The signs we shouldn’t ignore

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When the souls we hold dear move on to the next realm, I believe with my whole heart they send us signs. As strange as it sounds, when my friend Sandra passed away in 2003 I found my ear drums pummeled by the strains of the song The Girl From Ipanema. It was not a song I would ever have on my play list, and she knew how much that song made me cringe, but its chords would sound in random places and that same song magically appeared on the list of music I have on my iPhone. I have gone through my iTunes history and I have never downloaded nor have I ever paid for that song, but it IS there and I don’t have the will to delete it.

When my dad passed, it was owls. I would hear the Barred Owls at night having what seemed to be a profound conversation and one of those miraculous creatures would frequently visit and perch itself on the largest branch of the tree closest to my deck. When I am having a bad day, those owls seem to make themselves known with their signature call and the calming effect takes me back to when I was a child and would curl into my dad’s protective embrace.

Years later, when we lost my mom, it was butterflies. Although Monarch butterflies are relatively common where I live, these stunning winged creatures would appear in such a way that we knew my mom was letting us know she was close. There was a playfulness to their flight, like she was reminding us of how strong her spirit was on Earth and how that spirit continues to be a part of our lives even though she has been gone for almost six years.

Today, still fresh from the raw emotion of having to recently let my dog go, it was birds. Callaway and I used to sit on the deck together and I would marvel at the unique species that would visit my feeders. There have been many different birds who have frequented my deck, but Chickadees have always been my favorite. With the tears still sneaking up on me, I sat in my living room today and watched at least five dozen Goldfinches jockey for a position on the feeder through the window to my right. The slight movement to my left made me look out the other window and a single Chickadee was sitting on the window sill, looking directly at me from outside the glass. It stayed for longer than a confused bird would and its gaze was trained on nothing other than me.

These are the signs that make me feel like our lives are not limited to where we are now. Every one of the signs I have acknowledged over my lifetime gives me a sense of peace. They provide me a continued connection to those important souls in my life and let me know that they have not actually left, but they are now able to communicate in a way that is special to me.

 

And just like that, I felt a sense of peace

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Many of you who have read my recent blog posts know I had to say goodbye to this beautiful soul on January third. We had twelve and a half years of a wonderful relationship together. She was so much more than just my dog and every facet of my life changed drastically when I had to make the decision to let my baby girl go.

There has not been a day during the last two weeks that I haven’t cried. The moments of grief have ranged from glistening tears slowly rolling down my cheeks to sobs that mimicked the sound of a mewling animal being viciously slaughtered. I have been physically and emotionally eviscerated.

Morning is the worst time for me. We had a routine that I loved. Even if I was ready to get up, I would rub her ears, give her the butt scratch she was waiting for and tell her “ten more minutes”. She would dutifully acknowledge my request and lie back down in her bed, anxiously waiting for that ten minutes to go by before we went for our morning walk. Her level of intelligence and understanding was remarkable.

With the passing of each calendar day, I knew the phone call would soon come telling me her ashes had been returned to the veterinary office. That call came at 1:22 pm yesterday while I was at work and I was crying before I even ended the call. I put forth my best effort to do my job as effectively as I could but I wanted nothing more than to bring my baby home. I left work early, took care of some deliveries to the food bank and slowly made the turn into the familiar parking lot.

After the welcome distraction of giving some love to the vet assistant’s beautiful dog, I took the package that looked like a giant Tiffany’s box and made my way home. When I got home, I couldn’t open that blue box. I poured some wine, paced around my house and finally gathered the courage to remove the urn that held Callaway’s remains. I placed that urn in its rightful place and I came unglued. I cried so hard I made sounds that are not of this world. But as suddenly as those tears came, they stopped. I don’t think my words will ever do justice to the sense of peace that washed over me just knowing she was home where she belongs.

There will still be many more tears shed as I remember the life we had together and how special she was but I know the happy memories of her will slowly replace the overwhelming sense of loss I currently feel. I miss you, baby girl.

 

An ocean of sorrow

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I have cried a million tears for you
and I will cry a million more.
The house is so unnaturally quiet now,
like it’s never been before.
I’m talking to you like you never left,
like you’re lying by my side.
I’m waiting for you to lick my tears
like you always did when I cried.
My heart is broken knowing you’re gone
and I will never again see your face.
An ocean of sorrow fills this house
and I’m drowning in the emptiness of this place.
But I know, slowly, I will come up for air,
face my grief one breath at a time.
I will cherish the memories of the bond we had
and forever thank the Gods who made you mine.
I miss you, sweet girl, your smiling face
and the love you unconditionally shared.
Your paw prints remain forever on my heart,
and together we will always be paired.
You went to sleep, knowing I loved you
and you will always be in my heart.
And each moment I spend thinking of you
means we will never truly be apart.

 

Losing the biggest part of my heart

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On Friday afternoon, I had to say goodbye to this beautiful soul. She was my child, my best friend and the greatest listener I have ever known. I had the extreme honor of having her in my life for twelve and a half years and I am gutted knowing I will not be able to come home to her smiling face ever again.

It was a peaceful transition and the vet was wonderful as he explained what would happen. With my brother by my side, I petted her and told her how much I loved her as she lowered her head onto my arm and just went to sleep.

I know I did the right thing, for her, but I want her back so much it physically hurts. Every time I get up from the couch, I still look down to make sure I’m not going to step on her because she was never far from my side. When I look at the door to my bedroom, I expect to see her looking out from her second favorite spot behind the door since she always had to know where I was. And, for the first time in over a decade, I have gone to the bathroom without her lying outside the door, and I hate it.

When you lose a pet, people respond with empathy and sadness for your loss but the inevitable question always presents itself in the conversation that soon follows, “are you going to get another one?” I know the intention of the question comes from a good place but I don’t recall anyone asking so soon after my father or my mother died when I was going to get another one. She wasn’t just a dog, she was my family and to think of moving on from her so quickly is unimaginable. 

One day, my heart will heal enough to make room for another dog but it won’t be any time soon. She was special. She was smart, she was sweet and she was beautiful. And she was the biggest part of my heart. 

Oh, baby girl, I miss you so much.

How do you say goodbye to someone who is dying?

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As someone who loves words and has no trouble putting my thoughts into sentences, I am at a loss for what to say. If you read this post a couple of weeks ago, you will know I received the difficult news that a group of ladies who annually visited the lodge will visit no more. In three short months, one has progressed rapidly into Alzheimer’s disease and the other was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and is being cared for in her home to make her as comfortable as possible in the last few weeks of her life.

How do I say goodbye? I know, in essence, what I want to say but the words won’t come, perhaps because saying goodbye sounds so final. She is not gone, but saying goodbye makes it feel like I have accepted her fate and I have not yet come to terms with her diagnosis and quick deterioration.

I want to tell her how unfair it is she didn’t have a chance to fight, because I know she would have fought like a warrior, but I know she already knows that. The words I send to her will be words of appreciation for the short time I was able to spend getting to know her. My words to her will be warm and heartfelt. But the time I spend writing them will be heart-wrenching and leave me feeling slightly eviscerated.

I didn’t know her for very long but her absence will be felt on May 28th when the room they shared at the lodge remains empty. I will miss you, Barb, and I hope we see each other again on the other side.

 

 

People die twice

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I attended a dinner last night to honor my best friend’s brother who was killed in a car accident five years ago. Family and friends gathered to share their stories and keep Cam’s memory alive with their fond and funny recollections of a man whose life was cut too short.

I have written before that I fall back on words for comfort during times of turbulent emotion. Words give me the ability to process things in a way that nothing else can. I was shocked to find out that many of Cam’s family habitually read my blog and even more overwhelmed when his mother quoted back to me words I had written after his funeral in this blog post.

The patriarch of the family got up to make a speech and was joined by his wife close the end of his rhetoric. Stepping out of her comfort zone, she regarded the faces staring back at her and gave a speech of her own. Her words punched me right in the heart and, not surprisingly, I cried.

She spoke about a woman who told her ‘people die twice’, once when they stop breathing and again after people stop talking about them and cease to say their name. Instinctively, my hand went to the tattoo on my right forearm I painstaking endured in honor of my parents who have both passed. This ink on my skin continually starts an exchange with people and I happily talk about my parents on a regular basis.

This yearly event, held at the cottage Cam held so close to his heart, is a way to keep the discussion going, a way to keep Cam’s name in the conversation and a way to ensure he will never die a second time.

 

 

 

Hold everyone close

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When you work in hospitality, relationships are naturally created with the people you meet. For the brief time they are in your presence, they become an extended part of your circle. You share stories, you share laughs and you create a bond that continues to grow with every visit.

I have had the good fortune of nurturing a relationship that was created with six women who visit the lodge every May. Their connections run deep and they have spent the majority of their lives weaving themselves into the fabric of each other’s reality. I have had the honor of being a part of their lives for two days every May for the last seven years. They are the personification of friendship. They share a sisterhood that is evident and they spent their time at the lodge basking in old memories and creating new ones.

But all of that has changed. One of the ladies called yesterday to tell me their group would not be returning to the lodge. In the few short months since they bid us farewell, one has been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and one has progressed rapidly into Alzheimer’s Disease. As I sat in stunned silence listening to their friend on the phone, it was all I could do not to burst into tears in my office.

These women were some of the first guests I met when I started my new job at the lodge. They embraced me as if I had been a part of their lives for decades and each one has had an impact on me. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply I feel their pain. I can see all of their faces and can hear the laughter they shared during every visit. I can flash back to taking their group photo on many occasions and cannot begin to express how heavy my heart is as I write this post.

I know the future for these ladies will be forever changed. My sadness drastically pales in comparison to what they will be forced to face and I can only hope they find comfort in their memories. I will always hold on to the times they created some of those memories at the lodge and included me in those moments.