Crossing Rainbow Bridge

For many of us, our pets are our “kids”. My very first dog was a runt, Schnauzer-mix that I adopted while living in Austin, TX. I named her Rhiannon – yes, after my favorite Fleetwood Mac song. Rhiannon was my constant companion, and she moved with me to New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, Rock Hill, back to Atlanta and lastly Chicago.

Rhiannon was just shy of 18 years old in July 2002. John and I adopted little Aries, our first yorkie, three months before she passed. We were living in temporary housing due to my job transfer to Chicago. Rhiannon was slowing down and having more frequent seizures. It was a Sunday afternoon, and as we were walking around, she stopped and just looked up at me with very sad eyes. I held her muzzle in both hands as tears rolled down my face and told her, “it’s okay to go, girl, I know you are so tired.”

About 2:00 a.m., we awoke hearing her in distress. John and I rushed her to the emergency vet. I was hysterical. After what seemed forever, the very kind lady vet met with us in the room. She told us that Rhiannon’s heart was shutting down. We made the heart-wrenching decision to let her cross Rainbow Bridge peacefully, the first of many similar decisions we would make on behalf of our aging, sick “fur-babies”.

In memory of Rhiannon, John wrote this poem for me. For anyone else who has experienced losing a beloved “fur-baby”, I hope you find some comfort from John’s beautiful sentiment from Rhiannon to me.

“I’m smiling down upon you

From doggie heaven up above.

They say that’s where good dogs go

‘Cause they’re filled with so much love.

 

I can run and jump and play again;

My hip’s as good as new.

And over in the corner . . . guess what!

There’s that old shoe I used to chew.

 

I can see squirrels to chase them,

And I catch a lizard now and then.

I can bark when I want a treat.

It’s good to hear myself again.

 

It’s lonely here without you,

But we’re never far apart.

‘Cause I’ll always, always, always

Be running through your heart.”

~I love you, Rhiannon

 

Advertisements

Greatest Valentine’s Day Gift

Valentine’s Day was always our favorite holiday of the year. My husband loved pampering me with gifts, flowers, romantic candle-lit dinners and always – cards. Some of my most cherished poems are written inside my Valentine’s Day cards. In one of our more penny-wise years, he hand-made a card out of a brown lunch bag – “love in a plain brown wrapper”.

I still have the first Valentine’s Day gifts and card he gave me – a coffee mug adorned with red hearts and “I Love You Today, Tomorrow, Forever” and a little cow that plays a lullaby. Some years he gave me tulips which we planted in our garden to enjoy each following spring. Some years I received roses or chocolates, and one year he surprised me with diamond earrings! But for every Valentine’s Day, he put so much thought into the cards, poems and gifts because he wanted to absolutely delight me.

Last March as we sat on our patio enjoying time together, he looked at me dismayed and very apologetically he said, “I’m sorry we didn’t have a romantic Valentine’s Day.” I told him it was the best ever, and I proceeded with the story.

I said, “I wore red, your favorite color for me, and the Three-Hearts brooch you gave me years ago. I sat at your bedside clinging to your hand and kept talking to let you know I was there. Around 11:00 a.m., Jeri stepped into the room, and your face lit up. At noon, two more visitors arrived. Despite the two-visitor limit for ICU, the nurses were compassionate and let all four of us stay in the room.”

I continued, “The other visitors were Pastor Dan and Elder Bob. Pastor Dan pastor pulled out a bottle of Zephyrhills pure spring water and proceeded to baptize you. Bob anointed you with frankincense oil, and we all joined hands and prayed for God’s merciful healing.”

At that point, tears were streaming down John’s face. He looked at me with his hands raised towards heaven and said, “Finally, I am a Child of the Most-high God!” You see, in all our years together, he had expressed his desire to be baptized. But like so many of us busy with life, we didn’t make it a priority.

Finally, last year on Valentine’s Day, John received the baptism he had always wanted. And even after our many romantic dinners, kisses, thoughtful presents, and cards, this turned  out to be the greatest gift either of us could have asked for – a gift that joined our souls even more completely than before.

[BF1]Add title in top right

“Polar Bears Should Be Safe . . .”

Mary brought dinner and spent a few hours with me the other night. She handed me the pan, and said, “I’ve got one more thing in the car.” When she walked back in, I saw the red flowers, green pine needles and frosted pinecones, and choked back the tears. She told me, “I know you won’t put anything out, but I wanted you to have something for the season.” And then when she pulled it out of the box, I saw the polar bears.

We sat down and chatted for a while. I shared some of John’s poetry with her and more of our story. She remembered “My Precious Flower” from the memorial service. As she read the poems, she revealed her perspective to me and what she sees in his words.  She read a few lines from several poems out loud and urged me to listen, “I must have you by my side before I can be whole”, “nature’s picture of you and I, love’s bouquet ‘til time does end”, “let me love you for all time”, “arm-in-arm together for all eternity”.  She said, “don’t you see, you and John are one — forever.”

After a while, we decided to eat. As we walked into the kitchen, I said, “after we eat, I want to show you something.” She told me about how she and Zach rummaged through her pantry as they improvised the smoked turkey stuffed shells, making red sauce with diced tomatoes and pizza sauce! They were delicious and much appreciated.

After dinner, we returned to the great room. I went to the back bedroom and grabbed the polar bear. As soon as she saw it, she was completely dumbfounded. Again, I choked back tears. She told me about her trip to the florist shop. She said she was very deliberate and measured as she looked for a gift trying to avoid emotional triggers.

Mary told me how she didn’t want to get a “live” plant so there was no chance for it to wither and die. She steered away from angels, hawks, Christmas trees, little dogs, anything that she knew would probably evoke tearful memories. She picked up the polar bears and put them back down several times. She laughed and said the people in the shop probably thought she was nuts. After much hesitancy, she picked up the polar bears one last time. She thought to herself, “polar bears should be safe.”

John bought a little red rocking chair for the polar bear. We had it sitting in his office next to his desk. She apologized and then said, “for whatever reason, John chooses me to connect him with you.” She looked at me and added, “he even has a scarf around his neck.”

She stayed for a bit longer. Before leaving, she took a picture of the arrangement and my polar bear. Later that evening, she sent a text “love you . . . enjoy your arrangement from John!” She added that it “blew Zach’s mind” when she shared the picture and story.

Once again, John, my dearest angel, spoke to me through Mary . . . this time through little polar bears.

GivingTuesday God-Wink

Jesse and his helper arrived at 9:00 a.m. and rang the doorbell. I opened the door, and he stepped off the porch and told me they were here to install our fence. He said it would probably take two or three hours. I thanked him, and closed the door.

I watched out the back patio doors as they carried the materials to the back yard. They made several trips and brought their post-hole diggers on their last trip. They turned on some music, and they went to work.

Every now and then I would look out the doors to see the progress. As I do every day, I stepped out on the patio and spoke to John, hoping he was watching over me. Again, I asked him to speak to me somehow; let me know he hears me.

Jesse and his helper continued to work, never taking a break. By noon, it was obvious they would be there longer than three hours. They made several more trips back and forth to their trailer as they brought more materials to complete the fence.

For the last hour, I watched Jesse and his helper finish the fence. They even raked the dirt and grass along the fence, and I was grateful that I didn’t have to ask them. As I watched, I started getting glimpses in my mind of our other home projects and two major relocations.

  • We had our house painted in IL. John provided water and Gatorade to the painters, and even tipped them for a job well-done.
  • For our move from IL to NC, we had a great moving crew. John offered a grill and several pieces of furniture to the movers that we were going to donate anyway. When the truck arrived in NC, John provided water and Gatorade to the guys, and then tipped all three as a thank you for their help.
  • For our move from NC to FL, we had the same crew load in NC and unload in FL. John bought lunch for them, and gave all four envelopes with cash before they drove off. They had to drive around the neighborhood to head back out. As they drove by our house, the driver honked the horn and all of them waved with big grins on their faces.
  • We had our house in FL painted last year. One of the guys even offered to repaint our outdoor lights so that they were freshly painted along with the house. John gave each worker cash before they left our house.
  • In June this year, we had to replace our refrigerator. The two guys who delivered were terrific and even mopped the floor as they changed out the water line. John called the store manager to let him know what a great job the two young men had done with our delivery.

It was then that I knew John was speaking to me, touching my heart. I grabbed two bottles of water and some cash. It was after 1:00 p.m. when Jesse rang the doorbell. When I opened the door, he again stepped off the porch and let me know they had finished. I held out the two bottles of water and told him the fence looked great. He smiled and said, “oh, you already saw it.” Then, I handed him the cash and told him to go buy lunch for the two of them. He smiled even bigger, thanked me again and said God bless.

I closed the door and tears flowed. I thanked John for touching my heart, for giving me inspiration that I desperately need. It was another small God-Wink and so very appropriate and timely for “GivingTuesday”.

Remembering . . . Can Be Inspiring

Remembering is painful, it’s difficult, but it can be inspiring and it can give wisdom.” ~Paul Greengrass

A friend of mine suffered what I believe is the absolute worst nightmare for a parent – losing your child. It’s been over 19 months for her, but her heartbreak and struggle continue even to this day. Three months ago, I, too, suffered a tragic loss; something that I never imagined.

Jean was the first person to reach out to me and provided the greatest gifts – a listening ear, words of comfort, empathy, the gift of her time. She invited me over for lunch. She let me cry on her shoulder without giving advice and instruction. She bought chicken soup over which we cried more and let grow cold. She disclosed that most friends and family eventually became weary of her grief funk and slowly distanced themselves from her. She confessed that she used to be “one of those people” – she avoided the griever because it was too uncomfortable — until it it happened to her.  Their tears continued, they didn’t smile even after months.  “Stop it already”, “be strong”, “get over it”, “get professional help” is all she could think.

She told me that well-meaning people want to fix you. Some will try to label your grief; after all, if it is correctly diagnosed, then there is a solution, right? Some psychiatrists and counselors have identified “stages of grief”; unfortunately, they aren’t linear. She told me you won’t move from one to the next in a nice step-by-step process. Or like C.S. Lewis describes “am I going in circles, or dare I hope that I’m on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down?”

She shared that the one and only thing she wants to do is talk about her son. She wants to tell everyone she meets about her son. She wants to remember all 28 years of his short life. Despite the pain that remembering brings, it provides comfort to share because she remembers the beautiful person he was while he was here. She told me that some choose to forget or not acknowledge because it’s less painful for them – “out of sight, out of mind”.

I am experiencing everything she shared with me like it’s a well-scripted play. Like her, remembering John is not an option; it’s a conscious choice. I remember my gorgeous husband, my friend, my companion and my soul mate. I remember because we were blessed with 20 wonderful years together; to not remember means these years didn’t exist. I remember the beautiful memories we created together which motivate me to write. I write because I promised to share our love story. Eventually, I will share our story because we want to inspire others to pursue their dreams and make them reality.

My request, if you have read this post, is that you develop empathy, not unresponsiveness.  The greatest gifts you can provide to someone like me and my friend are a listening ear, words of comfort, empathy and the gift of your time.

%d bloggers like this: