Book Review: Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Losing a Pet by Gary Kowalski

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Last week, my ten-year-old shiba inu dog, Ryder, unexpectedly passed away. My grief was raw and unmanageable, as this amazing creature stood by my side, offering unconditional love and support 24/7. My other half, equally as impacted, purchased a few books to try to help us understand how to find any solace or ability to move forward, as Ryder was part of every moment of our day. I picked up a paperback copy of Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet by Gary Kowalski as the first one to read this week.


The author is a minister who approaches the loss of a pet from a spiritual perspective, but the book is carefully balanced to not be excessively religious. I bring this up, not in a good/bad way, only to point out that if you are a religious person, you’ll find helpful content, but if you’re not a religious person, you will also find many chapters focused on the emotions of the grieving process. It’s essentially a good read for anyone — without pushing any one belief or philosophy.

The author’s tone is charismatic. He shares personal stories of his own pets, those of friends and others from his congregation. He quotes verses from works of literature and various religious tomes, including outside of Christianity. All-in-all, it provides strong perspective on what’s happening in your mind and in the animal’s mind during the final days of losing your beloved pet. When he spoke of the euthanasia process, or the inexplicable appearance of pets that had previously passed on, you will shed a tear for a minute thinking about your own experiences. In these moments, I connected with the book. In others, where it was more generic, it seemed like things I already knew; then again, the reminders can provide subtle help we’re not even aware of.

It felt like the kind of book not to read all in one sitting, as there are poems and stories you can read separate from the advice and guidance he provides. There are links to other articles or books that could help you. It’s a good, basic approach to beginning to understand your grief and determine how to step forward. If you’re looking for something deeply analytical, thoroughly psychological or lengthy stories about beloved pets, this wouldn’t be the right book to read for that purpose. But I am glad I read it, as it did push me to think differently in a few areas of my mind. I’m grateful for that help.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
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365 Challenge: Day 40 – Spiritual

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Spiritual: relating to religious belief or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things

As I awoke this morning, my mind drifted to today’s topic, first focusing on the count of days. When I determined it was day 40, something about the 40 days of lent stuck in my head and I attempted to choose the best word to represent how I feel. I considered religious, but I am not prepared to go into all of those details, so I settled in with spiritual.

I was raised Catholic, as were most of my family members on my mother’s side. My father’s side doesn’t appear to have been all that religious. I attended church every weekend from about 8 until 21.

In college, I was a Eucharistic minister and worked in the religious center’s main office as one of my part-time jobs. When I graduated and moved back to Long Island, I stopped going to church except for the occasional holy days until I was about 25. I don’t believe I’ve been back since other than a few weddings and whenever I’ve been on tours or trips and make it a point to stop in. Nothing significant occurred to change my attendance, I simply stopped going. But I’m not planning to discuss church attendance. I am discussing spirituality.

I would consider myself your average “smart” person. I have some common sense, but also lack so in many areas. I’m book smart on a lot of things, but missing some key basics. I accept these things. It also means that I often, as I’ve noted before, have impartial feelings about situations and usually see both sides of the coin on all issues. Spirituality is one of those things. I do not know the history of all the major religions. I am not familiar with every major detail of evolutionary science. But there are a few things I believe I struggle with when it comes to “how did it all begin”?

I think of it like the chicken and the egg scenario. If there were no chickens, how did we ever produce the first egg? It’s a catch-22 for me… which came first cannot be answered in my mind, and I don’t have the energy or interest in devoting my entire life to solving that puzzle. I feel the same way about the creation of life. My mind has trouble fully accepting Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and natural selection. I understand it. I’ve seen it. I know things change over time. But have we truly existed in some form for billions of years, once as tiny little cells, now evolved into modern humans? What exactly caused each of those changes? I know there are tons of books and research to help explain the big categorical shifts and changes, but my brain is too tiny to really understand and accept how far we’ve come, or that so much time has even occurred.

I sort of feel like we all began somewhere around 3 or 4 thousand years ago, as I’ve read enough books and history to almost see those numbers are tangible and reachable. Then I think about the beliefs of Catholicism where God built the world in 7 days, Adam and Eve were the first people, Jesus died on the cross for his people and we worship everything in this realm. I have difficulty believing in something I cannot see or have never experienced. But the genealogist in me yearns to believe and accept that everything started with 1 man and 1 woman, and we all have a biological mother and father, generation after generation of human evolution.

Side Note: This is not meant as commentary on parents, necessity of a mother and a father, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, et al.)

For the record, I’ve always believed people can and should do whatever they want as long as they are not hurting anyone else. Therefore, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t hurt… but what two other people do with their lives has no impact on me… plus, if I was against it, I’d be a hypocrite, which I’ve noted before. And a child needs loving caretakers to grow up properly… whether it’s two men, two women, transgender, a single parent, a grandparent… I don’t care. Love the child, raise them well and prepare them to be a good person who continues that cycle. OK, now that I’ve gotten that out there… back to spirituality…

As I’ve noted before, I always seem to feel like two people. And in this case, I believe both in the theories of evolution and those in religion, and I also have doubts about both. But there are many religions, each with a different take on the origination of it all. As I’ve evolved, I believe where I’ve ended up is in something more spiritual. It’s less about the specifics and particulars of what you believe, but that you do believe. There is something out there higher or greater than me. Whether it’s a God who created the world or is a scientist from another dimension conducting experiments, I have some level of faith that there is a bit of control being exercised.

Though less now than in the past, I find myself looking toward the sky saying “Help me out here.” I will on occasion pray for the health or improvement of a friend or family member. I will wish and hope for someone or something to give me a chance. I believe in past lives. I feel connections to things I’ve never seen before, for some reason, and question if it’s deja vu. The thought of people being tied to the land around them is comforting. The concepts of earth, water, wind and fire feel like pillars of our lives. I would not be afraid if I saw a ghost. I strongly hope for an afterlife where all the problems and pain people have experienced are gone, and everyone is happy and healthy.

The best word I can use to describe how I feel about all of this is spiritual. All that functions in our bodies is a physical component of who we are. But how we think, feel and process, though partially physical, comes from somewhere else. Perhaps it is our soul, perhaps it isn’t. But it’s that part of who I am as a person that determines how I live my life today and in the future. And that’s the part of me that has felt various connections to a multitude of things across the expanse that’s been my life thus far. I have appreciation for other people’s beliefs, those who are committed to their religion and all that comes with it. I accept and want everyone to have their own personal calling, whether I agree with it or don’t understand it. And I’d never tell someone else they are wrong for what they believe, when it comes to spirituality.

It’s rare I discuss these types of things. Politics and religion are the two areas where I absolutely hate having discussions with other people. Partially because I do not like arguing or any discomfort when there are differences in opinion, but because I do not have the answer, nor will I ever have the answer until… and only possibly… until I pass from this world. But until then, I’m content with having my own beliefs, keeping myself open-minded to others and living the best life I can without hurting those around me.

To me, that is being spiritual. Whether I light a candle and dance around a fire, attend church every Sunday, pray every afternoon or practice some other form, having a connection to something you believe in, that is more than physical, is healthy. And for anyone reading this, hopefully I have not offended or upset you. Not everyone agrees with the things I’ve mentioned in this post, and that is each person’s prerogative. All I ask is that people never force what they believe on someone else. Focus on yourself when it comes to these things and let others do the same.

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post.

365 Challenge: Day 6 – Old Soul

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Old Soul: spiritual person whom is wise beyond their years; people of strong emotional stability. Basically, someone whom has more understanding of the world around them.

In honor of my 40th birthday, I chose the word “old soul” as today’s celebratory characteristic. I debated whether to go with “historical” or “old soul,” weighing their definitions and word types. An “old soul” is really more of a noun while “historical” is the adjective; however, the definition of “historical” was weak — basically, it means “of the past.” While ever thou is truest, it didn’t do justice to what I’m attempting to say about myself. So screw consistency today (ha!), I’m going with a noun.

When I think of an old soul, I don’t initially picture myself as one. Iffy on the spiritual part. Iffy on the understanding of the world around me part. Let’s not get into the emotional stability part. I don’t think it’s fair to comment on my own emotional stability, especially on the day I turn 40, typically the age most people consider their mid-life meltdown crisis. (Note, I’m not having one and don’t plan to either.)

But so much of who I am and what I enjoy doing is connected to the past, you know, historical. I am a genealogist. I read historical fiction. I enjoy the transition of power between various kings and queens of the past. I adore American’s Gilded Age. I wish I grew up in the 1960s. I ultimately enjoy the quieter and slower times of sitting around and observing all around me rather than engaging with every new modern toy and game on the market. But it’s really beyond that…

To me, an old soul not only echoes the past (the way they dress, the music they listen to, the books the read, the words they use), but deeply understands the past. Someone who wants to learn from the past and determine the best course for the future. No matter what task I choose, I always need to start from the beginning. Not when the issue first became a problem, or when it first was known. How did it begin? Take me on a tour of its existence and paint a picture of everything surrounding it. Help me understand its purpose down to the very core of its creation. And embrace it.

If I’m walking on land that has some personal connection to the past, I yearn to know what it was like for those who walked before me. If I’m looking at picture someone painted, I create an image of the room in which it was painted and wonder what happened there. If I hear a two-century old piece of music, I wonder what the artist went through at the time to change the face of music and give the world what it has today.

What I lack as an old soul is that spiritual quality or essence that is rare in most people. Occasionally, you’ll see and feel it from someone without ever having exchanged a word. That’s not me. I have no hidden talents of getting feelings from someone unless it’s outwardly and specifically communicated. And even then, I am sometimes the one who says “Are you being sarcastic or did you mean that?” I lack this quality with people where I feel energized and full of it with places and things.

How is that possible to be both? To feel the power of things from the past but not from people? I think it comes down to subjectivity. With people, they can tell you if you are right or wrong. Things cannot. You can learn new information and change your opinion or feelings from things, but ultimately, what you feel from an object is your interpretation of its history and existence. The blanket your great-grandmother knitted… The glasses on your mantle brought from Victorian England… The doorstop cast during America’s colonial settlement.

What I enjoy having as an old soul are the feelings of having past lives. Every so often, when I’m performing some activity or visually seeing some historical site, it’s as if I can recall being in that place. I’m not exactly transported there, but I have a small connection that makes me remember I’m more than just Jay who was born in Florida on March 18th, 1977. And for those of us lucky enough to have those moments where you without question believe and sense what you conquered before you were born, it’s a feeling unlike any other.

I think maybe I will look further into past-life regressions… I’ve been looking for something new to study, to learn, to embrace. Learning what’s real and not real in this topic would be a challenging and interesting experience. For those of you who haven’t see “Defending Your Life,” with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep, please rent the movie. Not only does it speak volumes to me about how one should live a life, but it shows how the past can be connected to everything you do today.

So… whereas my post said I am not very spiritual in the beginning, perhaps I am more than I thought I was. And a bit closer to being that full old soul I want to be.