For All Those Who Cannot Face Mother’s Day

When my mother turned 65, my sisters and I had pre-planned a quiet celebration for her at a local café called Samuel’s.  We met on a dreary Sunday afternoon for chai lattes, specialty coffees and cheesecake, while rain misted the windows and sidewalks outside the old heritage building housing the restaurant.  Upon leaving, we huddled together in the parking lot for a picture of this momentous occasion, quietly celebrated between three sisters, one sister-in-law and our beloved mother.  Shortly thereafter, we left and went our separate ways- unaware of what was to transpire just mere hours later.

That evening, my mother received a phone call from the manor where her sister and mother both resided, living side-by-side in adjacent rooms.  Her one and only remaining sibling, her sole (soul) sister, was physically very low.  Would she please come?  There were no guarantees of how much time was remaining.  My mom gathered up her belongings and left the next morning for Fredericton, and for the remaining two weeks prior to her sister’s home-going to Heaven, my mother stayed by her side.  Holding her hand.  Rubbing lotion into her soft skin. Adjusting pillows and uttering soft words of comfort.  Loving her sister the best way she knew how.

Little did my mama know that not even one year later- this time again just weeks prior to her 66th birthday, she would again make the trek to that same New Brunswick manor.  This time in the hopes that she would arrive in time to bid a tearful goodbye to her mother who had sadly fallen ill over the winter months and rather quickly took a turn for the worse mid-March.  Sorrowfully, Mom was not to be there for this quiet home-going.  She arrived to a closed door shut on an empty room, no welcoming smile to greet her.

All was silent.

I can’t imagine what that must have felt like to have seen the door shut like that.  To have realized that behind that closed door was no longer that comfort of the living. No tender smile or warm touch.  To my mom, there was the realizing that this chapter of her life- life lived with the constancy of family and heritage: it was now over.  Every one of her immediate family members- the ones she grew up with, lived with and loved- were now gone.  And all that awaited her upon arriving at the residence she had visited for so many years was the shell of the one she had forever before known as MOTHER.

This Sunday will be her first ever Mother’s Day lived without her mom.  I really can’t yet even imagine what this must be like.

There are so many people grieving the loss of a loved one in these difficult days leading up to Mother’s day.  There are children wondering how they will navigate the days leading up to this hugely celebrated holiday with its focus on cards, crafts and trinkets all made for mothers.  There are teenagers trying to process their feelings about what this all means and young adults trying to be there for their siblings in ways that a mother would, even though that is not entirely their burden to carry.  There are grown women who still crave their mother’s words of wisdom on the other end of the phone line or who yearn for the physical presence of their mother at the kitchen table; and there are husbands who are faced with being both mother and father to their Littles and Bigs, in the wake of their chosen partner in life’s passing to the Great Beyond.

How do we as people do these hard things?

Jason Tippetts, husband to Kara Tippetts of the beautiful blog Mundane Faithfulness wrote transparently these raw and beautiful words about life and its ebb and flow for those left behind:

“These are the events that I dread. I remember asking Kara to help me plan this year of firsts. I assumed a long and hard conversation, I would take notes and then feel better about the plan. But instead Kara’s answer was, “You will be great. You will know what to do!” Not the answer I wanted but it was the answer I needed. I needed to know that I could fumble through this, that I would do okay. That I could process through decisions without her input. I needed to know that whatever we as a family decided to do was okay. I so appreciate that freedom she gave me.”

To all those who are hurting right now and who dread this upcoming Sunday of celebration for one reason or another, know that whatever you decide to do (so as to pass the day, celebrate the day, commemorate the day or skip the day entirely for this year) it is all okay.

There is no right or wrong way to work through the pain of these difficult years of firsts.  You will know what to do when the day comes.  Do it and feel no guilt for your decision.

I know that there is no way to compensate for the loss of a loved one- no one human being can ever take the place of another precious soul.  But may we all be cognizant that there is much pain and heartache around us.  Sometimes the most beautiful of holidays can evoke the deepest anguish.

To all those out there who are hurting this Mother’s Day, may you find peace and strength and comfort from Above.

Love and light and hope to your and yours.

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Here’s to loss (and the gains that follow)

Last week, we were in Florida while the rest of the Maritimes dug themselves out from another ‘white-mare’. I am sure it seems to everyone who lives here that there will never be an end to all the snowy, blizzard-y winter weather we have been experiencing over that last two months. Long range- forecasts project that things could continue into April, if things follow along on this riotous path to who knows where. What to do? Well, what our family decided to do was go south- forget our worries, cares and concerns and head to the light. To heat and warmth and sun and parks. Yes, making our way to lots and lots and lots of parks. And of course finding some water along the way, too.

One cannot do without the water in Florida.

So you would think that when you head for a reprieve from reality, that reality would just stay put and not follow you. Funny how life works- unfortunately, this isn’t how it goes down. Reality, when one is vacationing, is just the same old thing it always was- dressed up in different clothes that somehow seem prettier. And to illustrate my point, I will provide a small story.

It was our very first day at Disney. I was a little (understatement) stressed, but mostly trying to remind myself that this was suppose to be fun- because I was on vacation. And vacations are fun (HAHA). So, after getting up early (5:30 a.m.), getting everyone up on schedule and out the door on time, getting there without getting killed in the process (crazy roads) and then manouvering through the parking system, ticket office and fast-pass station without too many hitches (I nearly negated all my own tickets, but that’s another story),… I finally told myself:

“Self, it’s time to relax and enjoy this day!”

So, I took out a pack of gum while standing in line for my first ride, passed it around to our crew of six eager patrons of Disney’s Magic Kingdom and then promptly stuck a stick of gum in my mouth, choosing to chomp on my right side first (as I had just started to heal from surgery on the left side and things were still tender there).

I know you all know what happened next. It was actually something I have nightmares about- that sound of metal on enamel. It is an entirely yucky sound and feeling- and to lose a tooth at the beginning of our stay was disappointing, to say the least. I just found out this afternoon, much to my dismay, that the tooth of which I write is absolutely irreparable.

Such is life.

I tell you all this to really tell you THIS factoid: So yesterday, while we were driving home (and while I was gingerly eating snacks, carefully checking each time with my tongue swiping around my mouth so as to ensure I hadn’t lost another tooth), I heard a news report about Angelina Jolie taking preventative measures to protect herself against cancer. In light of the fact that she has had a double mastectomy along with just undergoing surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes, I started to think about my own situation- the loss of my teeth. Incredibly minor in light of Jolie’s choice to do without. And I started to think about the fact that I am not carrying any longer a full set of pearlie-whites as not so much a disadvantage, something to grieve as a loss: but rather, something to see as a gift I was loaned for a short while, and thus something I can certainly live without now that the gift is taken from me.

Yes, this requires a tremendous amount of perspective! And a little bit of imagination to boot.

Sometimes we choose to live our lives with less so that we can then live out the rest of our lives with more. And living with less does not mean that life cannot be fulfilling and purposeful. Doesn’t mean that one is necessarily worse off than they were the moment before, when they had more. Rather, living with less just means less- not bad or worse or terrible or horrific. Just less.

I have less teeth than I use to. Angelina Jolie has less parts than she use to. You might have less of something to, if you really admitted it. You see, I don’t just have fewer teeth than I use to: I also have less dark brown hair growing on my scalp (oh grey hair, you are not my fave), less elasticity in my skin, less vision and less flexibility in these ole’ muscles. I could go on…

But at this point in my life, with all the loss- I have certainly made some gains- for I have more clarity, more perspective, more perception and more insight than I ever did, even ten years ago. If losing a tooth is a trade-off for even one of those qualities, then I certainly have much to be thankful for.

So, while standing there in that line-up- while I did momentarily grieve the loss of that tooth (okay, I still lapse sometimes into a bit of sorrow), I have also realized that with this loss, I have gained moments I will forever cherish. Moments I would never get back again had I chosen to just sit there and grieve my loss. You see, the reality of this situation was: I was with my family, in a line-up (that would be the longest line-up of the day, but I digress….) at Disney and I was about to ride a roller-coaster. A roller-coaster, people!! This is something I couldn’t do over when I was finally done my pity-party. Not something I could come back to later when I was feeling better. I had to get in the groove and do it NOW. So I made a decision to just press on- and tuck that (expensive) little crown in my purse and FOR-GEDDA-BOUT-IT.

I realized right then and there- and this one thing’s for sure: there is no minimum requirement of teeth necessary for one to get on a roller-coaster and enjoy the day. And with every loss in life, there is always a gain.

So here’s to loss and the gains that follow…because there is always that predictable bit of sunshine to come after the downpour, light that shines brightly after every rain cloud disappears.

We can do hard things…

It is hard not to succumb to the sadness. Challenging not to give in to the fear, letting it wash all over us. It would be much easier to sink deeper and deeper. Because everywhere you turn, there it is. Pain. Sorrow. Grief. Trouble. Distress.
It’s there, wherever you turn.
And days like this one, when we are reminded yet again that life is not fair, that life can seem to cheat us of what we wish to have- it’s days like these that we feel it the most. Despair. And we just would rather lie down and let it beat us than try and stand and fight it off. Fighting’s too hard sometimes. It require too much of us. For it requires planning and a vision- it requires a revelation and the hope of a promise. Fighting means believing. And believing means hope.
Sometimes it’s hard to get there- hope seems too far away. It seems elusive. Like sands in an hourglass.
But hope is what we crave- it always will be.
And I was reminded today- on a day when I woke feeling like hope was at its faintest, farthest point…I woke feeling that hope was too far out of reach. On this very day when I was at the lowest,I was reminded by someone very young, of a very great truth. That truth is this. We might be down, but we are not defeated. We might be disadvantaged, but we are not without aspiration. We might despair, but we are not left without expectation. We are able- we just need to believe it.
Because we can do hard things.

WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.

Isn’t that incredible? WE CAN. And I was reminded of this great truth today for the millionth time.  Just when I was nearly about to let go of believing. We can do this life. We can do hard things.

We can face adversity and come out stronger.
We can deal with hardship and thrive.
We can go through extreme difficulty and persevere.
We can suffer misfortune and live to tell the tale.
We can endure harsh conditions and grow tenacity.
We can look danger in the face and say the words: Love is stronger.
We can win over fear.

And we can do this- we can do these hard things because we’re able. We’ve been enabled.
My source of strength is drawn from the One Who gives limitless strength. And because He’s able, so am I. His Promises are sure: I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me. And when the words say ALL, I believe it.
I can face uncertain days, live with pain and suffering, accept the life I have been given and know for sure that this life was meant to be lived by me. This way. I can know for sure that I was meant to thrive, not survive.
And all because I believe. I BELIEVE. And because I believe in One who is able. So then am I.

I can do hard things.
And so can you.

So let’s just live it, like we know it’s really true.

He still moves

Thirty-one years today since that pick-up truck plowed into her little car, leaving her motionless.  The spark snuffed out.  Leaving her to sit and moan the occasional word.  Rubbing constantly at her crusted eye, still swollen shut.  Her lifeless hands and legs. No animated gestures to light up a room.  They’re nearly all but gone, but for the sudden reflexive movement.

But there are times.  When one sees it in her face- a knowing.  It’s the way she sometimes looks at you, as if she understands.  And in that knowing is found the deepest wounding – that’s where proverbial knife meets flesh and gouges.  It cuts to the heart.  And as she sits year after year after senseless year in that chair by the occasional window, I wonder.  Do thoughts of Christmas miracles ever fleetingly pass through her mind?  Does she know?  Does she ever question why?  And does God care?  Is He with even her, there in the dark recesses of her mind?

It’s all I’ve ever really wanted to know.

And sometimes what we really want, but are afraid to voice in more than merely a whisper, is a miracle.  A sign.  A sense that God does care.  That He is truly with us.  That He’s not dead.  That He’s alive.  That His voice can still be heard as if over a rocky hillside speckled with dirty sheep.  Grungy shepherds herding them along with stumped staffs.  Heard in a little Jewish town with the lone sound of a newborn’s cry, a doting mother’s gentle lullaby heard softly in the still of the frigid winter night.  As if in a dirty stable, sticky cow manure littering the floor.  A filthy manger piled high with straw, roughly hewn: given as a bed.  As if we were there.  As if I were there.  Because He was there- truly there among the people.  In the messy, complicated jumble we call living.  And that He is still here: in the present, the here and now.  It is a miracle.  For that is all we truly need to know in the stark reality of everyday living.

To know that He is with us.  Emmanuel.

Emmanuel, God with us.

It is so easy to forget that truth when faced with the pain of loss- the pain of separation.  Easy to forget in the midst of the trouble that is betrayal and rejection.  The tragedy of disease and unexpected loss of both minor and grave proportions.  Those harsh realities so peculiar and perplexing to as human beings.  All is not always well.  Life is not always easy- even at Christmas.  Especially at Christmas.

It seems that Christmas time accentuates  trouble.  For life is difficult all year round.  It is struggle.  When financial stress touches down, wreaking havoc on families and marriages, trouble is there. When an unfortunate father walks out on his child or a distressed mother slits her wrists in a cry for help.  Trouble is there yet again.  When a child gets cancer or some other terminal diagnosis and suddenly life takes a turn for the worse: it’s hard to really sense God is with us through all of that.  That He hears and He sees and He feels our pain.  That He knows.

That He is there in the midst.  Even in the midst of all that trouble and distress.

Emmanuel.

For all we really want is a miracle.  A sense of His presence.  To feel as the shepherds did the joy of knowing wonder.  To experience as did that simple innkeeper the humbling knowledge of  having room for a King.  Preparing a way for the Christ-child’s birth.  To know as did Mary and Joseph that even simple common, everyday folks can still receive the miracle of Christmas.  Because all we’re really looking for is a sign.

All I am really looking for this Christmas is a miracle.

A friend wrote me the other day.  Last year this time, her life was falling apart.  Her marriage was in shambles.  Her faith was being tested.  She was experiencing trouble on every level.  And I remember the day still when she looked me in the eye and said, “There is very little hope.”  I remember those words.  And I remember wondering myself, “Is there?  Is there really little hope?”

And then.   To receive her letter this week- knowing a Christmas miracle had occurred in her life.  That her little faith had been multiplied.  And that God had moved and increased her ‘little’ to make it filled to overflowing- that’s the miracle of Christmas.

And it can happen again and again and again.

Because God still moves in mysterious ways.

Even in the little things.  In the details.  Just this week, I lost something worth hundreds of dollars.  It was an important item to me personally.  And I searched high and low and in corners and crevices.  I called family members, having them strip-search rooms so as to find that one little lost item.  And when all seemed about lost, I had no sooner asked my mother to pray that I would find what I had lost, when God placed it right before my eyes.  Literally.  No sooner were the words spoken and I looked: it was there.  As if by miracle.  My little Christmas miracle.

And I don’t say all this to trivialize those miracles that have not yet happened, that are yet to occur- there are people in my life who are still hurting.  Who are waiting for their Christmas miracle.  Who have all but given up hope.  Who believe there could never be a way.  Whose faith seems so small.

I am here to tell you: God’s not dead.  He’s a God that’s in the details.

And He still moves.

And even within her- I know He does.  He still loves.  He still understands.  His heart breaks just as does mine.  As does all of ours.  And He’s there with her in the darkness of her room each night.  He meets her in those desolate places where loneliness threatens to steal joy.  He has not left her there alone.  And time is in His hands.

Time is in His hands.

And though I may not yet understand the mystery of His ways.  This I know for sure: He still moves.

Why say thanks?

Lights dimmed, a lone candle lit.  All is warm and cozy, safe and sound.  The Little One and I snuggle under plush covers, heads touching on the pillow. Her fine baby hair spreads fan-like, soft tendrils all around. So light.  So easy to be a child.  And yet.

I just feel heavy beside her.  But still I listen to prayers.  Looking, as ever for gratitude in the offerings.  She utters words and so do I.  But my heart is just not in it tonight.  Not in the thankfulness-spirit of it all.

I’m struggling.

How can we be thankful in everything?

I mean, really.  Everything?  You’ve got to be kidding me, right?

I have to stop and share this story.

We arrive for a sleepover, the three girls and I.   My family’s home place, warm and inviting on a bitterly- cold, January evening.   I climb the staircase and round the kitchen corner to find Mom’s water cooler in two pieces, a towel under the floor next to the spot where the container had previously sat atop the base.  The over-sized jug stands, stark naked on the middle of the table, half full of water.

“What happened?” I ask.

“Oh,” she says with a tired voice.  I came home this morning after having been away for a few hours to find the kitchen full of water.  Everywhere, water.”

She tells me of the arduous process of cleaning it all up.  Of taking every piece of china out of the cabinet so as to pull the huge piece of furniture away from the wall.  Of cleaning the leaking mess all around the baseboards and behind every table and cupboard that might move.  Of the hassle this undoubtedly was.

And then she says this.

“And to think.  I had just told Him (my brother) the other day how much I loved that water cooler, and how good the water tasted!  And now.  It’s gone.  Just like that.”

We talked for a bit about the ways in which this seems to happen quite often to her, dear Mom.  And we both got to thinking of particular stories just lately in which Mom has specifically lost something dear to her heart that she had made a point of being thankful for.  For instance.  The time when she had just finished saying a little prayer of thanks for the small electric heater in her bedroom that had been given to her as a gift.  And then literally, five minutes later, it made a noise and blew a fuse.

And that was the end of that little luxury.

Or this one.  The day last fall when my mother was caring for some of her six grandbabies and the older ones took an hour to run wildly through the field behind her house.  And so did she.  And when she stopped to catch her breath, in those precious moments in which this special memory transpired, she stopped to also say a quick prayer that went something like this: “Thank you God that I can still run with my grandkids, and that I have the energy to move in this way.”  And how not long after, she hit her leg hard on a bench in her home and injured it permanently.  So that she has never been able to run again in this manner.

And to think.  She had just stopped to breathe a prayer of gratitude for this also.

Mom jokingly added this thought: “That’s why I never say thanks to God for my four children! (who knows what would happen if I did?)”

She jests.  Of course she does, say ‘thanks’.

But what of the Others who do so also?  Those Significant Others in my life who have said countless ‘thanks’ for that precious of all gifts, a child, only to lose that very gift of which they uttered words of gratitude.  That Father awakened at midnight by two police officers telling him that his beloved daughter had been in a car crash and was now gone into eternity.  That Mother also receiving her bitter news, only this time it was a daughter maimed and her near–to-birth baby in utero, dead.   That Man who loved his job but lost it, all because of Parkinson’s.  That Boy who lost his eyesight.  That Girl who sits day after day in a wheel chair, only to have food trickle out of her mouth even as someone spoons it in, her eyes crusted over from infection.  Her head indented from where the snow plow blade sliced skin and bone.

These all.  Prayed over, and with thankful hearts, beloved.  But life, and love and livelihood taken anyway.  Even in the midst of gratitude and thankfulness.

The questions pile over and over in my head, tumbling in a free fall as if they have reached a precipice and due to forces of nature, have fallen over the edge.  And so might I, sometime.  But for the grace of God.

And all these questions beg an even greater question.  Were these people, these things, this precious stuff of which we make our lives so wonderful and rich, were they ever ours to begin with?  And is anything ever really ours?  Do we hold in our possession any thing, any one?  Can we lay claim to anything…ever?  What can we hold as our own?

Job 1:18-21 (NIV)

“While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house.  It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!  At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.  Then he fell to the ground in worship and said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

I am not Job.  Nor do I have the wisdom of Solomon.  Neither am I a staunch gratitude champion or a simple idealist.  But when I think about gratefulness, I think that this thankful-spiritedness means this: acknowledging what I have (nothing), what I owe (everything) and why I am grateful (because all of life, from the brevity to the length of it, from the richness to the poverty of it, from the joy to the sorrow of it, it is all His).

And because all of life is a gift, I am grateful.  And even in this one small thing, in the acknowledgement of so great a truth, we can give thanks.  Even when the asking is hard.  And even when the answers never come.

The Beauty of Today (Living in the Moment)

As a mom, I feel pressure to capture and preserve every waking moment of my four children’s lives. To photograph, video-tape, blog, anecdote; to keep a baby calendar, baby-record book, family scrapbook, and personal diary; to Facebook, Pinterest, Tweet and Instagram for the love of my children; and to do things the old-fashioned way: write them down on whatever piece of paper I might find stashed away in my purse.  In years past, I had been known to date, detail and file photographs of my little ones the same day as they were printed.  I have also lost sleep so as to record baby milestones in four separate Winnie-the-Pooh record books.  I have written blog posts into the wee hours of the night, trying to encapsulate every detail of an event involving my precious children.  And I have written weight, height and head circumference numbers on the back of receipts found inside my purse, only to discover these jottings months later, realizing I forgot to write down which child the stats belonged to.   In my best efforts not to forget the here and now, I might just have missed at times, the most important part of the present:  the beauty of reveling in and appreciating the simplicity of big and small moments.

Tuning out the noisy demands of technology, and instead allowing time spent with my children to be the focal point of my heart.

A few short years ago, a mother I was acquainted with at the time experienced a house fire.  When I went to visit her later in the afternoon, she was understandably in a blurry daze.  Her house was still smoldering in the distance, and she was left to pick up the pieces and forge ahead for the sake of her family and her children.   What she was most bothered by that infamous afternoon, secondary to the obvious loss of her beloved home and belongings, was the destruction of her three sons’ baby record books.  Although her boys were safe and sound and there was no loss of life, it was reasonable for her to grieve the cost of losing this most precious treasure: the chronicle of her children’s lives up to that fateful experience she was living that very moment.  It was heart-wrenching to watch her sadness.

And I understood on many levels what she was feeling.  I knew from my own record-keeping the memories those pages held and the time invested in chronicling those recollections.  Precious memories: that first of all photographs- the ultra-sound picture.  The miniscule hospital bracelet with baby’s vital stats.  The stories lovingly crafted while reminiscing and detailing the events of a baby shower or first birthday party.  The health record, complete with immunizations and reactions.  That first curl, snipped and carefully sealed inside an envelope.  A tiny hand-print and foot print sealed in black ink.

Priceless reminders, these icons of the baby years.  They are irreplaceable.  But they are merely symbols of life, and thankfully for this friend, the lives they stood for were still with her.

Another friend and I were speaking a few years later, this time meeting up in a grocery isle at Walmart.  The conversation again centered around loss and symbols, only this time the loss was the child.  As precious as the remaining symbols were to this mother- the little sleepers, the photographs, the receiving blankets, they could not replace the child they represented.  They were but painful reminders of what could have been.  A life abrupted.

As much as the chronicling of my own children’s lives means to me, the records I’ve kept are disposable.  The pictures fade, the plaster cracks, the baby clothes I carefully washed and folded away are all now musty, in spite of my best efforts.  Even the memories of time well spent fade and dissolve a bit in the passage of time. But what remains, in spite of my best efforts to preserve all that matters to me, are the relationships forged.   The things that stay intact in my mind are the feelings.   For I know at the end of the day, I may not remember everything about today, but I have carved out time to be part of my children’s lives.  And they know my love through my use of time.  Watching them play soccer after school, sitting side-by-side practicing piano, lovingly sudsing up fine baby hair with fragrant shampoo.  Holding hands, kissing cheeks, family hug fests.  Building ‘I love you’ into the actions, not just the words.  And for every parent who has suffered a loss, from one extreme to the next: know this.  You built love into your child and that is the greatest document to a life well-lived that there ever will be.

Time invested is a testament to the very essence of love.

So when I start to feel guilt that I haven’t updated my children’s  baby books, I gently remind myself that it is not the updates that count: it’s the beauty of the moment.  Although I still feel there is far too much pressure on parents to record every detail of our lives for infinity, I’m not advocating that we stop altogether.  We live in a digital age in which pictures are posted to a global community within seconds of being taken, where posts and statuses and blogs are updated at times on a minute by minute basis and where video is live streamed.  And the advances of technology have made it so much easier for parents to keep a chronicle of their children’s lives.  So I’m not going to stop record-keeping:  I’m just going to pull my head out from behind the camera and watch my kids with the naked eye rather than always observing them from through the lens of a camera.

Over the years, I have been inundated with ways in which to preserve today’s memories for future generations.  But there is no time like the present in which to really live.  And I say these are the moments that count.

Joy is hard sometimes….

Sadly, our little puppy, Lucky, was hit and killed on the road this afternoon.  I never realized one could feel pain so deeply for a pet, but I have seen evidence of such tonight.  We are grieving, each in our own way.

It was a difficult day anyway.  I left the house earlier than usual this morning, shouting out orders to this one and that one as I ran out the door to the van.  I left instructions with my husband to put the dog in the shop so she would be out of the elements.  It has been a windy, rainy day. Even now as I write, the wind howls outside.  Blustery weather, to put it mildly.  Husband was busy finishing up morning errands, and we never finalized exactly what was to be done.  About the dog.  All I knew is that I did not want Lucky out in the rain.  So my final words were to my husband.

“Put that dog in the shop…she’s soaking wet!”

Little did we know at the time, she had managed to outrun her shock collar and get through the invisible wire fencing system we had introduced mere days ago.  And she did so when our son was on the way to the bus, unbeknownst to us.

Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve….

The last picture I have of her in my mind is from this morning.  I can picture her now digging a hole in the dirt where we just finished putting a new septic system in the ground.  She was as dirty as can be, happily digging there in that giant mud lot. She must have thought she hit the jackpot.

We waited until the very end of the day to tell the children.  Truthfully, there was no other time in between in which to even sit down and think.  What with swimming lesson for two hours, after school meetings with colleagues and another meeting with fellow congregants at my church.  And then, we were all off to a music awards ceremony in which our son was to receive recognition for perseverance.  We certainly did not want to bring anything up to him prior to his performance.

So, here we are.  It has been a rough night.

I am mindful that we have only lost a pet.  A cherished pet, but still, an animal.  However, death is death.  Grief is grief.  We feel it using the same senses, even if the sensations are more acute in some situations than in others. And because all life is precious, we will stop to take notice.  And grieve first and then remember.   Later on, we will find strength to understand that life is fleeting and we are only here but for a breath.  So make those breaths count.  Even stinky doggy breaths.  They count for a lot.  Especially to the people that love them.

My son has had the hardest time of all the children in accepting this loss.  To him, as to the rest, Lucky was a friend. A playmate.  A companion. Her presence will be missed.  She was funny, bright and loved.  She was silly and wild.  She was a true free spirit and she died doing what she loved doing best.

Fondly remembered, sadly missed, never forgotten. We’ll miss you, Lucky.