the transitional object

heart-shaped kibble crumb
heart-shaped kibble crumb from bailey

a few days ago, we had to put our dog of 13 1/2 years to sleep. i had never done it before and was surprised by how peaceful it was…but it also felt so final. there was no doubt about it, bailey was really gone.

before they gave him a sedative, the vet tech gave him a bunch of treats. we had tried earlier in the morning to give him some “chicken meatballs”, but he had refused. in this moment, however, bailey ate up every single treat. he wagged his tail once, then twice, and looked up at her for more.

the vet then gave him the sedative to help him sleep before the final injection would be administered. we were up by his head and he fell into a deep, calm sleep. before the vet gave him the last shot, i looked down at the blanket and right next to him were a couple of heart-shaped kibble crumbs. i pointed them out to everyone in the room and we all marveled at the beauty of the moment.

bailey was full of love.

he was sound asleep as we assured him over and over again that he was such a good boy and that we loved him so much. bailey’s face was propped up gently on his paw and he started snoring loudly…three times…and then there was just silence. we kneeled down by him for a while and then kissed our sweet pal goodbye. before we left, we covered him with the blanket, but not before i grabbed one of the hearts and stuck it in my bag. my transitional object.

the transitional object. i had never heard of this term before my mom mentioned it to me a few years ago…

she had left roscoe’s dog run (basically a cord and a leash that ran from the deck to the back yard) up several years after he had died. we didn’t give it much thought until her deck was converted into a wheelchair accessible ramp and the dog run became more of a hazard as people were clotheslined walking up to her back door. when asked if we could just take it down for a little while when we were having guests over, she said, “it’s my ‘transitional object’, please leave it alone!” when i thought about the amount of loss she had faced recently, it made sense and i didn’t gripe about it anymore.

when she was ready, she eventually let someone take it down.

a few weeks ago, when we were moving things out of her house, my husband texted to see if he should transfer the one can of tab from her fridge to our cooler. anyone who knew my mom, knew her by her tab.


although she hadn’t had a tab in a few years, keeping it in her fridge was another transitional object…something that made her feel more connected to the person she was before she became so sick with scleroderma. the tab is now my transitional object for her. (oh, and the forty storage bins that are stashed away in a friend’s garage and our closet, but we’ll get to that later).

it’s made me think about some of the transitional objects i have had over the years…

our friend, carrie…her words are my transitional object. the words she wrote to her children at her own funeral service about being kind and also her words that she left in a voicemail that i just haven’t brought myself to delete…

my brother, brian…i wore his sports watch until the battery died and his red sox baseball cap through a bunch of 5k’s…it made me feel like he was always with me…

my step-father, john…there are many because his death blindsided me and probably changed me the most. i have kept emails from him when he was helping us choose paint colors and work through house projects, the clothes he was wearing when his body was recovered and his suicide note. for me, these transitional objects help me stay connected to him, as well as try to work through my brother’s suicide.

our friend, ann…i kept the postcard she had sent from her summer vacation just before she died the summer of 1983. it stayed folded up in my pocket and then placed in a book and then eventually i lost track of it…

the same thing happened with the tree-top fairy from my babysitter, sheila. it was always close to me and then it was just gone…

i guess over time you really are able to let go, but for now, i will hold onto many objects, including a heart-shaped kibble crumb and a can of tab…which i know people will think is absolutely crazy, but for some reason it helps. maybe i am more like my mom than i thought…

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