There are moments in time that reset the clock to zero. When you have to start counting from that point because it has such significance that you start to think of your life as having a “before” and an “after” that moment. They almost always catch you by surprise, even when part of you can see it coming. In the “before” you would stop to absentmindedly pet a soft little brown dog in the bedroom doorway. “After,” a brown towel left carelessly on the floor and caught out of the corner of your eye leaves you sobbing in that spot on the floor.
In the “before” you think know how much you love them, but it’s not until the “after” you realize how hard it will be to live without them. You learn the feeling of the air being abruptly sucked from your lungs when you’re just minding your own business during some mundane task. You learn how necessary it is to sit and stare into space and just cry until you feel wrung out. You learn that, months later, a year later, the pain hasn’t actually lessened, you’ve just gotten better at leaving it running in the background.
You learn that painful loss changes you. You could get mad about traffic, but it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. You could get offended at some petty slight, but you know it’s not worth the energy. Instead, you hug the red dog and the old black dog, and give the little black dog a kiss on the snout that makes her sneeze and ask for another. You thank the little brown dog for all she taught you.