When Death comes a knocking.

Only two things are certain, and the most unsettling of these is not taxes.

Yet Death, parodied mercilessly, is one of our pin-ups. From the mediaeval death in his cloak and worms ensemble, to Bill and Ted or Terry Pratchett, he remains a surprisingly constant figure. Scrooge’s third spirit is cloaked and bone-fingered just so; we will meet this celebrity one day, each and every one.

Today I heard an old Sufi story. It concerned a great king who had a dream, in which Death came to see him. And when he spoke, Death said:”I am coming , out of compassion, to tell you that tomorrow at sunset, you will die. ‘ he spoke very reasonably but the king was afraid and woke up, sweating and unable to sleep any more.

He summoned his wisest men , each of whom listened to his dream and put forward a different interpretation so that the king became more and more confused. An old and faithful servant took him aside and said:these men will take forever to reach a conclusion and the sun has already risen. Take your horse and ride as fast as you can as far away from the palace as you are able.”

The king had the fastest horse in the land, and he did as the old servant said. He rode until he reached a foreign land and its greatest city, and dismounted to look his horse in the eyes and thank him.

And then, he felt a spectral hand on his shoulder.

Death chuckled. “It is I who should be thanking your horse” he said to the king. ” I knew you were destined to die her under this tree at sunset but I cold not think how you would get here in time!”

A visit to the Bronte’s parsonage in Haworth turns up a similarly imperative Death. Branwell, the Bronte brother, lived a troubled life. Touched by the same brilliance as his sisters, he nevertheless could not seem to get it together. He drifted between tutoring jobs, never fulfilling early promise, and died of tuberculosis aggravated by alcoholism and drug addiction.

His last opus was so very similar to three king’s ream in the Sufi story.

Bramwell has a visit from the reaper; but he protests that he simply cannot accompany Death. To me, it seems he is just to poorly. Or perhaps he wishes to sleep late, though not as late as death might wish.

We make sense of the inevitable yawning loss by using story and caricature, by imbuing Death with our humanity, fallibility and even humour.

And so to heartbreak. As I write I sit in a magical garden on the edge of the forest lit by candlelight, and there is someone important who is not here.

I am emboldened to tell you this by a glass of prosecco. I have been putting it off because, my friends, Macaulay the Dog has stepped across the great divide between life and death. He has humbled me by dying first, and though only a terrier, now he knows a great deal more about the beyond than I do.

He has been becoming a little eccentric of late. In a walk with Felix he simply turned tail from the heart of the woods and ran back across the main road which separated the forest from our house. A white van hit him, and two days later he stepped across the Great Barricade, leaving his earthly body in our arms and running to meet those humans who loved him here and are waiting for him there.

I miss him, reader, more than words can say.

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39 thoughts on “When Death comes a knocking.

  1. So, so sorry to read this, Kate, he seems to have been a constant in your life ever since I started following your blog. Such a big hearted chap and a huge source of joy, clearly, I can only imagine how hard this must have hit you.

  2. When I first read this news, I was in Corris, Wales. And I cried. Not as much as you and Mad and Fe, but he was a special soul. I’m sorry he and his brilliant mustache are gone. xo

    1. Thanks Andra. He was a constant, and a friend, and the source of so many stories. His ashes were scattered at his favourite pungent watering hole, and his spirit dances in every glint of sunlight on the most brilliant summers day. Freddie misses him.

  3. I stumbled upon a poem today about the relationship of “man and dog” and the grief of parting. I cried just reading the poem and projecting myself into the picture. I’m so very sorry for your loss and we readers do feel like we had a long-distance relationship with this sweet member of your family. He had so much personality! Hugs to each of you, Kate.

  4. I came to love him too Kate, I loved the stories of the mischief he got into; I am saddened, and in tears, at the loss of your beautiful dog, McCauley, the second I’ve heard of in two days, from two ladies. who loved their friends dearly,philosophermouseof the hedge lost her magnificent dog ‘German’ a few days ago,I feel I knew them both through their persons tales.

    and now I’m dreading the day when I shall bid my Coco farewell.

    1. Brian, it’s never easy. I suppose it has made me realise all over gain how precious every day with them is. And rather like letting a teenager have more and more freedom to grow into adulthood, letting go when they die is a learning process that is as much part of life as death.

  5. I’m so very sorry to hear about your precious Macaulay!
    I am crying with you. I know you will miss him so very much!
    The furry ones who adopt us add such joy, fun, and love to our lives!
    My dog, Cooper, and I send you love. I send (((HUGS))) and Coop sends kisses.
    Love,
    Carolyn

  6. When I saw the preview picture and post title, I dread what I would read. Words cannot express the sorrow, or provide comfort comfort, when one looses their dog (what happened to Macaulay is one of my greatest fears with my dogs). I believe that our dogs are waiting for us in heaven.

  7. This is the third this week.
    Dad always said “Let the dog run ahead on the trail to scare the snakes off.”
    Ah, looks like the good are running ahead to clear and secure the way for us. Waiting patiently for us to catch up and go on together
    May peace and comfort find you.

  8. My condolences on your loss. I know all too well the loss of a dog. It’s never easy, it always hurts. I’ve got a very senior boy now, Smoky is 14 and three quarters years old. He’s gotten wobbly ans sleeps a lot more than he used to, but I treasure him as I’ve treasured each of my boys over the years. In a way, they never leave, their bottomless, endless love is still with me, just their physical bodies gone, but I miss tham all still. I will miss reading of Macaulay’s adventures. I know it sounds traitorous but get another dog, soon, Freddie will thank you.

    1. Aquila, one of the reasons for the tardiness of reply is our new puppy, Riley. You are absolutely right that Freddie was bereft, and we all missed the antics of a small wiry terrier in the house. Every dog is a personality all their own, and Mac was such a big person. We often joked that if he were portrayed in mediaeval art, where important people are large and insignificant people tiny, Mac would have been a very large dog indeed. Riley is following suit, in his own inimitable way.

  9. Ah, Kate; your post has been sitting, waiting for me to open. Coward that I am, I just couldn’t, even though I knew that Maccauley had passed on to the great beyond, I was hesitant to read your words here. All I can say is that I am sorry. So sorry. May you find some measure of comfort in the many joys this dear friend brought to you over many years, many romps through your magical forest. Hugs and love, Kate. Penny

    1. Thank you, Penny. Mac brought us so many fabulous years, and deserves to run riot through Heaven 😀 We have a new small black floor mop who has just arrived, and is flying the terrier flag in the Shrewsday household once again. Fred is much relieved to have another dog in the house again.

  10. As a loving pet mom (and mo for that matter) this breaks my heart. I had animals growing up, but they were always “family pets”. Now as a mom who is headed towards an empty nest, the love I get and give to my dog is like none I’ve ever known. My heart and thoughts are with you. ❤️

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