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.

 

My house is a very, very, very fine house

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Crosby, Stills and Nash permeate my brain as I write this post. In April of this year, I will have lived in my little house for twenty years. Twenty years. The walls surrounding the six-hundred square feet I call home have protected me from the elements, shrouded me from the realities I wanted to avoid and comforted me in my greatest moments of sadness.

These walls have listened to me converse with the numerous characters I have created in my stories, they have reaped the benefits of my good times and they have absorbed the many tears I have cried while facing the catastrophic losses in my life, and there have been several since I have been a resident here.

I dealt with the loss of my grandmother in this house. I came home and sobbed for the loss of my best college friend in this house. I spent many sleepless nights in this house after the loss of my father. I awoke in this house to the early morning phone call that my mother had passed. I conquered my divorce in this house. And most recently, I came home to this empty house after saying goodbye to my dog, who was my child and who lived here with me for twelve and a half years.

These walls are not just walls, they are my asylum. This home is my retreat, my security. There have been many moments when I thought my home wasn’t enough but, when I consider everything it has given to me during the past two decades, I know this home is everything I needed it to be. It will never make the cover of any magazine but it covers me in ways I could never have imagined. It will never be featured in Architectural Digest, but the bones of its structure, to me, are more formidable and more hospitable than any million dollar mansion ever could be. This is my protection. This is my refuge. This is my home.

 

 

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.

The Art Of Reading Through Tears

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I knew it was a risk. I had been told about a book called The Art Of Racing In The Rain and had all but ignored it…until now. I began reading this book in the waiting room of my Honda dealership while passing time during an oil change and brake pad replacement. It was a fitting scene.

The book is narrated from the perspective of a dog who belongs to a race car driver. Although I am not a race car driver (perhaps only in my mind), the irony of sitting in a car dealership while beginning this book was not lost on me. I devoured the first half of the book in two hours while waiting for my car to be serviced. I sat in a small, sparsely furnished area with three very large men and openly wept while devouring every chapter I could of this novel.

There is an underlying joke between my friend and I that we would be gold medal winners if the Olympics ever created a competition for crying. Sitting in the waiting room of that car dealership while reading this book was certainly my qualifying round. Initially I did my best to conceal my tears, but these three men were on to me from the appearance of the first glistening tear that tracked its way down my cheek and they made every effort to not make eye contact from that moment forward.

I have a dog who recently turned twelve and has health issues, and the narrative in this book hit very close to home. Every well-paced paragraph reminded me that I may be mere moments away from having to realize every truth written in this book about an aging pet. It was eviscerating, but strangely comforting.

This book gave me a gift. I now know that I will have the strength to make that tough decision because it is what is best for her, not for me. Her comfort and her dignity come before my need for having more time with her. And as I cry writing the end of this post, I know it will be one of the most difficult decisions I will ever have to make, but one that has to be made….for her.

 

The hitchhiker who didn’t ask for a ride

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If you follow my blog, you will know I have had some strange experiences with animals and reptiles at my home. Coming home to the eight-foot snake in my window after attending the funeral for my best friend was one of the craziest stories I have had the good fortune to tell, but yesterday’s tale is climbing the charts.

My co-worker came in to the office around noon to tell me there was a groundhog under my car. Four of us crowded around the vehicle and attempted to push the furry little guy out with a broom. It would be an understatement to say this creature was extremely uncooperative.

All the cajoling did not convince my new friend to extricate himself from under my car. Instead, he climbed up into my engine block and thought he could outwit us. We couldn’t reach him with the broom handle any more so I retrieved a pitcher of water from the kitchen and flushed him out. He lay on the ground under my car again and it was suggested I roll my car backwards, very slowly, so I didn’t pin him under the tire. The wily little bugger moved with the car so we were no further ahead. Just as I thought we were making some progress, he climbed up over my back wheel and somewhere into the frame of my car!

The afternoon progressed with no sign of the groundhog. We all went on the assumption he had crawled out when nobody was around and made his way back to his den. We assumed incorrectly. 

Fast forward to 7:30 pm. I had been home for a little over an hour and curled up on the couch reading a book. I got up to get something from the kitchen and looked out my living room window. There, munching away on the grass on my front lawn, was the groundhog. He saw me in the window and froze. I moved slightly to get a better look and he scurried back under my car. I put on my bug jacket and sat on my deck waiting to see if he would come back out. He gathered the courage to continue his expedition in uncharted territory and I took a few pictures to prove to myself I wasn’t losing my mind.

He made his way to the other side of the driveway and I can only hope he was looking for new real estate. The darkness eventually enveloped my car and the surrounding foliage. As I am writing this blog post, I can honestly say I have no idea if my hitchhiker has taken refuge from the rain in his new ride or if he found greener pastures to set up a new home. If you see an ad on Kijiji for a 2017 Honda Civic that is pet-friendly, the two events are unrelated.