the time to let him banter on. I have few words for him so all I can do is let him speak. And cry inside. This disease is relentless and with his wife being physically in great shape, she’s going to be trapped inside this ever-growing shadow for a long time yet to come.

jonah-2008-08-011-trip2ubvideoAfter saying our goodbyes to both of these families, Charlie and I headed back up the footpath. I stopped to hug him, grateful that my life is filled with such abundant blessing.

I of course remember that you’re still missing. But neither you nor I are in anywhere near the kind of pain that these other folks are experiencing. I’m hoping that my heart has learned enough from your death to be able to offer some real comfort to them. Because they really need it.


BillyLife (and You) Still Teaching Me


Join the conversation
  • Leona Paul - September 22, 2016 reply

    My heart is still stinging from the loss of my Susan. people say it gets better with time but they are out of their minds, or never lost a child. Baynard was hard and still is, but no child should ever go before a parent. So my heart is with the Dreskin family because I understand what you are going through, because I’m there.
    Love and big hugs and kisses. Leona Paul

  • Giselle - September 21, 2016 reply

    I have lost my son in a different way.
    Most people don’t want to share their grieving. …just highlights.
    Your eloquence on this touched my heart and soul.
    I needed this.
    Alone and grieving in Missouri. ….

  • Laurie Leibowitz - September 21, 2016 reply

    Thank you Billy.

  • Jo Hariton - September 21, 2016 reply

    You so often inspire me with your wisdom and grace. Thanks Billy!

  • Julie Danan - September 20, 2016 reply

    What a deep insight can flower when we realize that our pain is the pain shared by many. Thank you for being so openhearted and sharing your grief and your comfort.

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