Ruby passed away a little over a week ago. I believe she was five, maybe six. She was adorable. She was loved. Her young life was just beginning. So much was ahead; so much is left behind - a broken-hearted family, devastated friends, unrelenting tears, and questions that never fully can be answered.
Yes, she died of complications related to leukemia. We know that, but a bigger mystery torments us. Why Ruby? Why this lovely child who as her mother described, was a bundle of energy, always laughing, and absolutely full of life? Why her?
It’s a question so many mothers and fathers (and grandma, in this case) have asked when other tragedies have befallen. Yet we ask still: Why? We wonder, we speculate, and we curse a fickle fate we cannot understand. I am left empty.
A month ago when we (the German Shepherd Dog walkers) learned of Ruby’s illness, we were stunned, but hope had blossomed. The prognosis was good. Percentages were on her side. She would be well again. On a whim, we delivered her a stuffed GSD, some books, and our well wishes even though, to be honest, we didn’t really know Ruby well. We had only seen her around, usually with Grandma and brother in tow, always anxious to take a peek at those big dogs.The fact that Ruby was only a little kid acquaintance of ours did not matter though. Hearing that she was sick, on chemo, and knowing that her struggle was oh, so real, snagged our heartstrings. We cared.
And then there was today. Today. Today we walked our GSDs by the house as we always do, wondering, always wondering. How’s Ruby?
Her parents uncharacteristically were outside when we passed this morning so we took a chance. We hopefully asked, “How’s Ruby?”
The strongest mother and father I know on this day managed to find the words to tell us that their sweet Ruby had passed away. We were stricken. They were gracious. Words of condolence, of understanding, of sadness, of connection captured the moment and we will not soon forget. I cried all the way home (and I thought I had used up every tear I had). I am emotional still, as was my fellow GSD walker. My husband sighed when we were home. “This is so sad. I feel exhausted, like the wind has been taken out of my sails,” he said. I understood completely.
If I were a miracle worker I would take away the pain of loss this family feels, but I cannot. I can only empathize, and I did, trying to put words to the feelings I believe a person has when one loses a child. The days that follow a death such as Ruby’s are hollow, empty, and tormented beyond belief. It is as though one has been tossed into a twilight zone. Focus, reason, motivation, and enthusiasm are ripped away, at least for a while, in the face of a new reality. And it hurts. It will hurt for a long, long time, perhaps forever. On some level, however, that fact is acceptable because it is verifiable - the depth of one’s grief equates to the depth of one’s love. It’s an odd comfort we can offer ourselves. In the end, no matter what outsiders may impose, we are not meant to forget the intensity with which we loved our child. And we need not.
Rest in peace, little Ruby. Your brief life was precious and a gift to us all.