Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Time For Every Season Under Heaven

It appears that we are experiencing a season of loss. My mother's passing was pretty tough on all of us. I am positive that she is joyously free of all pain and worries. I just miss her.

Then we lost Snowy. That came quite suddenly, and we cried a lot the first two days. The kids are doing much better, but Rick and I still miss the old guy. Snowy was a unique and lovable horse.

And now we are preparing to help Shiloh to make his journey toward heaven. Last night he was snuggling on the bed with me. I put my face in his downy soft fur and just breathed in the smell that is Shiloh. At that moment, I wished that I could talk to him and tell him what was in my heart. He knows that tears mean a sad heart, but I wished he could understand so much more about what a wonderful part of our lives he has been. I've decided to focus the next few blogs on Letters To Shiloh. Kind of corny, I know, but it is helping me prepare myself for the inevitable. So here goes:

Dear Shiloh,

As we snuggled together on bed last night, I felt the warm, soft heat of your silky hair, and felt peace. I'm frustrated because I know that you know I love you, we don't need words to understand love. I also know that you love me. Maybe it's because you wait at the window of Rick's office, watching for me until I get back home. Or could it be how you are so excited to see me coming home, you rush outside and accidentally tackle me as you bounce against my legs. Or it could be that you follow me wherever I go, even to the bathroom. You sit on the floor next to the shower door, waiting for me to get out of the shower. But one of my most favorite things that you do that shows me just how much you love me is when you climb right up on the porch swing, put your head in my lap, and swing the afternoon away while I read a book. I think that might be one of the things I will miss most when you're gone.

Anyway, I decided since we can't talk to each other, I would write you some letters about how much I love you, and that you are a once-in-a-lifetime dog. You probably don't remember this, because you were just a puppy, and a terrified puppy at that. Kelly and I drove out to Draper to a foofoo shishi Golden Retriever Breeder who charged a small fortune for his fancy breeding line. Apparently, your grandmother was the Dog of the Year in England. I didn't even want to drive out to see you because I knew that we didn't have enough money to pay for you. Buying you would pay over half of a mortgage payment.

When I called the ad for golden retrievers, I asked the man how much he charged for his puppies. This was an awkward moment for me because the kids and I had gone through the entire house searching for loose change. We found a grand total of $84.00. When the man said $600.00 with no breeding rights, I apologized for bothering him, explaining that his price was not within our budget.

"Well how much do you have?" he inquired politely. I kind of squeeked out exactly how much we had. There was a moment of silence, and then he said, "You know, payments could be arranged. Come on out and look at the puppies." Hmmmm, I thought, Rick making payments on a puppy that he doesn't even want. Probably not a good idea. But that man was persistent, so we took our mason jar of coins and dollar bills to see you.

As we walked out to the spacious kennels, he said that he had one puppy that he was having a hard time selling because this puppy was very shy and got frightened easily. When we looked in the kennel, you weren't even there. Why? You found a way to hide underneath the kennel (how you did that, I'll never know). Kelly and I watched as the man dragged you out in to the sunshine. Wow, I thought. Most of the puppies were a golden brown color. You were a fluffy creamy color. I thought you looked beautiful, and my heart sank because I knew we wouldn't be able to buy you.

This man was a funny guy. He had Kelly and I go in to the house for negotiations. How does one negotiate a mason jar with $84.00? "The thing is," the man mused, "we are going out of town for a couple of weeks, and he's the last puppy to be sold." I explained that I was positive that my husband would not want to make payments (we were so tight on money then).

"I'm sorry I've wasted your time, sir," I said sadly, "but all the money we have to buy a dog is in this jar." I gave Kelly a glum look, you were SO cute, and thanked him for letting us come and see his beautiful puppies. The guy just wouldn't stop talking so that we could leave. I believe it took him an hour to decide that he would sell us his puppy for the bargain price of $84.00, including the mason jar. I was embarrassed, and told him that whenever we got extra money, I'd send him some. He said he didn't care, if we sent money, fine, no hurry, but he said don't worry about it, he was happy that his scaredy cat puppy would go to a good home.

A very happy Kelly and I went back outside to take you home. Boy, you were big, even as a puppy. You had huge paws, and a soft coat of hair. Kelly had to carry you to the car. You shivered on Kelly's lap the whole way home. I was so scared to show Rick my new purchase. Kelly and I crossed our fingers and toes (try THAT while you're driving) hoping that Rick would let us keep you.

Rick came storming out of the house to yell at me, until he got a look at you. You were so beautiful, but in a cool, manly sort of way. I think Rick had visions of a hunting dog to wander the mountains with him. (Sorry about that, Rick.) So Rick picked you up and we got you all settled in your new home.

It really made me curious when you chose to sleep on Rick's head when it was so obvious that Rick was not as excited about you as I was. I was jealous for a while, until I saw how you had Rick's head pinned to the pillow. I closed my eyes and hoped for a quiet night. Amazingly, when you slept on Rick's head, you slept well. You were quite a unique puppy, and did the strangest things. You were too afraid to walk outside. You refused to take one step toward the door, and had to be carried to go out to do your duty. Poor Kelly carried you out most of the time. I think you insisted on being carried out for over two months, and you were heavy! It worked out pretty well, though, because it made potty training easier than usual.

I can't remember the exact moment I fell in love with you. All I remember is that I've always loved you. And the more I loved you, the more you loved me. You adored the kids and Rick, but I was your mama, and you stuck to me like a baby monkey hangs on its mommie's back. How could I not love you?

When we took you to the vet for your shots (don't tell anyone about me crying), he was very impressed with you. He said that if we wanted, you could be a show dog, with your unusually light coloring and striking build. He said that considering the size of your feet, you were going to be a big dog, and he was right. You were show dog quality, but I knew that you were too shy to seek ribbons and awards. You were a mama's boy, and I was happy to be that mama.

You did some naughty things those first few months with us. You chewed up some shoes, a few of Rick's books, the kids' homework, and you loved destroying stinky socks, but you were never as naughty as that darn Mercedes. When she came along, she made you look like an angel. And you've been an angel ever since then. At least to me.

The time is drawing close, Shiloh, when I am going to have to let you go. Your back legs are not going to hold up much longer. You've been struggling so hard to get up and down lately, it makes my heart hurt. And yet you still have a smile and a wagging tail whenever we're together. How could I not love a dog that thinks that I am the angel. In the next few days, I'm going to write about some of the fun things we've done together. You've provided me with many stories that will make me laugh just thinking about them.

Shiloh, I know that you are in pain, but you are being such a good sport. I heard another man tell his dog to let him know when it was time to let his dog go, and I'm asking you if you will do the same for me. I'm afraid it will come faster than we're ready for, but just give me a look, Shiloh. I know your looks. You can tell me know when it's time to go.

Until the next letter, we'll get in lots of hugs and treats.

I love you, Shiloh.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


The last few days have been very hard. This is the first Mother's Day without my mom. Some people have said, "Well, at least you know she's in a good place, free from pain." Others have said, "Don't be sad on Mother's Day. Think of YOUR children, because you are their mother."

Both statements are valid, but did not bring comfort. I miss my mom. I know she is in a better place, I know I'm darn lucky to have such great girls, but I can't help missing Mom.

I didn't get offended by the people who made those comments, I know they don't know what to say. But their comments made me feel guilty for missing her. I can't help it, I just do.

Tonight I was telling Rick's friend that Mother's Day would be a hard day, because I missed Mom so much. He said, "What do you miss most about her?" He didn't make me feel guilty. He lost his dad ten years ago, and he said it is still very tough for him. In fact, as he spoke of his dad, his eyes filled with tears. So we shared some things about my mom and his dad that we miss. And I cried. But it was a good cry.

My grief is a sacred thing. My love for my mother has no end. I will be missing her today, on Mother's Day. I'll also be rejoicing with my wonderful husband and three beautiful daughters. Sometimes I see Mom's expressions in my daughters, and sometimes I do things that remind the girls of my mom. It has a certain symmetry.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

In Black Water Woods

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
everythingI have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this:
the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Power of Grief

Last night I was updating my music on Windows Media Player. I had several songs that were either named "unknown" or "track 1", etc. As I was renaming the songs, I came upon one of Mom's favorite songs. She loved "I Could Have Danced All Night".

Grief is a powerful emotion. I had no idea when one says that one's heart aches, that the pain can be physical. When the song came on, grief swept through me like a silent tornado, and my heart actually ached. It hurt so much, it frightened me. I had to pause to realize what was happening. It is true, one's heart can literally ache from grief.

I cried on and off today. My dad calls me almost every day. He was so cute today when I told him how much I miss Mom. "Well, we know where to find her." he said. I thought about what he meant, then he said, "We are going to visit her grave on Memorial Day, right?" We have it all planned out. Rick and I are going to pick him up from Christy's home, and we'll go visit Mom's grave together.

On a happier note, I am so excited, because Mom's wedding ring is now on my finger. Mom's ring was a size 4, and my finger is almost 11, so we had to add some silver to the bottom half of the ring. We took it the original jeweler where Dad bought her ring. It has a spectacular diamond that glitters beautifully, and I worried that if we took it to another jeweler, we might not get the same diamond back. The jeweler is an hour's drive away, and Rick had to take two trips before he was able to pick it up for me. I haven't taken Mom's ring off since I got it. It is my lucky charm, my little piece of Mom.
"As i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)" ee cummings.

Please don't worry about me. I believe the grief I am experiencing is a normal thing. A rite of passage, I guess. As Rick said a while ago, I am very lucky to have someone to miss. Grief is powerful. That, anyway, is what I have learned.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

All I Can Say

Peggy Hansen
1930 - 2008

All I Can Say

by the Dave Crowder Band

Lord I'm tired
So tired from walking
And Lord I'm so alone
And Lord the dark
Is creeping in
Creeping up
To swallow me
I think I'll stop
Rest here a while
And didn't You see me cry'n?
And didn't You hear me call Your name?
Wasn't it You I gave my heart to?
I wish You'd remember
Where you sat it down

And this is all that I can say right now
And this is all that I can give
I didn't notice You were standing here
I didn't know that
That was You holding me
I didn't notice You were cry'n too
I didn't know that
That was You washing my feet

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shiloh Makes A Comeback

Happy days are here again. Shiloh is doing great. He just finished his pain meds, so now we wait and watch for further pain. He has been playing around with Mercedes and the puppies with much exuberance. He almost acts like a puppy himself. Almost.

We had a wonderful afternoon with the kids, the dogs, and the horses. We soaked in some sun (right before the snow blasted us), and I rejoiced to watch Shiloh looking so happy. The puppies jumped all over him and he just did a humored grumble. Shiloh even went over to check out the horses - and they checked out Shiloh.

More good news. We (ok, I made Rick do it) took Scamper to the horse vet. I sent Rick with a big list of things to check out. Scamper's teeth needed to be filed down, she had an x-ray of a hoof/leg that had been sore before my knee surgery, and I made sure she was strong enough to hold my weight. Scamper has a little bit of arthritis in the sore leg, and all we have to do is give her aspirin every day. We also need to give her a hefty dose of glucosamine if we want to keep her joints in tip top joints. I am all for preventing any possible problems. I love that horse like I love Shiloh.

Weather permitting, I hope to get out and play with Shiloh and the other dogs in the sun very soon. And I can't wait to go for a ride on Scamper. Tonight I am counting my blessings.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mom Used To Say ...

Mom used to say, "Don't cross the road until you get to it." It was good advice. We took Shiloh in to the vet's on Saturday. Actually, I should say that I made Rick take Shiloh to the veterinarian. I am such a bawl-baby, I cried just thinking about going.

It seemed like Rick was gone for a very long time. I tried sitting on the swing and reading a book, but nothing could get my mind off of it. I really thought Shiloh had hip dysplasia, and that we would have to let him go. We could tell he was hurting, and his legs were getting weaker each day. It was painful just to watch him try to get up or sit down.

I sat in my room, in my safe place, waiting. When I heard the front door open, I froze. Then I heard Shiloh's feet padding along to my bedroom. Rick came in with a bottle of pain medication and a great big smile on his face.

Shiloh does not have anything wrong with his legs or hips. He has a back injury. When Shiloh gets really excited, he runs so fast on the hard floors, he slides off of his feet. We think that's how he hurt his back. The vet gave us pain medication with the hopes that his back will heal on its own. We'll have to see if he is still in pain after the prescription runs out, but that just means that the vet will find another pain medication for Shiloh.

HAPPY DANCE. HAPPY DANCE. HAPPY DANCE. I am so happy. What a relief. It is just like Mom used to say, don't cross the road before you get to it.