Geoffrey, Hsu-Shih, Kubie, and Kei-Lin

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the house is quieter now than it was,
the patter of paws on the hardwood floors
faded into the distance.
kei-lin, at 14, is well into the twilight
of her day of life,
and sleeps much of the day, dreaming,
perhaps, of earlier years and stronger bones.

memories clutter the house
though it is fresh cleaned, each room
crammed with images we do not wish
to forget:
kubie asleep in his favorite chair,
geoffrey in the loveseat,
hsu-shih gazing up at us
with that sad, wise shar-pei face
that rarely let us out of her sight.
Geoffry and Kei

we knew all along, of course, that these lights
would one day dim and go out;
each breath we inhaled
tasted for years partly of honey
and partly of vinegar, 
and every moment we spent together,
bright as a springtime bouquet,
carried within it the thorn
that cuts to the quick if held too closely.
still, we spent our days
easily, and without sadness,
and each night slept soundly together.
May Family

kubie was the first to leave us,
suddenly and without warning,
the day before easter, 1998.
geoffrey followed just before christmas,
the tumor in his heart
grown at last too large.
hsu-shih died last week, 
barely a month after surgery,
of pervasive mast cell sarcoma.

i will not sketch for you
the color of our grief;
suffice it to say
it is both waterproof and indelible.
i will tell you this:
kei-lin still rises each day,
as we do, on schedule,
and her appetite is strong
and she sleeps as soundly as ever
beside us on the bed.
and the day after hsu-shih died,
we arranged to adopt teddy,
as handsome a shar-pei pup
as any ever dreamed into existence,
and no star glows more brightly
even in the darkest night. 

if you have loved, and been loved,
if you have looked grief in the eye
and come face to face with your own mortality,
if you have held a living, breathing creature
in your arms until the breathing came no more,
and still had the courage to go forward,
to love again, and lavishly, 
if you have dared to be grateful
even in the face of unspeakable loss,

and if the fire within you
burns brighter 
year after passing year,

you know already
what our pets took years to teach us:
life holds no promises, 
but one:
we are each given only one lifespan,
but if lived in love
it spans eternity. 

Written by Allan May, February 25, 1999 

Kei-Lin passed from us at 16 in March of 2001. We now have two younger Shar-Pei, Teddy and Abby, who bring much joy into our lives. We think about Kei-Lin, Kubie, Hsu-Shih, and Geoffrey many times each day even after all this time.

-Deb Charsha and Allan May