Hugs, I've discovered, come in many forms, not just in encircling arms, though those traditional hugs are among the best. A hug can reach you when you don't even see it coming, and only when it has wrapped itself around you do you realize how much you needed it. Let me give you some examples:
Expressions of caring:
Phone calls, cards, messages and blog comments arrive from family, friends and even strangers. They offer support at a difficult time. They offer comfort.
A package in the mail:
A new bathrobe I had ordered arrives in the mail on the day of Butch's death. When I find it and open it, it is warm from the sun that had shone through its dark plastic packaging inside the black mailbox. A warm bathrobe always feels like a hug.
While I am on the telephone at the end of that same day, my daughter hears the dryer buzz. She takes my bedding out of it so it won't wrinkle and goes on to make up my bed. I sleep that night in the caress of thoughtfulness and smooth, clean sheets.
A dog's trust:
Levi is a good watchdog. He's not yet convinced that the neighbors aren't up to no good, and he barks an alert when he hears their cars, their voices, or their footsteps. But when I come home, he's quiet. There is no barking. I know he can hear my car. He can hear me shut the car door, and he can hear the "beep" when I set the car alarm, and yet, when I open the door and come inside, he sits quietly on the sofa, his head tilted slightly to one side, alert and waiting. I am home, and Levi knows I belong there.
I leave the library with a stack of books tucked into the crook of my elbow, and my steps feel lighter than they did before. It's as if a sense of well-being has been handed across the counter with those books.
After days of cold weather, followed by days of rain, the sun breaks through for a short while. I sit outside, my face turned upwards to receive a full allotment of the sun's warm kisses, and listen to the rustling of tree branches and the trill of a single bird.
Bringing Butchie home:
A call from the vet's office lets me know that Butch's remains have been returned to them by the crematorium. I want to go get him immediately, but the tears begin to flow, and so I wait. I wait several hours, until I'm relatively sure I can remain composed, and then I go. In less than twenty minutes, he is home with me again. His essence lives on in my heart and my memory, but all that's left of his physical self is contained in one small, simple, cherry-wood box, exactly like the one that now holds Kadi. The cycle is complete, and it gives me peace. Butch is home. Nothing else can harm him.