Some words are easier to write than others. Honestly, I have been in what I would call a blogging slump. My first blogging slump.However, if I continue writing these blog posts, it probably won’t be my last. When I first decided to blog, I thought I would simply blog about sweet days on my homestead. I had no plans to go down some of the rugged paths, I have found myself meandering down with these posts. Month five of my blog process has brought me to a lot of, “Why am I doing this?” moments. Like most people that start blogging, I thought it might be a fun thing to do that would result in me making a little extra money for my family. Instead I find myself in process, just like life, in process of purpose. I really can’t tell you how long I will blog, where this will go next, or what the fruit of this process will be. So this week I am pushing myself to write these words about my life, my parents’ lives, and my sweet dog’s life.
In early May 2017 I was able to schedule a date to bring our precious new puppy home. Everyone in my household was bursting with excitement, except for my husband. He kept walking around the horse repeating, “This is not my dog! All messes and midnight puppy potty time will be done by SOMEONE ELSE !!” We all agreed. The older boys took oaths to help out and I kept saying, “Don’t worry, we will train her quickly !”. I was not new to the dog world, and felt a sense of confidence in all my dog research. I burned a rare personal day and took my four-year- old to my parent’s home, since the new puppy was just a couple of miles away and ready for pick up. My parents, of course, were excited about my youngest coming for a playdate with his cousins of similar age. My mom, who was a dog lover, was also excited about meeting the new puppy. I hurried to the trailer where we had picked the puppy out, handed over the cash and took my cute fuzzy muppet- looking puppy to my parent’s home.We actually had not named her yet and were tossing around ideas but nothing seemed to stick. My Mom was excellent at naming farm creatures of all types, but she seemed to be fresh out of ideas, too.
When I arrived my four- year- old and his cute little cousins were delighted with our new little muppet of a dog. The day was filled with giggles and puppy chasing, and pure unfiltered joy. She was unusually calm for a puppy (on this day). She would chase the kids and have fun, but kept returning to my dad’s chair and sitting underneath. My dad kept commenting on how strange it seemed. I took the time to brag about my dog research and planning. My mom wisely said it was probably just an adjustment period. Regardless it was a wonderful day and one that I hold close in my memories. Backtracking my last few times with my parents, I remember our last couple of visits sweetly. I consider it to be a kiss on my cheek providentially. I didn’t know it but I had a little over a month left. It was always important to me that my mom liked my dogs, her approval meant you and your dog passed. Etched into my mind is the sound of little kids petting our sweet new puppy and my mom holding her, talking about how incredibly soft Stella’s hair coat was. Stella was delighted in all the attention and curled up in my mom’s lap.
The puppy quickly moved from her adjustment period to the full embodiment of herself. When we took her home, everyone cooed over our cute little muppet, including grumpy husband. Ironically, my husband said, “I think she looks like a Stella”. I thought it was perfect, and it stuck. Soon we found out what a wild child Stella really was. Instantly she became inseparable from our four-year- old, which was wonderful and wild at the same time. Months before Stella’s arrival we had a privacy fence finished in our backyard to keep our new dog safely. Stella saw the well-put-together gate as a challenge. The challenge was “Can I get under the gate in less than ten seconds?” I was amazed as she almost flattened her chubby little muppet body and squeezed under and out! Her four-year-old partner in all things would soon follow by simply unlocking the gate and making a run for it. There were many afternoons you could see a fleeing Stella, the four-year-old, followed by middle aged, out of shape me chasing after. Puppy and boy would gleefully hide in neighbors’ garages, or just take a couple of laps around the cul de sac. The exercise was probably good for me. We soon found out Stella had to be accompanied by someone who was not four years old at all times while outside.
One afternoon after work in May, my four-year-old had fallen asleep on the way home. I had decided not to wake him and secretly enjoy a little quiet time, even though it might mean trouble putting him to bed that night. One of my older guys had taken the puppy out, and I was thinking What can I do with my free fifteen minutes? At that point I didn’t realize that my parents had already left this earth and I would never speak to them again, in this realm. Since sometime in the morning, law officials had been trying to locate the next of kin. “Next of kin” was a phrase I had heard a hundred times plus on the news. “Names won’t be released until “next of kin” are notified” When I hear the phrase now, it makes me shudder and remember. Remembering is a heavy labor sometimes, I try to remember the sweet moments, not the moments of personal horror that surrounded me that day. I will keep the details of the next few hours to myself, and those who are closest to me who held me up during the worst moments in my life so far. When I think back to the days and hours that followed some are crystal clear and others are a blur. My mind became heavy with replaying events, words, and feelings. During this time, I am not really sure what my sweet little muppet of a puppy was doing, or who was taking care of her. When I think back on it, I am sure it was my husband, maybe that is why she always lays at his feet.
The moments of loss actually felt like a hard fall that took the breath out of me. All I could think of was the pain of the fall. People who didn’t know me well, would tell me I was incredibly strong, but internally I hated the word strong. Daily I was an open wound held together by a band-aide that might accidentally come off at any moment. I had an internal fear of what might come hemorrhaging out, if I was to lose my thin covering. In moments with my closest circles I was allowed to come unglued. There were people who were lifelines during that time, letting me be raw and uncomfortable. Parenting my four-year-old was one of the most challenging things to do in the days circling the tragedy. As my stability increased, my support began to back away, which is natural and healthy but scary for a person just getting their feet back. Suddenly, I found myself home (in our subdivision) with all the mom responsibilities back. There were probably a lot of moments missed due to my grief fog. But I do remember sitting on the back deck of our house, and looking at my wild puppy. I thought, “Stella doesn’t know how to sit yet.” My mom had always taught all her dogs to sit. I went in the house and got a handful of pretzel sticks and returned. I taught Stella how to sit in a matter of ten minutes. My husband always said Stella is food motivated. I could feel my mom smiling on me with approval. Stella was a good dog and smart, she could sit. Through the haze and darkness of grief, God has sent me a little joy.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Even though I felt it hard to breath under the heavy blanket of grieving, I was never alone. Spiritually I could feel others praying for me and my family. I leaned on God deeper than I had ever in my life. My only hope every morning was that God would sustain me through another day, no matter the pain or the difficulties. I was frequently reminded of the scripture my mom would sing, almost daily when I was a young girl. “The Joy of my Lord is my Strength” God was faithful to never leave me.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
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