8 months ago


Selected Writings & Artwork by Harriett Copeland Lillard

Diary 1978-1981 dead.

Diary 1978-1981 dead. There’s nothing I can do. Every bone in his body is broken, crushed. It was fast. He never knew what hit him.” Life’s utter frustration with death—wails, cries, lamentations, tears! Dirty hands on tear-wet cheeks, like spring mud puddles. The back door slams, a minute later, running feet to the clinic, crying out, “Oh no! Not Tripper! My oldest and youngest stare down in disbelief. The age old cry of loss rents the spring evening as Kate falls to her knees by the still body, “Oh Tripper, get up, get up!” Stunned and shocked by his stillness, the meaning of death descends on her. This is it, final and irrevocable. She will never again have to ask what it means to die. We stand in a tight circle around him, holding on to each other, Piper and Jason clinging together, sunk in guilt because he was chasing them. “It’s our fault, all our fault. Oh Tripper, Tripper.” All of our memories turn back to the bitterly cold day in December when Mia brought him home from the parking lot of the grocery store. “Papa’s gonna kill me for bringing another dog home! I’m afraid to tell him. Go with me to the clinic Mama, please.” “Oh no, he won’t you know he picks up every stray, too, just like you kids, especially in this kind of weather. But I’ll go,” I reassured her, “He’s cute… looks just like Skipper, except smaller. I’ve always wanted shaggy dogs, now I have two.” There was never any doubt about his staying; he captivated us all, including Skipper who took over his training in the “how-to-be-a-dog” department. Now it was time to bury him. Jason, dragging the shovel behind him, and I carrying Tripper in my arms, led the procession to the pasture. We began to dig under a tree, Jason crying with every spade-full of earth. I laid him gently in the ground, and seeing Jason’s stricken face, took the shovel from him. When the first clods of dirt covered his small body, a whole new wave of sorrow came over us. This was the end. I had to take my tear-stained glasses off to see what I was doing. I thought of my good shoes he chewed up and the French chair he gnawed on, and was struck again at the insignificance of material things when placed beside the love we feel for each other and other living things. It was a sad Spring evening. The joy we had all felt only an hour earlier had turned to ashes. How delicate and tenuous the thread of life is for us all! 59

Diary 1978-1981 Death of Papa August 1979 Papa My stepfather died a month ago. It has been a difficult month. Many memories have flooded my thoughts daily, nightly, constantly, of times past never to be recalled, never to be experienced again. A terrible emptiness and longing for things to be as they were a year ago, a feeling that life will never be quite as good, as full, again. It was so fast that we didn’t have time to adjust to the thought of his being dead, before it actually happened. But that is selfishness on our part – such a blessing for him not to have suffered – yet I still listen for his whistle at the gate and think, “I better ask Papa about that,” at least a half dozen times each day. I was not ready for him to go. Mother’s phone call and my mad dash to the store filled with cold apprehension in the August heat, my voice screaming soundlessly inside my head, “No! No! This cannot be!" Each moment is etched forever in my memory like a movie re-running constantly. He looked like he was asleep in his chair near the front door of the store watching a golf tournament on TV. But there was no doubt. The look of death was upon him. My scalp prickled with the sensation of his still being there – his spirit was very close. My husband felt it too and would not leave him – it was as if we were experiencing our last communication with him. Through all the ensuing confusion of ambulance attendants, sheriff, police, Justice of the Peace – we stayed there with him. I placed my hand on his bald head in my old gesture of affection. As I always did when leaving him sitting there and said, “Bye Papa, see you later.” He was not yet cold, only clammy, still damp from perspiration. It had been terribly hot that day. They came to take him away and the spell was broken – he was gone, body and spirit. We turned to leave, locking the door behind us – I saw through the glass his hat lying there next to his chair. I left it. Now the ordeal truly began. The ordeal of telling the children, hysterical crying, endless streams of people and telephone calls, my mother’s stricken exhausted face, the helpless feeling of being tired without having done anything, wondering how we will be able to get through the next few days graciously and with some degree of dignity. 60