After Saying Goodbye – The Power of an Image to Heal

Winnie the Pooh probably said it best when he reminded us that we can count ourselves lucky when we have had something that makes saying good-bye so hard. A couple of weeks ago, we said good-bye to Raylan, our eleven-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback.  He had been a part of our family from the very beginning.  For the better part of the last decade, he filled our lives with warm welcomes after a long day, unconditional love and unmitigated affection.   It’s hard to imagine any dog with a bigger heart.

So, understandably, his passing left a huge hole in not only our hearts, but also in the entire energy of our home.  We felt it the moment we walked back in the door after we returned from the vet, having said our final good-byes to Raylan.  The house was so much quieter.  Even though we still had Tovin (our enthusiastic Australian Shepard), the house felt a bit empty…almost lifeless.

The emptiness didn’t abate.  We missed Raylan.  A lot.  There were reminders of him everywhere.  His hair on the floor.  The scratched windowsill from his exuberant “greetings” whenever anything came within twenty feet of our front yard.  His dog bowl and bed. 

As memories often do, these reminders led me to look for photos.  I asked Katie to find pictures she’d taken of Raylan on her phone, and I opened the media folder on my hard drive to look for more pictures and videos of my own.  With those in hand, I cobbled together a short 2-minute video.  A lot of the pictures and footage weren’t that good from a technical perspective–the white balance was off and many of the shots were out of focus.  But none of that mattered.  Together they captured a small part of the spirit that was Raylan.  And for the next couple of weeks, after climbing in bed, we would hold hands and watch the video. 

And we’d cry. 

While Katie’s tears didn’t surprise me, mine did.  When Raylan was alive, I wasn’t exactly overly effusive with my affection.  Frequently, I was annoyed by his loud barking, the whining when he couldn’t be in the room with us, his overly enthusiastic greetings.  Yet, after I finished the video, I realized that those were the things I found myself missing the most.  The video reminded me that Raylan could show more honest affection by leaning on you for a back rub, than a lifetime of human handshakes.  Though I was sixty years old, there were things about love that I still needed to learn, and Raylan had been my teacher.

It seems there are many reasons for us to take photographs. To remember, is one of the best.