Somehow Drake and I wound up on a list where we regularly get invitations to go to movie screenings for films that are still in the final stages of production before being released. We recently had the chance to see the upcoming film “Marley and Me” due out in theaters this December.
This screenplay, adapted from the book by the same title, is about a couple that adopts a Labrador puppy they name Marley. Marley quickly becomes a central part of their lives, and indispensable to their growing family, but this visual memoir ends with the death of their beloved canine (this is not a spoiler but rather a well-known part of the story). It was a heart-wrenching sequence leaving not a dry eye in the theatre, including mine.
After the film, Drake and I took part in a focus group of about 20 viewers invited to share their opinions about the movie. Still dealing with the lingering emotions from the final scenes of the film and wiping away tears, people began to describe their experience with the movie, many of them discussing their inability to watch the sequence that portrayed the death of the dog. But as they shared, I realized intense emotion was arising within me; it actually hurt to hear people explain their struggles with watching Marley die. They described it as too long, too painful, and too hard to watch!
I realized that I was envious.
For many of these people the death of their dog was described as the deepest suffering in their lives,and I was jealous that I cannot return to a life when I was unfamiliar with intense affliction too. I wanted to go back to the days when a 3 minute movie segment about a dog dying depicted an awful tragedy and equated to the full extent of my own experience with torment and anguish.
But I can’t go back.
Instead, I am left with memories of sitting powerlessly by my beloved Jud as he intensely suffered for five wretched months, only to end in a violent death while he was in my arms. It has shredded my heart. I could not turn off the videos or stop reading when it got too hard…I couldn’t leave…I had to stay in it and live it every day, only to have it end in my greatest nightmare—the loss of my sweet little man.
I asked our counselor the other day, “I can see how over time people can look back on memories of their deceased children with joy and sweetness, but I don’t know what to do with the suffering…how do I ever recover from the suffering of my beautiful boy?”
Our grief counselor mentioned that the worst possible human experience is the death of a young child, but living through a little one’s severe suffering as part of that death experience is an exponentially deeper pain. “You won’t ever recover from the suffering, Christina, but I promise that you will become more adept at learning to live with it.”
I am still at a place on this journey when any recollections of Judson’s suffering make my heart feel like it is going to rupture into a billion pieces and I won’t survive.
I wish I was not intimately acquainted with affliction. I wish I didn’t have such tainted memories. I wish I could go back to the day when I was naive to suffering…
But I can’t go back.
This is my life. This is my experience. The suffering is now a part of me.
***FYI, “Marley & Me” is a movie I HIGHLY recommend.
It is one of the best I have seen in a really, really long time!***