I’m a big fan of birthdays and I think they should be celebrated. I know not everyone likes birthdays or getting older, but none of us are going to live forever so it seems anytime we have an opportunity to celebrate ANYTHING, we should embrace it. Having things to celebrate, and people to celebrate, is not something that should ever be taken for granted.
This is Herbie, or “Herbie the love dog” as I called him.
Herbie was a hunky little man-dog, and I loved him hard. My uncle used to breed cocker spaniels and since he lived an hour outside the city and knew I loved dogs, he asked me to keep them at my house until it was time for people to pick them up. I was all in on that plan, despite the fact that I cried every single time a dog got picked up. *Sap* Herbie was my favorite and there was instant chemistry between us. I often said it was going to be a sad day for me when someone decided to take him home. Ironically, but also not, all the dogs in that particular litter found homes except for him. We had a snow storm come through and with him being the only one left, I begged my newlywed husband to let me bring him inside so he wasn’t lonely or cold. He eventually caved and it wasn’t long before begging to let him in, turned into “can we keep him?” My husband, who wasn’t a big ‘dog person’ at the time, couldn’t resist the puppy dog eyes from either of us and just like that, Herbie was mine! What an unexpected gift Herbie ended up being. He was my trusty and loyal companion for almost 13 years, and even though I knew for a long time he wasn’t going to make it much longer, I was absolutely devastated when he died.
These are my broken heart healers. Bella on the left and Maggie on the right. I know I’m their mom and have ‘mom bias’, but seriously, look at those sweet faces with their long eyelashes and messy hair, and then try to convince me that cuter dogs exist. Take it all in for a second, I’ll wait. *Inconvincible*
Bella and Maggie are sisters and also best friends; as sisters should be. The photo above was taken on their first birthday and TODAY, they turn 4!
These two came into our lives not long after we lost Herbie. MY broken heart broke my husband’s heart *LOVE* and somehow he knew I needed a new companion even before I did. I didn’t know how much I needed Maggie and Bella, but I desperately needed them when they came into my life. The picture below is the day we all chose each other. Notice my enormous smile in the background as I’m holding our TWO new family members. I can feel all that joy just remembering this moment. That smile on my face, that’s genuine happiness. *That double chin was probably just because I was looking down or maybe a bad angle or something. I blame the photographer!* My ‘non-dog person’ husband gifted me genuine happiness (again) and for that, I am forever grateful.
Bella, or “Bella girl” as I often called her, died about a month ago – 9/11/18. It was traumatic, sudden, and unexpected, and the pain it left us with is still very raw. I find myself, the one with all the words, unable to communicate what that sudden loss has left me feeling. All loss is hard, but after this one, I’m convinced the answer to the question people always want to know “is it better to know death is coming or is it better not to?” My answer is: it’s better to know.
When you know death is coming you naturally go out of your way to spend extra time loving who you love. You have time to let your heart and brain process all they need to process. You can say all the things you’ve always wanted to say. You can give hugs and kisses and last embraces, and you can say “you mattered to me” “I love you” and most importantly, “goodbye”. We didn’t get that with Bella and I feel robbed because of it.
At 8:30pm the pet ICU texted me the following:
And at 4:30am I got the “you need to get up here right now” phone call. What?!?!
Maggie and I rushed up to the ICU and we got to be with Bella as she took her last breaths. The rest of our family didn’t get to have any last moments with her; they didn’t get to kiss her or hold her, they didn’t get to tell her they loved her, or say their goodbye’s. I hate that for them, as much as I hated holding her and watching her leave us forever. 💔 That was a brutal morning and coming home at the time everyone is waking for the day, with puffy eyes and only one dog, is something I hope you never have to experience; I sincerely hope that for you.
I have never met a birthday I thought was unworthy of celebration, until today. Not one ounce of me wants to celebrate today and no matter how hard I try to squeeze them on, my big girl pants just don’t fit me right now. I want to write a beautiful tribute to my beloved dog, and for my readers, offer some inspiration on how we eventually survive the pain of loss, because we do, but I don’t have any inspiration to offer today. Today is hard. Today hurts. I don’t want it to be today, today.
Regardless of how I feel about it, it’s still Bella and Maggie’s 4th birthday today. I can’t ignore this day even though everything in me wants to. I want to pay tribute to Bella because although I don’t want to celebrate her birthday, I think it’s important to honor her life. I loved her and she mattered to me, even though she only got to know that for 1,293 days. 1,293 days was not enough time, and we weren’t prepared to let her go.
Full disclosure: I DO NOT want to write this blog any more than I want to celebrate this day. Despite a solid effort, I cannot make any sense of Bella’s death other than this: Maybe God wants me to use my loss, and ALL my words in order to help someone else. That really sucks for me because I don’t feel like helping someone else today, I just want my dog back. I’m not happy about being in this position and I have strongly voiced that opinion numerous times; yet, here we are. In my “invisible pain” blog, I said that I think there’s a purpose behind pain. I still believe that, even if its purpose is intended for someone else. I hope that’s the case today because my teary eyes and I are doing the best we can even though we really don’t want to!
Remember a few minutes ago when I mentioned the ultimate question “is it better to know that death is coming, or is it better not to?” Then I said: “it’s better to know.” Well, as it turns out; we DO know it’s coming, all of us. And none of us know if it’s going to be something we’re going to have time to prepare for, or if it’s going to be unexpected, and hit us at 4:30 in the morning when we aren’t ready for it at all. I’ve been on both sides, a few times, unfortunately.
All loss is tragic. Unexpected, sudden loss is more tragic, I promise. If you haven’t experienced that for yourself, ask someone who has. Ask them how badly they wish they could have one more conversation, one more hug, or one last “I love you”. Ask them how much it hurts to not be able to say goodbye or be there for the last breaths. Ask them if there are things they wish they would have said or done if they had known it was their last chance. I’d put all my money on “yes”. When you don’t know it’s coming, you don’t get to do all the extra loving and say all the things you wanted to say. You can’t fix what needed to be fixed, or make it undeniably known that someone mattered to you before it’s too late. There’s a lot of pain and guilt attached to that. If you don’t get that time before you have the loss, you’re going to be left with added heaviness in your heart, and you’re
probably going to wish you had one more chance.
If you’re reading this right now, you still have time and it’s not too late. It might be too late for the losses you’ve already experienced, but it’s not too late for the ones to come. Don’t wait to have the conversations you need to have, don’t wait to fix whatever needs to be fixed. Go give the hugs and the extra I love you’s, say you’re sorry or hand out some grace. Go make it undeniable that you love who you love, and that they matter to you, because there will come a day when you’ll wish you had; or, they’ll wish they had. If you know you did everything you could possibly do, the loss is not going to hurt any less, but it might give you a little peace of mind. Maybe your big girl/boy pants aren’t fitting you today either, squeeze your butt into them somehow and do what you need to do anyway. It’s never too late to do all those things until it literally is.
Those of you experiencing loss right now, or recently, or it’s on the horizon…you are not alone; I feel your pain, and I am so sorry if this hit you as hard as it hit me. I DID NOT want to write this one, not one bit. ❤️ If a loss is on the horizon, I know it’s hard, but at least you have a little time to do all the things, and that might give you a little more peace when the time comes. I hope it does.
If I’ve ruined your Friday buzz, go read “bee-holes” and try to get your mojo back. Funny things are funnier after you’ve had a good cry. alotathoughts.com/2018/09/26/bee-holes
That was for you, and this is for my girl.
I know in my heart that you know how much we all loved you; I don’t know how you couldn’t know. Still, I wonder if I loved you as hard as I would have if I had known you wouldn’t be here today. I like to think so. I would give anything to be able to give you your life back for your birthday, and I still can’t believe you’re gone. I want to make you and Maggie sit pretty together so I can take the obligatory 4th birthday ‘mom photo’ and post it on Facebook; then I want to give you birthday treats for being such “good girls.” You were always such a good girl, Bell. We don’t get to do that today and I don’t have the words to describe how that feels, other than to say that there’s an emptiness now where there used to be love. We’re all taking the loss hard. I’m terrible at loss and I can’t even imagine how many tears I’ve cried since I left the ICU that morning.
Your absence is painful, and it’s been especially hard on your sister. We may have no choice but to get her a companion, even though we don’t want to at all. You were Maggie’s person from the day you were born and now she’s without her person. I have to help her because that’s what moms do, even when they are hurting, themselves. I want you to know that you can never be replaced. No dog will ever be YOU and that’s a tough pill to swallow every day, but especially on your birthday. I don’t want to celebrate today, but I’m going to try and squeeze my butt into my big girl pants and honor your life, and celebrate your sister’s. Maggie’s still here and she matters too. Your life also mattered, and I never want to take those 1,293 days for granted. As much as I don’t want it to be, it’s still your birthdays, and I think birthdays are to be celebrated.
We love you, Bella girl. I hope you’ve somehow managed to find yourself a hunky long-haired guy, named Herbie. He’s loyal and handsome, and you would be lucky to have each other. The best thing about finding Herbie though, is you both share a piece of our hearts; you will ALWAYS have our hearts. I imagine you two snuggling up to all the people we’ve lost, and I imagine your Nana’s infectious giggles as you invade all her personal space, and I know you will. I’m sure she is in love with you already. 🙂 That gives me peace, so that is where my thoughts of you will stay until we meet again someday.
Happy birthday, baby girl. We will love and miss you forever.