|Our sweet Django|
I was sitting in my Manhattan office one quiet September morning back in 2008 on my way to a meeting when I got the call that my Uncle Richard had passed away. It was a sudden heart attack and he likely died in his sleep. I don’t even know how I made it home. The shock and disbelief was huge but the pain was encompassing. After I went through the motions of the funeral, I dove full-force into work to avoid thinking.
My Uncle Richard was not my father but yet he was. He did everything a father would, including treating me and my kids like his own. His absence was engulfing. His death was the first time in my adult life that I lost someone that I truly loved. September 23 was a day I would dread the whole year.
The first year after his death in 2009 was incredibly difficult. It felt like it still happened yesterday and yet it also felt like it had been a long time since I had seen him. The following year was difficult too and I grew resolute in the fact that September 23 would always be an emotionally tough day of grief.
We had Hayley, our rescued chihuahua, for a few years but I longed to bring another dog into our family. We visited North Shore Animal League and I found my new best friend, a sweet and cuddly black Lab mix. We named her Django ( I know, strange boy's name-this was well before the movie came out and my husband had loved the old Westerns which is where he got the name).
When I walked out of there with Django in my arms, I knew it was love. She immediately bonded with each of us. She trained fast and has been a joy since day one. I feel closer to her than any other dog I have ever had.
North Shore gave us a few pages of paperwork and I took it all with us to her first vet appointment. The tech asked us her birthday and I said she was eight weeks old but I wasn't sure of the exact date. The tech scanned the papers and said "Oh, here it is, September 23."
The news of her birthdate stopped me in my tracks. I knew at that moment that Django, my sweet puppy who had brought me such joy, the first joy I felt since losing my uncle was actually a gift from my uncle. The dates were too coincidental for me to think anything otherwise. From that day on, I knew that September 23 would no longer be only a day to mourn my uncle's death; it would be a day to celebrate Django's life — which is, of course exactly how he would have wanted it to be, and why I believe her sent her to me.
So today marks five years since my uncle left us, but it also marks three years since Django came into the world. Today, I will wear a shirt given to me by my very considerate brother-in-law from my uncle's favorite German restaurant while the kids and I will celebrate Django's special day.
Bittersweet for sure.