A few years ago there were days I couldn’t get out of bed. Enter Daisy. She would walk in my room with a wag in her tail (just a small wag, she could sense the tone and didn’t want to overdo it) and gently set her chin on the side of my bed. She would look deep into my eyes, sometimes staring straight into my soul, and other times shifting her glance as if to say, “I’m not sure what you need right now.”
Her chin would stay there whether I would pet her or not. I loved to run two of my fingers from the edge of her nose to the top of her head, following the natural direction of her hair nap. She would close her eyes and take it in, relishing in this thing that she loved.
I’ve been contemplating the idea of “taking it all in” over the past few weeks as I have noticed that several of my friends have had to recently say goodbye to a parent or grandparent. In the last five years I had to say goodbye to three of my grandparents and in those final moments of each of their lives, I was extremely fortunate to take it all in. I got to hold hands and snuggle and cry and stroke foreheads (like they had done for me when I was young) in the final moments of their lives. I got to whisper “I love you” and hear the words back as my grandma would say, “Is that my Cristine?” I got to dab dry lips with cotton swabs of water, give gentle hand massages and assist with slow walks to the bathroom. I experienced moments of pure gold with these people who had known me since birth, taken me on summer fishing trips, taught me how to bake and cook and also how to love God with all my heart.
These were beautiful moments that were easy to embrace. These sweet times took place between extreme and seemingly unbearable pain in my own personal life.
I used to be afraid to inhale the pain, thinking it would stay with me. But I’ve learned that taking it in and letting it hit my heart (allowing it to be processed in my mind and filtered through my emotions; dealing with it with a gut-level honesty and then letting a big breath out) has created a place for me to deal honestly with things that have taken place in my life. I’ve learned to accept and embrace the difficulties with the goal of dealing with them by embracing the good and processing and then letting go of the bad, but this can only be done by allowing it in. The alternative is stuffing it down and not facing it at all. But think about it, even with stuffing the pain it is still there, it’s just pushed deep down inside. Isn’t it better to dissect it and face it head on?
It’s easy for us to take in the exceptional moments in life. Recently I took my boys and two of their close friends to Disney World and Universal Studios, something I had been wanting to do for the last two years. I would say I’m somewhat organized but definitely don’t have the gift of totally having it together (lol)! I have dear friends who will text me things like, “Did you know the kids have to sell 1,000 jelly beans door to door and the money is due tomorrow?” And then panic will set in.
I bought plane tickets for our magical trip and then realized that I had scheduled them during my older son’s choir Christmas concert. So I had to reschedule. And then I rescheduled for Martin Luther King Jr Day and tons of kids showed up at the parks that weekend because they had Monday off. Par for the course for this semi-organized mom.
The older I get, the harder it is for me to take the crowds. I got those boys up early with fast passes in hand and we power-walked our way through the parks. Three days, six parks, 12 hour days, 60,000 steps, 10 miles, you get the point! The boys loved to make fun of my fast-pace and mimicked me saying things like, “We need to get to Everest. Pick up the pace!” (Followed by an over-exaggeration of fast-walking.) I also calculated how many rides I thought they should hit to make their tickets worthy of the cost. Yes, I gave them a quota!
As we were making good strides through the parks, I had one main goal in mind: to take it all in. I embraced the exhaustion, empty wallet and time spent hanging out with them in the lines. I relished in the moments when we would hop on a roller coaster together and then review the photos at the end. Those three days were gold to me. I literally opened my heart and soaked in every moment, every comment, every hug, every conversation, every photo and every memory with these four boys. And at the end my heart was bursting with moments and memories that I will never, ever forget.
Last fall I noticed that my sweet Daisy was spending more and more time in her kennel. It’s been interesting to see her change over the years. At first I desperately needed her and her love and she was just a baby, she needed me and the boys. Then, as I got healthier and she got older, there was a closeness between us that wasn’t based out of need but rather out of love. And the healthier I got the less I needed her comfort (but I ALWAYS needed her love). This fall I started to think about her quality of life…the boys have gotten older, my work schedule busier. I saw Daisy gradually change from an energetic and excited dog to a quiet one who spent a lot of time in her kennel.
And then it hit me…her mission had been to love and comfort our little family and she had done that extremely well. And now she was waiting for her next assignment.
I realized we had entered into a new season and it was maybe her turn to find the kind of love she had given me and the boys and that it might come from a different place than our home. This idea was hard to embrace, I really allowed myself the time needed to process all that this would entail. An amazing thing happened next. I reached out to the owners of one of Daisy’s pups, Mac, and found out they had been wanting a second dog but weren’t sure what that would look like. Daisy went for a week-long trial stay on December 24 and, well, she never came back. She was officially adopted by Mac and his family a few days ago.
Last week Daisy found her forever home as we completed the transfer of ownership and her new mom let her know what was going on. Her new dad ended up having an accident that required surgery and they sent me a picture of her snuggling close, watching over him to sure he was okay. It made me cry, but in a good way. It was hard to give up such a beautiful gift, a gift that had given me so much joy and unending love. It’s now Daisy’s turn to experience the depth of love she imparted to us. It’s her turn to take it all in.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.