Less than a year ago we said goodbye bye to Cody, but last night we bade farewell to his companion, Marley (2008-2016), who was more kind, more happy-go-lucky, more resilient than any dog I’ve known. I regret that you didn’t get to say your goodbyes, that you didn’t have more time on this earth, that you didn’t live to see Christmas day; but that you were loved and cherished by all, I do not regret.
The Stoic philosophers were great when it came to death, always lending a hand to those in mourning, to those grieving. Above all, a certain section from Epictetus’ Enchirdion comes to mind:
“Never say of anything, ‘I lost it,’ but say, ‘I gave it back.’ Has your child died? It was given back. Has your wife died? She was given back. Has your estate been taken from you? Was not this also given back? But say you, ‘He who took it from me is wicked.’ What does it matter to you through whom the Giver asked it back? As long as He gives it you, take care of it, but not as your own; treat it as passersby treat an inn.”¹
I have not lost my dog, no; I have merely given him back whence he came. And so he carries on in the circle of life, returning to and becoming one with Nature. His stay as a passerby has been filled with love, kindness, and joy, and we the innkeepers made his sojourn as comfortable as possible. While he did not end up paying for his room, we still benefitted from his business, his love the gift that keeps on giving.
Another Stoic philosopher, Seneca, on writing to his friend Lucilius, often broached the topic of death, never afraid to approach the topic with courage, often providing consoling advice. From Letter 63, On Grief for Lost Friends:
“Fortune has taken away, but Fortune has given. Let us greedily enjoy our friends [or dogs], because we do not know how long this privilege will be ours. Let us think how often we shall leave them when we go upon distant journeys, and how often we shall leave them when we tarry together in the same place; we shall thus understand that we have lost too much of their time while they were alive.”²
“[L]et us continually think as much about our own mortality as about that of all those we love…. Now is the time for you to reflect, not only that all things are mortal, but also that their mortality is subject to no fixed law. Whatever can happen at any time can happen today.”³
Rest in Peace,
You are forever in our hearts,
¹Saunders, Greek and Roman Philosophy After Aristotle, p. 135
²Long, The Stoic Six Pack, p. 326
³Id., p. 327
For further reading: Greek and Roman Philosophy After Aristotle by Jason L. Saunders (1997)
The Stoic Six Pack – Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and More trans. George Long (2014)