Ode to Lilly: Starksboro man reflects on the loss of a good dog

Editor’s note: Lawrence Jones of South Starksboro wrote this piece about Chris Marion’s black Lab “Lilly.”
I am no stranger to death. I have buried many people and honored more in services dedicated to their memories. I have sat with those in their last moments. I have hugged many four-footed companions as they drifted off to sleep, never to reawaken in this world.
But today was different. I missed Lilly’s death, for she lived next door, and in Vermont, next door is a small hike away. Her body was still warm when I got there, without my two, who regarded Lilly as their mother, but they didn’t need to be there at that moment — for the sake of the humans in Lilly’s life. We had a prayer, and we reminisced, and I heard stories I had not known, but then I took my leave and returned home to tell my two that Lilly was gone. They didn’t really understand, but they knew I was sad, and they comforted me.
Then a few hours later, the excavator had defrosted enough to arrive from the family business, and the family and I and my two went down in the 5 degree cold to watch the digging. Lilly would lie on our land, because it was on the way to our pond where the humans — and Lilly — loved to slip and glide across the ice. It was just the right spot, on the edge of the woods, and it will make a nice glade in springs and summers to come.
My two were intrigued by the heavy machine that dug so rapidly and easily, and so deeply, in the frozen soil. Still, I don’t think they understood, although they understand much, but they were strangers to death, until the hole was dug and the machine was silent and we retrieved a sled from the barn to bring the good Labrador’s body out into the cold.
Then they began to perceive.
We waited for the small procession of family members, ranging in age from 50 years to 4 months, to assemble outside the door of the house. Mother pulled Lilly’s body on her bed on the sled. Son with granddaughter tucked kangaroo-style into his jacket followed. Daughter-in-law came next. My two leapt to see their mentor, and then one understood and one wanted her to get up and play. On the way to the place, we brought up the rear, and Indiana, who understood, who loved her as a daughter loves her mother, cried all the way.
We paused next to the spot, and my two said their last good-byes, both now knowing. Lilly on her bed dropped into her final resting place. Simba stood on the edge and, by accident or on purpose, pushed some dirt onto Lilly’s body. We watched close by as the excavator, son and granddaughter at the controls, did its work and did it well. A large stone that a few moments before had been deep down now marks the spot. The earth is level and tamped down and with snow will soon look undisturbed.
I and my two left with hugs and sighs. We looked back from up the trail, and the four of the family had embraced. It was cold, hands and pads were freezing, but we saw and we knew the warmth of family love!

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