Much later, when I had kissed my mother and gone up to my room, I thought again of the telephone call I had received in London. It was Edward from Pakistan to say that Babur had died the day before he was meant to get on the plane. Someone had given him rack of lamb. After eating bread all his life, he had neither the teeth nor the experience to handle a bone. The shards cut up his stomach and killed him. I had thought that line of smells by unmarked boulders, stretching to a snow-ridged horizon, with ice holes for drinking , would finish with good meat, oak trees, rabbits and a warm house. But it ended with his death.
I don’t imagine Babur would have been very impressed to see me crying now, trying to bring back five weeks’ walking alone together, with my hand on a grizzled golden head, which is Babur, beside me and alive.
That caption, taken from the epilogue, is my favorite from Rory Stewart’s 2007 novel, “The Places in Between”. It is the true story of Stewart’s journey across Afghanistan on foot. Halfway through the journey he meets Babur, a large “war dog” who becomes his silent appraising partner and loyal friend for the remainder of the trek across Afghanistan. As I said it was always my favorite and I felt innately like the passage tied up everything about the struggle of the story and the tenderness of it… comforting in its sadness. Comforting in the eternity of Stewart’s closeness and memory for the grizzly headed Babur.
Today, the passage takes on a new meaning for me. My own sweet appraising partner and friend–my dog Mitzi was killed Thursday when she was hit by a car….
And I don’t imagine she would be impressed, seeing me cry for her as I remember all of the times that we romped, or slept or played or whiled the afternoons away… times which are all Mitzi, alive and by my side.