My first brush with death

I learned about death the hard way. One day in the early 1970s, my mom picked me up from the neighbor lady who watched me during the day. When we got home, she told me that Shep, our lovable Collie, had died. She had gotten loose from her leash, strayed from the yard, and gotten hit by a passing car on the street.

Saying goodbye to a good friend

Shep, who looked like Lassie from the TV show that ran from 1954 to 1973, rarely left the yard. On this day, though, something must have happened. My brothers and I wondered if something had scared her or someone let her loose. In the end though, there was nothing we could do to change the reality of the situation, she was dead and we had lost a dear member of our family.

When my mother first told me the news, I understood the words, but not the full meaning. This was the first time I was seeing the concept of death up close and was confused.

  • Where did Shep go and when would she be coming back?
  • Why did Shep have to leave? (Lassie got hurt on TV all the time, but she always got better. Why didn’t Shep recover?)
  • I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Would I get a chance to hug her one last time?

Feeling the loss

It was hard for a five-year old like me to understand what had happened. She had been full of life and a gentle fluff of fur and love and now she was gone. I cried most of the night. My two brothers, who were just a few years older than me, were as shocked as I was, but they tried to calm me. They hugged me and told me that Shep knew that I loved her. She would be waiting with doggie kisses for me in heaven.

Fifty some years later, I still don’t understand much about death. Oh, I’ve experienced my share of loss. I’ve seen family members, including my father, and close friends pass away, as well as numerous family pets, but I still have questions. Why does one person live and another die? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why don’t we get to say goodbye to our loved ones?

Taking the news hard

After Shep’s death, I fell into in a daze. I’m not sure how long it lasted, a couple of days, maybe even a couple of weeks. I just wanted Shep back. I still want her back. 

In the following weeks, though, I learned something that has helped immensely in dealing with tough situations and touches directly on our theme of The Heart of the Matter, focusing on what matters most in life. When I focused on Shep’s death or even the image of her lying on the street, I felt sad and lonely. I felt like I had no control. When I focused on her life and how happy she made my family and me, I felt like she was still with me in spirit. 

Yes, she’s still with me and I’m better for it. I love you Shep. 

Thanks for reading. Please follow the site and join in on the discussion. We’d love to know what matters most in your life.

All the best, Brian.

Photo by Kanashi on

25 thoughts on “My first brush with death

  1. I love the sharing you’re doing here, Brian. It’s so relatable and lovely…your story about Shep and choosing to remember her in the fun-loving ways. Thank you for introducing us to her. 💕

    Liked by 4 people

  2. This is so sad, beautiful and heartfelt. It took me back to lost pets and how much it hurts to lose them. I think your right, we need to focus on the memories of times with our loved ones … human or animal … to help us cope with the pain caused by the void created by their absence

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Condolences, even though they are late. Good questions, Brian, though no one gets a fully satisfying answer. Here is one I was sent yesterday. It might come close:

    “Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived.”

    No, not from a great philosopher of antiquity, but from the 1994 film, “Star Trek Generations.” The lines belong to Captain Picard. He is not responding to the loss of a companion but to the destruction of the ship he long commanded.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that wise old soul, Captain Picard! I love it. I especially love the last part of that line: “What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived.” Similar to the Maya Angelou quote about what people remember about you. I find that it really makes me think about how I live my life, less focus on “things” and more focus on kindness. Thanks so much for commenting. Appreciate the feedback!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You’re just an amazing storyteller, Brian! I was hooked all the way through! That said, I especially loved this part, “I understood the words, but not the full meaning.” That’s how it is sometimes for me as well. It takes a while to process the emotions behind something difficult. And even then, I don’t always understand. I also love that your words could apply to any number of situations. Thank you for a very beautiful and thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Kendra, that really means a lot. It’s funny you mentioned that particular line about not understanding the full meaning. It came late in my writing. I had the basic story, but I felt like something was missing. Finally it came to me and I think it explains much better how I process my emotions. I know they’re there. I know they are important, but I don’t always understand the full meaning right away. I need to process it. I hope you liked the story. Thanks again for the feedback! 😎😎😎

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I second Kendra’s comment. You are an amazing storyteller, and you so beautifully weave together your childhood experience with the lessons you still carry today. Truly beautiful!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aww, thank you Erin, I appreciate the feedback. It means a lot. It was an interesting story to write, it brought back a lot of old family memories. While sad when it happened, it really did shape how I viewed things, always trying to see the good. In any event, thanks so much! Looking forward to seeing where the blog takes all of us!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a lovely story Brian. Emotions associated with death are some of the hardest to deal with and also understand. If it often makes no sense to adults then as a child death must be the most confounding thing they could encounter. Your line “I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.” brought me immediately back to the passing of my father. We crave one more moment to interact with our loved one, animal or human when we lose them suddenly. I found comfort in continuing to *speak* with my dad for years after his death.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Deb. When I thought about the theme of “what matters” . . . I was a little surprised that this story jumped to the head of the line versus some other stories I might have told. It just spoke to me. I’m sure because I was just a kid and it’s such a grown situation to deal with. I’ve found that “speaking” with my dad, who died 18 years ago, has been helpful. It’s calmed me in ways I never would have expected. Thanks so much for the feedback, very much appreciate it!!!!😎

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a touching story — and profound ending. I hadn’t thought about exactly what flips me between the loss and celebration when it comes to my loved ones that have died but you said it perfectly – the focus. Switching between the focus on death versus the focus on life. Wow – what a deep lesson!

    Beautiful!! Thanks, Brian!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I worried about focusing on death in my first post. Ha, ha. I’m glad the story worked Wynne. I think I was able to make the switch to focusing on life because Shep was such a great dog. She’d come and greet me when I came home from my sitter and she was always so gentle and full of life.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it is funny how that works. I had a dream one time where I was asking God about all those unanswered questions. I was waiting on the answer and then the scene where Dorothy clicks her heals from the wizard of oz entered my thoughts. That was all great but then the dream got strange, the monkeys showed up, the titanic was in it too, as well as the Darth Vader. Yea, a pretty crazy dream. I’m not sure it was all that helpful, but at least shows a few of the movies I was watching before I went to sleep. Ha, ha. In any event, thanks so much Patti, appreciate the feedback!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve wrestled a lot with the question of death, why bad things happen to good people. The only reason I’ve come up with is there is no reason. It just is. Unsatisfactory as this explanation is, accepting it makes things easier and gives closure.


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