Harper got stronger with each day. Before she would be allowed to go home, however, she had to be able to get herself out of bed and visit the bathroom unassisted, and she needed to be able to take fifty steps down the hall and back with a walker. She was still often dizzy, but motivation was high. What she would do once she got home, she wasn’t entirely sure, but home was still her goal. She was going to need some in-home care for at least a bit. Blaise offered to help as much as possible, and he was going to pay Elise to help, as well. Her insurance also provided some home nursing care, so she was sure with the progress she was making, she would be able to be home by Easter, which was a little more than one week away. When Blaise came that late afternoon to see her, she peppered him with all sorts of questions in preparation for her checking out of the hospital.
“I’m not sure what to do about the bald spots on my head. They took all the bandages off this morning, but I guess I never thought about how long it would take to grow out the incision sites.”
“I think it looks great as is, kind of punk like,” he teased, but she winced. “Sorry, I shouldn’t joke about something so important, but really you will always look good to me whether you cut your hair or not.”
“Maybe I should just ask Ava to come and chop it all off. I know it sounds vain, but I always felt that if I ever got rid of my long hair, I would be admitting I was getting old. Is that silly?” She looked straight into Blaise’s eyes, and he didn’t exactly know how to respond to the comment.
“Hmm, I think it’s really up to you what you feel comfortable with, and I think I understand the old thing. I always felt that when I cut my hair, it would be like admitting I wasn’t thirty anymore. But maybe I should shear my locks, too, as an act of solidarity.” He looked somewhat amused, but with the words meeting the air, he started to realize that it might not be such a bad idea.
“Don’t you dare!” she cried. “I love your hair, but it might be uncomfortable with you having more than me—but then again, you always have had more than me. Did you know that day you walked in my shop I was jealous because of your hair?”
“Well, only a little bit. But I do love your hair.” She smiled, remembering that first meeting. “I could always get a hairpiece till it grows out. What do you think?”
“I think this is a conversation you should have with Ava. All my taste is in my mouth, and if I tread any further into this discussion, I fear I might ruin my chances with you.” He smiled, leaned over, and gave her a quick peck on the lips.
“Okay, sold. I’ll ask Ava. She’s coming this afternoon to bring me some clothes. I also texted her this morning to pick up some of Clutch’s favorite bacon treats. I want to give him something special the first time he sees me walk through the door. I’ve missed him so much! Poor thing. He must be confused. Ava didn’t text me back, so I hope she doesn’t forget.”
Harper was seated on the side of her bed, and Blaise pulled up one of the chairs to sit right in front of her. He began to look very uncomfortable. “Harper, I’ve needed to talk to you about something. I hope I didn’t wait too long, but I so wanted you to be stronger . . .”
“Stronger, for what?” Harper looked confused. “What’s wrong?”
“Well . . . Harper, two days before you woke up . . . Clutch passed away. I didn’t know how to tell you, and I . . . well, I kept waiting, hoping you would be in the best possible physical and emotional place to hear such sad news. I am so sorry.”
Harper stared straight ahead, eyes frozen open. Tears formed and slowly rolled down her cheeks. “Oh, no . . . oh, no.”
Blaise got up out of his chair and sat beside her on the bed, with his arms wrapped around her. “I’m sorry if I made it worse by not telling you right away, but I didn’t know how.” He put his head next to Harper’s and just held her tight as she sobbed.
Clouds kept passing in front of the sun outside the window so that the room alternated between dark and light, cool and warm. Blaise continued to hold Harper and wiped her tears gently with the sheet. Her sobbing finally subsided, and she sat quiet, head bowed for a long time. “He was old,” she spoke into her chest. “He was tired and old, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; I just thought . . . well, I don’t know what I thought. But I guess I wasn’t ready for him to die. Not now . . . probably not ever.”
“I understand that. I’m so sorry. I wish it hadn’t happened.”
“How did he die?” Harper looked up into his face.
“Are you sure you want to talk about it? I don’t want . . .”
“No, I want to know. What happened?”
“Well . . . he had been sleeping a lot the days before—even more than usual, I guess. He was over at their place, and Mum had been petting him most of the night as he lay by her feet—content. Elise said he was very subdued and hadn’t had much appetite at supper. She’d not forced him to eat, and just let him lay there. He seemed fine and was actually snoring at times, which made my mum laugh; and when he started kicking his feet a little, dreaming, she told Elise he must have been chasing squirrels in his dreams again. Everything was as it had been, pretty much. But when Elise went to rouse him to take him back to your place for the night, he didn’t move. She looked closer and realized he had stopped breathing, so they called me.” Tears formed in Blaise’s eyes at the telling. “He just drifted away, Harper. He just slept and drifted peacefully away.”
The room fell silent for several minutes; then Harper spoke softly. “Do you think dogs go to heaven?”
Blaise took a moment, carefully choosing his words. “I’m not sure there is any scriptural support, per se. But can I tell you what my heart knows?
“My little niece Arna had a cute dachshund puppy that got hit by a car and died. She was heartbroken and asked me that same question. At the time, I didn’t think they did, but I wasn’t about to tell her that; so, what I said was ‘I don’t know for sure, but I do know that God loves all of his creatures, and He will do what is right.’ I thought I was kind of clever for sidestepping and not giving a direct answer; but later, the more I thought about it, the more I came to believe it. Are they redeemed like we are—children of God? I don’t think so; but Harper, I do believe that God loved his creature Clutch even more than you did. So, He will do what is right. This will not be taught in seminary, but do all dogs go to heaven? Not sure how it all works, but I believe they do.”
“Thank you for that. I loved him and was not ready to say goodbye. So . . . what happened to him . . . to his body?”
“I wrapped him in that old Mexican blanket I have in the emergency supplies in the back of my truck. Ava and I took him out to the desert and buried him, covering the site with rocks so animals wouldn’t disturb him.”
“So, Ava knew?”
“Yes, I told her not to say anything till I’d had a chance to break it you. Are you okay? Are you upset with me for not telling you sooner?”
“No, I’m okay. Can you take me there when I get out?” Harper looked into his eyes.
“Absolutely. It’s a little bit of a hike, but there’s a dirt road that can get us pretty close with the truck. I’ll carry you the rest of the way if I have to, but we will go and say goodbye to him as soon as you’re able.”
“I would like that . . . very much.” Harper settled into Blaise’s embrace as light began to fade in the room.