“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
It’s been a rough week.
On Monday, our faithful dog, Butch Mbwa, passed away. He was a very special friend and companion to us, as he adopted us when we lived in Kenya and has literally traveled across the world as a member of our family. Butch was also an old man who suffered from serious arthritis issues, and even though he was mentally sharp, we’ve had a feeling for a long time that there would be a day when he simply wouldn’t be able to stand up or get around anymore.
Despite the desire to put that day off indefinitely, it finally caught up with us.
Throughout the week, I’ve found myself stopping to look in the living room to see if he’s taking a nap because it’s just so quiet. But, of course, he is gone.
My heart is sad. I also know that this, too, shall pass. And, as I know we’ll outlive all of our pets, I try to remember the mantra that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, which I sincerely believe.
Curiously enough, just a couple days before Butch’s passing, Cory and I attended the Rise Lantern festival, which takes place in the desert about 30 miles outside of Las Vegas. The festival has been held here for a of couple years now, but this was the first time we’ve attended. Though I’ve seen photos of lantern festivals in Asia, I honestly had no idea what to expect.
To say the Rise Lantern festival was anything short of spectacular would be an understatement. There was something incredibly moving and magical about thousands of lit lanterns being released into the vast sky at the same time, like the heavens had dumped buckets of stars over our heads.
The festival means different things to different people – for some it is simply a spectacle and for others it is an opportunity to let go and heal from something hurtful. At the time, we sought only to experience it, writing messages to our loved ones and about our relationship on our lanterns before releasing them into the air. For us, it was a night of open-mouthed wonder, trying to capture the incredible beauty of the situation with both our cameras and memories.
Less than 48 hours later, we stood crying at the vet, holding Butch Mbwa as he passed away. I don’t necessarily believe in an afterlife, but I do believe he’s in a better place now. At the very least, he has been released from his pain.
And I know that even when there’s a dark place – a sadness that sits heavy in my chest – there is lightness too. There is hope. There is happiness. And there are millions of stars overhead.
One of them burns for Butch Mbwa.