When Everything Ends All at Once.


The floor in the back of the newly opened pet store was covered with sawdust. I wandered past row after row of large dogs in crates until I came upon a single tiny Lhasa Apso puppy, his brown eyes boring into my heart.

“She dropped him off just like that! All bathed with this brand new leash and collar!” The woman in charge of the adoption event scooped up the dog and handed him to me. “We don’t get many small dogs, certainly not purebreeds.”

I called Matt and told him he needed to come over right away, that this dog wouldn’t last long in a room full of pitbulls, senior canines, and frightened cats. I held fast to the leash, already claiming him as my own. “I’m just waiting for my husband,” I’d say to anyone who dared to inquire about the puppy.

Turns out, there was a reason someone abandoned a purebred six-month-old dog to a shelter. Oscar panicked at being alone, chewed his way out of our bathroom window, splinters on the floor, the remains of the screen splayed open to the breeze. He chewed everything, in fact, destroyed a coffee table, two couches, an ottoman. He apparently had missed some opportune window for house training and never got the hang of it in his entire fourteen year life. I gave up on floor coverings years too late, having lost hundreds of dollars of rugs to dog urine.

He was supposed to be mine, this sweet fluffball of fur, but when they met, Oscar placed his little paws on Matt’s chest and gently licked his face. In the back of that pet store, Matt—who never wanted a second dog—conceded, and they became constant companions.

In his final year, Oscar would cry if he couldn’t find Matt, searching the entire house and even checking the shower stall to locate his dad. No longer our clown who’d tear across the slippery wood floor, he became an old man. He lost six teeth, then an eye, then most of his hearing. Our marriage ended too and, when Matt moved out two weeks ago, Oscar moved out with him, finally losing sight in his remaining eye. He was scared and confused and in pain and we knew it was time.

Behind my desk, I notice that the tumor in our St. Bernard’s front leg has ripened to plum size and I know that we have mere weeks left with her, if that. She struggles to stand and hobbles down the three steps to the yard and I can’t lift her by myself. I curl up on the floor, face in her soft fur, and try to match my breathing to hers. The ceiling fan rotates on its axis, its chain ticking out the time we have left together. I could stay here with her until then, but there are children to be picked up and suppers to be fixed alone and bathroom doors to cry behind, the shower running to muffle the sound.

The leaves are changing here in western North Carolina and a chilly wind kicks up in the mornings, though by late afternoon we are again sweaty and I never get the layers right on my third grader when we dress for school. Night falls more quickly, but October can’t quite give up on summer and neither can I. And so I continue to tug on cutoffs that now hang off my frame, my appetite lost to a season of sorrow.

The pumpkins on my neighbors’ porches bring me to tears. November promises to hold too much that is unfamiliar and I lie in bed at night terrified of what I no longer know.

About Cindy Reed

I hate pants.
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27 Responses to When Everything Ends All at Once.

  1. Jan Wilberg says:

    It is a very hard time, that beginning of a divorce, even when it’s friendly. Amicable. Everything looks and feels different. It was a long time ago for me but I remember. Believe me, I really remember. It does get better. There’s new joy and, eventually, new dogs.

  2. Andrea says:

    Beautiful; heartbreaking. Big changes are hard, especially when there are so many that come at once. I trust that you will find your footing sooner than you think. xo

  3. Christine says:

    Oh, Cindy. This beautiful and so painful. <3

  4. stiggly says:

    so much love to you sweet heart

  5. KeAnne says:

    So beautiful. So painful. Sending hugs.

  6. Cris says:

    Just wanted to say I love you. Sorry you’re going through all this, but I know you’ll see Springs again.

  7. jana says:

    Oh Cindy. This is so beautiful and painful and I know exactly where you’re sitting… especially behind the bathroom door, crying, with the shower running. These first months are hard. But there’s light. There’s beautiful light, and if you’re on good terms with Matt, the light is even brighter. Much love to you. <3

  8. Cindy Moy says:

    Honey, here’s what you know: You are a smart, strong and capable ass-kickin’ mother and even though it doesn’t feel like it right now YOU GOT THIS. Really, you do. When you doubt yourself, remember…manufacturers had to put “Open Here” instructions on facial tissue boxes because some people couldn’t figure out how to open them–you are not one of those people. Cry all you want. You’ll be able to get to the tissues, no problem, sister!

  9. Patricia Eagle says:

    Cindy, I hear you. You’ve slipped into my heart and thoughts periodically, and now I understand. I send warmth, grace, and a barrel of strength.

  10. Kenja says:

    And I will probably be electrocuted from the tears on my laptop. I hate grief and sorrow, and I am more sorry than I can say at what you are going through. But even in the midst of the pain, your words are beautiful and I feel I am right there with you. So while I’m there, I’m giving you a big hug, even though the whole affectionate touchy-feely stuff gives me hives. Count me as one of the people who thinks you are a totally talented badass. Keep going, friend. I’m here if you ever need anything.

  11. Oh crap. So sad. So sorry. You’re gonna get through this. You are. One day, one minute, one breath at a time. Hugs.

  12. Love and hugs to you.

  13. Sarah Buchanan says:

    Sending you lots of love and support. I hope each day is slightly easier than the last. Spring always returns after the hard winter.

  14. Mary E. Gilstrap says:

    I am so very sorry for your losses and the pain you are going through now. You have wonderful friends, based on the lovely messages above, and I hope that they will provide you with strength and support and a shoulder to cry on if needed. I am too far away to help you in anyway (although I would gladly) but let me tell you this: I experienced what you are experiencing too and I can guarantee you that you will wake up one day with the hurt in your heart not so excruciating and it will ease, one day at a time, until you can go a whole day, a week, without thinking about it. Much love and blessings to you and your daughters.

  15. Susun Cooper says:

    Thank you for the depth of your sharing. Blessings of love to you during this challenging time for you and all your family. xo

  16. Katy Kozee says:

    This was so beautifully written. I don’t know why everything seems to hit at once – the year I got divorced, I had 3 car accidents in 6 months – all my fault. Hugs to you.

  17. What a heartbreaking story, yet underneath, whether you know or not, is hope.

  18. outlawmama says:

    Ah man. The loss the grief. It’s bearable but just barely. Great writing.

  19. d3athlily says:

    What a gut wrenching piece. You have so much going on all at once. My heartfelt condolences go out to you. Spring and summer will surely bring a new hope. ❤

  20. This brought me to tears. I don’t know you, but I want to give you a hug and tell you everything will turn out just fine. Welcome back to Yeah Write. Maybe that will be the small thing that starts the upswing.

  21. JingleJangle says:

    What a heartbreaking story. Congratulations for having the courage to share it – one day you can look back on this and appreciate how far you have come.

  22. ellenbehm says:

    Somehow the thought of you losing your dogs has made me sadder than your husband moving out. Thank you for sharing.

  23. Greta says:

    Oh, Cindy. Oh, I’m so so sorry.

  24. oldendaysk says:

    Your words have power…you have a world of supporters in your corner. Feel our comfort. My tears flow freely after reading this. Tears just for you. Time moves on and hope lives there.

  25. Margie says:

    I’ve shared this on Facebook because it is so beautifully, poignantly, truly written. My heart goes out to you for all of it. Signed, someone who as grieved for many kinds of losses, including my ’til-death-do-us-part image of marriage.

  26. wcdameron says:

    Gorgeous, tragic and engaging. Your writing inspires me so.

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