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I Have This Hope

I was doing really good today and thought I was starting to turn a corner in the grieving process.

Then, I got in the car and headed out to run a couple of errands, turning on the radio as I left.

That’s when I heard this song . . .

And just like that, the floodgates opened up, with my tears keeping pace with the rain that started to come down outside.  (Coincidence or not?)

As I listened to the lyrics, I felt as though my heart was talking to God . . . the words echoing the thoughts and feelings I’ve had since last week.

As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

I’ve been a Christian since I was a teenager, and I’ve been through some hard times, so I know, with certainty, that there is a purpose for everything, and that my tears are never in vain.

I don’t want to live in fear
I want to trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go.

Isn’t it hard not to live in fear when you experience one setback after another?  The Mr. and I have talked about this . . . how we dread losing another pet because of the pain we’ve been through with Aubie and, most recently, Molly’s passings.

Then, I heard the next verse . . .

But sometimes my faith feels thin
Like the night will never end
Will You catch every tear
Or will You just leave me here?

As I heard the words, “Will you catch every tear,” I had a picture in my mind of a scene in the final Harry Potter movie.  In that scene, Snape has been dealt a fatal blow by Voldemort, and as he lay dying, Harry approaches him.  Snape and Harry had been at odds for years, and Snape had killed Dumbledore, so he was very much hated.  Yet, he tells Harry to get something to catch one of his tears.

Harry obeys, and he rushes to Dumbledore’s office, drops the tear into the Pensieve (a basin used for this purpose), and discovers a side of Snape that he didn’t know about before.

That scene takes a toll on my heartstrings on a regular day.  This afternoon, well, yeah.  It was brutal.  There is just so much wrapped into these four-plus minutes.

Think about the number of memories attached to each one of our tears.  Our tears tell the story of our lives.  If this story was painted, I envision it being done in watercolor.

Sometimes, there are happy tears, and we rejoice; other times we are sad, so we grieve.

Ultimately, when we examine the reasons for our tears, and if we are open to it, we can see purpose in the events that led to the tears.

Of course, if events have recently transpired, then we won’t necessarily understand the purpose.  That’s where faith comes in.

When Harry Potter sees Snape’s memories, he realizes that everything that Snape went through was because of his love for Harry’s mother and, ultimately, his love for Harry himself.

So it is that I imagine that the Lord is catching all of my tears and guarding them closely, aware that it is through them that my deepest joys and sorrows are expressed . . . especially when words fail me.

My tears are not in vain, and there is a purpose for my pain.  I don’t fully understand the reason, but I praise God that He knows, and that He will not let anything go to waste in my life.

This week, #findingjoyinthejourney has been tough, but I press on, thankful that God is my strength.

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Autopilot

If I could choose a song title to represent my life right now, it would be “Achy Breaky Heart.”

Today marks one week since my sweet fur baby, Molly, passed away.

I had to take a break from my blog because the grief has been all-consuming.

I didn’t know the weight that sadness carried with it.

I’ve always heard people describe feeling numb after a tragedy.  I guess that was me in the initial hours as I had some practical stuff to take care of.  The worst thing was taking Molly to the vet so they could care for her body.

The Mr. helped me get her to the car, and I was so wracked with grief that I could hardly walk.  Parting with her at the vet’s office near about did me in.  I don’t even know how I managed to drive myself home.  Thankfully, nothing is very far in Podunk, Florida.

I had originally thought that I’d do my workout as a distraction.  The Mr. ordered me not to out of concern that I’d hurt myself.

Well, I don’t know what I was thinking, because by the time I got home, my limbs were so heavy that I barely made it to my bed, where I fell, exhausted and at the lowest I’d been in a very long time.

All I wanted was Molly, and I cried so hard for her.

I eventually dozed off until the Mr. came home for lunch.

After he left, I got up and saw to Pele and Gambit, who, the Mr. had reminded me, needed me more than ever.

I think sometimes we forget how sensitive animals can be, and those poor babies had been through the wringer as well.  Molly was their sister/mama, and her absence left them extremely confused and, dare I say it, sad.

I sat and loved on them the best I could, and then I blogged (my previous post).

Chicky called me a couple of times during the day and let me pour out my heart to her.  I’m thankful for her thoughtfulness.

Late that afternoon, I decided to go for a walk.  I knew I needed the fresh air, but y’all, it was so hard.

I don’t think I’ve ever cried when I’ve been out walking before, but I did just that . . . so many times . . . during my three miles.

Rooster called me while I was outside, and he listened patiently as I sobbed on the phone.  We had all been close to Molly.  Because he and I don’t have issues with allergies, we were able to handle her dog hair better.  Molly used to sneak into his room and crawl under his bed when she was afraid of storms.

When I finished my walk and looked at my stats, I was a little surprised.  Even though I had purposely walked a lot slower, my heart rate had been pretty high for most of my walk.  Grief can be so hard on a person’s body.

Going to bed that night was extremely difficult, and I put it off as long as I could.  Pele sensed my hesitation and did something he’s never done before . . . he slept beside my bed.

I slept pretty late the next morning, and I immediately started crying when I woke up.  Ugh.  What a tough way to start the day.

I found a sweet text from Rebecca, who was checking in to see how I was doing.

I don’t know what I would do with her.  She had prayed for us that long 4th of July evening when we knew that Molly wasn’t going to make it.  She was the first person I messaged right after Molly passed away, so she had been sharing, real time, in my grief.

Day 2 was as awful as the first day, and I frequently (and randomly) broke down in tears.

The dogs were still adjusting.

I made myself get out to a couple of places because, as I discovered, the world doesn’t stop spinning just because your heart is broken.  I hurried home though, not wanting to infect the public with my brand of sadness.

I made a batch of Chocolate Drizzled Peanut Butter Popsicles but had a hard time enjoying them.

The face of sadness, y’all, because I keep things real around here.

The Mr. and I attempted dinner out.  He even took me to get my favorite, Mexican, because I hadn’t eaten much in two days.  We talked about Molly . . . about how shocked we still were . . . about whether we could have done anything differently.

I did the ugly cry right there at our table.

What a hot mess.

After much discussion, we’ve come to the conclusion that Molly had probably been sick for a little while (the cough that started months ago), but that something brutal got a hold of her at the end and just wouldn’t let go.

Regardless, my heart still hurt.

Gambit kept close tabs on me, even sleeping on the floor (he rarely does this, preferring his dog bed) . . .

Day 3 was still tough, but I had the small distraction of playing with a friend’s son’s new puppy (no pictures of that).  My dogs were not amused when I got home.  I’m sure they felt as though I was already cheating on them.

I also braved the pool that day for the first time since Molly had passed . . .

With each day that passes, I can’t say that it’s getting easier yet.  I’m still waiting for that.

I still expect to see Molly’s face when I come home from being out.  In fact, that’s been one of the hardest things . . . coming home and knowing that she’s not going to be here to greet me.  One night, when the Mr. and I had gone out to eat, I sobbed as we entered the neighborhood and cried harder the closer we got to our house.  I tried to explain the reason for my tears.  He understood, but gosh, was it hard.  I sat in the car after we pulled into the garage, unable to make myself go in.  He waited until I collected myself.

Bless that man.  He’s grieving too, but he’s supporting me in his sweet ways.

He’s been printing pictures of our fur babies and buying frames.  This experience has been so very hard on both of us.

I’m on serious autopilot right now; joy is found in fleeting moments.

I’m loving extra on Pele and Gambit, finding comfort in their presence.

I found the following quote a few days ago, and it does a good job of summing up how I feel.

It’s not that my love has no place to go.  It’s just that the object of said love isn’t here to pour it out upon.

My sadness is magnified when I see tangible traces of her disappearing left and right.

There’s less of her hair in my vacuum.  Her dog beds are gone (I had to dispose of them because she’d soiled them when she was so sick).  I put away her food bowl.  In fact, only having to prepare two bowls for each feeding breaks my heart.  Even scooping poop in the back yard makes me sad as I realize that there’s nothing in her usual spots.  This might seem funny to some of you, but it doesn’t take much to trigger the tears.

There is just so much to miss:

The way she sidled up to me when she wanted attention
The way she would begin easing her way to me at the first sign of rain or thunder
The way she would patiently wait for her turn to be loved on while we were loving on the other dogs
The way she would slide down beside me on the floor while I was doing ab workouts
The way she would look up at me, her soulful eyes meeting mine, in silent conversation with me
Kissing her in the middle of her forehead where her hair was the softest
Hugging her for endless moments because she always had the most patience for it

I miss everything.

And so it is that even as I begin reincorporating more things into my routine, I do so a bit unwillingly and rebelliously.  I miss my furry friend . . . my partner in crime . . . my Mama Girl.

Oh, and a quick but heartfelt thank you for the prayers, texts, and messages on Facebook and Instagram.  God created us to glorify Him, and one way we do that is by supporting one another.  I don’t know what I would do without each of you.

Dear Allen

Dear Allen,

Today, you departed this world after a short but valiant fight with cancer.

Yours is a life that ended too soon.

Although I’ve known that this day would more than likely arrive, still I grieve.

I think back to the time when your sweet wife, Christina, became my best friend.  We were drawn together through our love for knitting, and we spent hours chatting in the KnittingHelp.com chatroom.

We had much in common…teenage children…husbands that had the habit of driving us nuts…fur babies who got into constant mischief.

It wasn’t until your eldest son, Austin, got badly burned and spent three months in a Shriner’s hospital that my friendship with Christina went to a deeper level.

We began talking on the phone daily.

That’s when you entered the picture.

Sometimes, when I called, you answered the phone, and we would talk about this and that.

I distinctly remember more times than not the conversations involved you sending Christina off to buy yarn…or sometimes you would be the person buying the yarn as a surprise.

Through our phone conversations and Facebook chats, I learned how deeply you cared for your family…how desperately you wanted to be a good husband and father.

You were quick to blame yourself for issues that arose.

Through the pictures that you and Christina posted online, I learned of your love for nature…how you yearned for a simpler way of life…one unencumbered by government control…the peace to live your life as you wanted.

Christina shared with me your dream of building a cabin and living off the land.

In fact, I was mightily impressed when you allowed Christina to begin raising chickens in the backyard and even built her a chicken coop to keep the hounds from stalking the winged creatures.

As I sit here in tears, I count myself fortunate to have gotten to know you over the years.  I’ll never forget overhearing you strumming a guitar and singing an original Bluegrass song you’d written.  I suspect you may have been nipping at some moonshine, but that little secret is safe with me and my two readers.

I will forever remember what would be our last conversation, and you downplayed how sick you really were.  I knew, though, from the sound of your voice, that the world would soon lose you.

Thank you for your friendship…for your honesty…for entrusting your wife’s friendship to me.

Thank you for supporting your wife’s varied interests…her love for homeless fur babies…her passion for gardening…her sudden decisions to reorganize the house.

You were always real.  You never put on airs, and people knew where they stood with you.

Don’t worry about Christina and the boys.  One thing your passing has taught me is that they have lots of family and friends who will love them through the difficult times ahead.

Though we never got to meet in person, you will forever be as much of a friend as those I see day-to-day.

It is with much love that I bid you adieu.

Love in Christ,

Nathalie

Another Young Life Cut Short

As I attempt to sleep, snuggled under the covers with my puppies tucked in beside me, I find the sought-after rest eluding me.

Yesterday afternoon, I learned that a young lady Chicky attended elementary school with was killed in a car accident early yesterday morning.

She was the passenger. Early reports say that the car that hit hers was driving in the wrong direction.

When I saw the story on Facebook and read the young woman’s name, I was transported back…to a time of innocence…when school homework involved reading for thirty minutes, and parents scrambled to help the children put together dreaded science fair projects.

Play dates were the order of business after school and helped bridge the transition from school to home.

Moms got to know each other while chaperoning classroom parties, field trips, book fairs, and PTA meetings.

This was the backdrop of Chicky’s friendship with the young woman who lost her life yesterday.

Though it’s been over ten years since I saw this young lady…she, a mere child at the time, her face comes to mind easily.

I remember her dark, wavy hair and shy demeanor. Her younger brother was even more shy than she was!

Her mom was very involved in her children’s lives…hands-on…just as I was. Our love for our children drew us together, and though we moved away, I never forgot this family and thought about them periodically.

Oh, how my heart hurts for them right now.

The picture in the news article, gleaned from the young lady’s Facebook account, shows a beautiful woman, all grown up.

I don’t know what the intervening years brought her, but her picture reveals a love for life.

As I lay my head down, I am reminded that a family is going to bed without being able to say goodnight to the joy of their lives.

What sadness.

I want to put my arms around my own babies and thank the Lord for each day I can tell them I love them.

Please pray for this family and the difficult days to follow. The drivers of both cars were critically injured and need prayers. The driver of the other car, while at fault, needs prayers for forgiveness.

May God’s angels minister to all affected by this tragedy, and may we never take our children or the time we are given with them for granted.

Still Miss Her So

It’s been a little over two months since we lost Aubie.

She’s never far from our minds as things the other dogs do remind us of her and her quirky mannerisms.

I have my Macbook Pro desktop set to rotate through the pictures I’ve saved on my computer, and this one popped up the other evening.

Pele was a wee thing at the time.  He’s nearly 100 pounds now.

A couple of things about this picture touch me.

First, look at how small Aubie was on that bed.  It’s ironic that Pele would later be the one to lay across it because he would quickly outgrow the smaller one.

I also noticed that we had pushed their beds close together so he could be near to her at all times.

Pele loved Aubie and followed her everywhere.

There was, quite literally, a bounce in his step when she entered the room, and his ears would flop as he trotted after her.

She was his mama, and he worshiped the ground she walked on.

Sometimes I think he still misses her.  He gets a sad look on his face that no amount of loving can take away.

We miss her too, and the tears come unbidden when we least expect them.

How Dogs Cope With Loss

I promise that this will be the last post regarding the passing of my sweet Aubie, so don’t run away in fear of my slipping away permanently into the land of sadness.  I guess, in a way, this is my own way of coping.

The weekend was a tough one.  Tears descended at random moments.

What was rough, though, was watching as Pele, Molly, and Gambit began coming to terms with Aubie’s absence.

Friday night, the Mr. found Pele and Gambit in the crate together.

It’s important to note that Pele has been grumpy the last few months and occasionally snarls at Gambit.  They’ve even gotten into arguments a time or two.  The fact that Pele allowed Gambit to snuggle close…more than once…spoke volumes.

Just look at their faces…

I decided it they needed snuggle time, so I got down on the floor with them…

Later that evening, when the dogs were out of the crate, Gambit managed to sidle up to Pele and eased down, resting his head on Pele’s back…

This dog is addicted to the warmth of other living beings.  He often slept curled up beside Aubie.

Later this weekend, I washed Aubie’s bedding.  She had drooled a lot, and the wound on her leg had leaked (gross), so before allowing the dogs to sleep on it, I wanted to clean it up.

I thought they would eagerly pounce on it when I put it back on the floor.

I was wrong.

First, they inspected it…

Pele wasn’t sure about things…not one bit…as you can see from the way he turned his head…

They continued to sniff…every single nook and cranny…

Before walking away…

First, Pele eased behind the bed…close but not in it.  The look on his face was too much for my frayed nerves…

It didn’t take him long to get up and find a different spot on the floor to rest.  In fact, so did the other dogs…

Pele got up for another look…

In the end, he just would not/could not step onto that bed.

It absolutely broke my heart, and I was reduced to tears…yet again.

Watching my dogs grieve…especially Pele…adds another layer of sadness.

Aubie was the only Mama that Pele knew.  He followed her everywhere.  He slept with her.  He sniffed every part of her if she went somewhere without him.  He had to make sure she was safe and sound.  She was Queen Bee, and he had no problem deferring to her.

Meanwhile, Molly, who fought for Queen Bee status with Aubie and, as a result, was kept separated from her, hasn’t had as difficult of an adjustment.  She climbed on in…

This is not to say that she hasn’t been affected, for she has.

We switched out Molly and Aubie, allowing each of them time out in the common living area.  Molly has always enjoyed being by herself…in a bedroom…under the bed where it’s cool and dark.

Now that Aubie is gone, we are leaving her in the common area full-time (partly to stop her from tearing up my bedspread, which she is prone to do on a regular basis).

She doesn’t seem to be enjoying her freedom and often retreats to the back hallway near Chicky’s room.  It’s dark there.

Poor girl.

She’s a bit antisocial.  We think she’s part cat.

And Gambit?  How is he doing?

He’s somewhere in the middle.  He got in Aubie’s bed this afternoon, which I was glad to see.  He senses my mood and has been sticking even closer to me than usual.  He’s not his usual bouncy self, but he’s a guy who has always been extra sensitive to our feelings.

I’ve learned a lot of things through this experience.

I’ve learned that grieving for a pet is okay, and the depth of my sadness is okay as well.  It doesn’t make me weird.

I’ve learned that animals feel sadness too…both from their own hearts as well as their owners’.

I’m learning that the process of healing is a slow one and different for everyone…be it human or animal.

Through it all, God is the healer, and all of us will depend on His strength and wisdom to get us through those sad moments.

Christmas Memory #9

Not all Christmas memories are good.  After all, life doesn’t stop just because it’s the holidays.

In April 2001, I lost my dad suddenly.  I was still grieving heavily when the Christmas season rolled around.  I’m not sure why.  I guess you can’t put a time line on grief.

My dad always managed to select very unusual, yet thoughtful gifts.  One year, Soccer Chick received a doll that you could transform into Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf, and the Grandmother…all by simply pulling the skirt over the doll’s head in a couple of different ways.  Another year, he gave her a soccer ball signed by one of the European World Cup teams.  He had gotten it from one of the World Cup games that year.  Very cool.

So, when December arrived, I wasn’t ready for it.  Dad’s widow had notified us that she would be sending us some of his things.  She had planned on sending the package to my sister’s house since I would be in town for the holidays.  However, the mail got delayed, and the package didn’t arrive before I had to leave.

I was devastated.  I had eagerly waited each day for the box, and it had not arrived.  I longed to hold something that had been my dad’s.  I was also upset because my sister would get to go through everything first.  Selfish, I know, but that’s how I felt.

So, the dull ache of pain, much like a toothache, accompanied the holiday festivities that year.  It seems like a waste of energy now, but I felt like I was drowning in the midst of it.  Fortunately, the Christmases that followed have been better.

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