Losing a pet, for us, was the hardest thing we have ever dealt with. Emotionally, the process was exhausting. I learned there is no ‘right way’ to grieve, and that this is a cycle that will surface from time and time again. We miss our boy dearly; Humphrey Bogart, you are one magnificent dog who we miss so much.Read More
I remember thinking, “But how will you KNOW when the end of your pets’ life is near?” As I write this with tear filled eyes, the computer screen is blurry and I keep pausing to rest my head in my hands to just sob. From time to time, Humphrey’s head will look up from his own paws to glance at me; but not often. He’s a very sick and very tired boy. And today he was given his life sentence.
Hours ago I sat on the floor at our vet’s clinic, gently petting him as we waited for the doctor to come in. The doctor who has been seeing Humphrey for at least a decade; who I used to work with at different animal clinic long long ago, and who knows me incredibly well as his client. “Okay, Ashley…” he said when he came in. I knew from his tone, and I couldn’t retain my tears. He continued to tell me about the diagnosis: a large mass in his chest, which has put pressure on Humphrey’s heart. He also has fluid in his lungs, and all of this is why he has been coughing for months. Months that I will never get back. I assumed he had acid reflux because it never seemed severe…until last night.
Last night I was sitting at my desk writing when I heard him cough. The cough was different this time though, I looked up and within seconds, Humphrey towered to the floor on his side. He attempted to get up three times and fell over after each one. I screamed for my husband who came flying down the stairs. I tried to explain what happened—it didn’t seem like a seizure, I just wasn’t sure WHAT had occurred. One thing was for certain though, Humphrey immediately transformed into a different dog. His eyes changed, his breathing became labored, and it appeared as if the will was sucked from his spirit. I almost had a panic attack…every ounce of me was shaking and I just kept saying, “I’m not ready. I’m not READY…..!” He calmed down some breathing wise, was able to go outside to potty, and we made it through the night without any other events. At 4:30 in the morning I heard him cough again and I stumbled out of bed. I could tell he was imbalanced and just not well…as much as I tried to sleep, it wasn’t happening and I knew that there was no way I could teach today.
I am glad I took the day off and that I was able to get him in to the doctor. But at the same time, I am so mad at SO many things. I’m mad at myself for getting so angry when he hasn’t been able to hold his poop and has accidents inside. I’m so mad at my negative thoughts that I have truthfully had, my impatience and frustration. Even recently I browsed the internet for Golden Retriever puppies because well, who doesn’t like looking at puppies?! And now I feel TERRIBLE. I had no idea. How could we have, right? But that doesn’t change anything. With my anger filters in sorrow and regret: how many more times could I have walked him around the neighborhood or taken him to the park? How many more photos could I have taken when he was healthy and fit and HAPPY? Sadness and fatigue now haze his beautiful brown eyes and the photos I have taken today remind me how quickly life can change.
Twenty-four hours ago he was playing with a ball and wagging his tail. He was following us up the stairs to the kids bedrooms and family room, he was begging for food and constantly under foot. Now I wonder, how will we go on without him?
I’m not dumb or irrational about my grief…I KNOW that time will heal us and that we will BE okay. I don’t think the world is going to combust or that anything serious will happen when Humphrey passes. But why do we have to experience this NOW? I’m not ready. I want more time.
There’s a good chance that you have had a pet of your own pass as well. Who is EVER ready for death to knock on their door step? So while I don’t know when it will happen, I do know that it will be soon. I don’t know how, but I know it will be tragic. I pray for my kids, that they can witness our strength and dignity through this time and that they will also grieve our Humphrey. I pray that they remember him always, as the Big Brown Wonder who used to knock them down SO often as babies, and who just recently, covered Pierson’s bare tummy and back with hundreds of kisses at bed time. I pray for my husband, OH how I pray for my husband…who picked Humphrey up and brought him home as an 8 week old puppy. Who endured major depression as a young adult, clinging to Humphrey the entire time. And while I pray for these things, I also want to remember, so bear with me as I share some of my favorites:
-The first day that I met Humphrey. It was my first unofficial date with Asa. Humphrey greeted me by knocking me down and slobbering all over me.
-When he lived me for a period of time while Asa and I were dating and later engaged
-When he jumped out of a glass basement window just to be near to Asa
-He ate a 30 pound bag of dog treats while we were out of the house…and then pooped for days
-He ate our Christmas ham while I was nursing Reese and had no idea
-He welcomed a prostitute who broke into our house while I was nursing Pierson (okay this just changed my crying to laughing. Thanks, Hump)
-When he sliced a major artery in his tongue after catching a stick at the park; that wasn’t funny, like at ALL, but the memory of it is just insane and it has made for a good story ;)
-The 5 times he has moved with us into different homes, each one of them he has followed us around in and helped make us feel SAFE
-How he used to break up our fights. He would sit in the middle of us and paw at our legs trying to get us to stop!
-How he constantly whines and barks and whimpers while riding in a car…until today. When he laid down the entire time and never made one peep. My heart shattered and I’ll never forget that.
-His many trips to Michigan, how he loves to sunbathe on the hill in my parents yard, overlooking the field of sheep
-Taking him hiking and walking, watching him fetch sticks in creeks
-How he welcomed our kids when each was born, and how he has loved each of them so very well
There are so many more. You don’t put 11 years of memories [Humphrey was 1 when we met] into a single blog post. You can’t. I don’t know what the next days will look like. I keep going from being fine and talking calmly, to just sobbing hysterically. Never have I felt so emotionally unstable, so heartbroken, or so shattered. If you know Humphrey, I’m so glad that you do. For so many of you, he has greeted you with sloppy kisses and begged for food off your plate. Thank you for loving him.
I love you, Humphrey Bogart Glass. When it’s your time, may you greet Jesus with a ball in your mouth, leaping and bounding through His pearly gates. Please greet me when it’s my time down the road, okay? I too, may be a little older and a whole lot more grey, but you’ll remember me right? Bring me your ball and you can introduce me to our Creator. While you are still here, I promise to do nothing but love you, hold you, pray over you, and give you whatever you want. Be strong always, dear boy, here or there.
My door bell rang and I opened it to three wonderful little boys staring up at me. One was a sweet kiddo who I haven't seen in two years, since he moved to another part of town. The other two are brothers who live just two houses down.
"My brother got killed yesterday," one said.
Cars sped by, my own children were inside begging for snacks, our gigantic Lab burst out the door, and six pained eyes waited for my response.
Loss is prevalent, and I know this first hand. I work at a children psychiatric facility where I teach lots of broken youth, all whom have incredibly traumatic backgrounds. But nothing could have prepared me for this.
Two days before this, my husband and I heard the loud blare of sirens flying down our street. All the first responders couldn't get to where they were going fast enough--which was to the location where a teenage boy had just been shot and killed. We heard the tears coming from our sidewalks, middle school-aged children crying and loudly mourning. Later that night we quietly entered our son's room and sat on his floor; we didn't even know yet what had happened or who it involved, we just knew something was terribly wrong. In the morning when we learned of the age and incident, our hearts just sank.
The very next day while I was at work, text message alerts came to our phones that there had been a shooting in our neighborhood: One was dead, the other in critical condition. In the middle of broad daylight, two young men shot each other; the one killed was the half-brother to my little neighbor boys.
What do you DO when young hearts ring your doorbell and bear such heart wrenching news?
Amongst the three children outside my door, my own kids inside, and my husband who wasn't yet on his way home from work--I needed to be packing for Tennessee, where I was supposed to be headed very soon; my world froze for a moment and I looked in to the eyes before me. "I am so sorry, Guys," I quietly said. "I love you all SO much, please be safe this weekend." I gave them all giant hugs and closed the door, where my world, for the most part, would be un-phased.
But what about theirs?
The whole weekend I spent out of state, my heart constantly thought about these families. I prayed often, and I thanked God for keeping my own family safe amidst the crime. I drove home 48-hours later and shortly before I got off the exit for our house my phone rang. My husband said the Vigil was happening at the park and that our road was blocked off--"Let me know when you're close and I'll ask the police to let you through," he said. When I pulled up to the house, my eyes shifted to the park. I saw the neighborhood children, their sad and somber faces, and my husband kneeling beside our little ones trying to keep them quiet. How do you explain to them what was going on? How much is too much for them to know? Later that evening we walked in our bare feet to their house, carrying a vase full of fresh flowers. Flowers? I asked myself. Is flowers a terribly insensitive idea? I just wanted them to know how much I love them.
The days continued to pass by, the boys always waved whenever they saw me. I was often greeted with warm hugs when I would pull up to the house or when they got home from school. We ordered them a pizza one night; a house full of kiddos and two hurting parents, I just wanted to be able to do something--anything.
Our two kids really didn't have a clue what was going on and at that point I was grateful. Explaining guns and violence to a three and four-year old just didn't seem pertitent. They probably thought we were just hanging out with friends at the Vigil and with the flowers, they assumed we were being nice neighbors. But flash forward a few months later, when my world was shaken even more...
Trolling Facebook mindlessly one evening, my eyes did a double take at someone's post. It was the gal we actually purchased this home from; she had shared a blog post and some sweet words of her own about a woman from this neighborhood that had passed away a few days prior. I clicked on the blog post and slowly read paragraph after paragraph, not even knowing yet that I actually knew her. I exited the link and decided to click on the profile of the woman who had passed away and my eyes just flooded with tears. I let out a horrified gasp and dropped the phone. Honest to God, I felt like I was in shock. I wasn't close friends of the woman, but I had met her several times at the park while at the playground with my kids. She was with her six kids, she had a friend with her, and both were talking and chatting so carefree amongst all the chaos. My kids played with hers--pretend kitchen is what they were doing, making dirt pies and desserts from underneath the slides. I introduced myself and went home to tell my husband all about her. My mom too, on the phone, I bragged about this woman. "Oh she'll be a great contact for you to get to know when you take time off with the kids," she said.
And now she's gone.
I don't know many details, except that she passed in her sleep. She has six children, three whom are adopted, and she homeschooled all of them. It was clear when I met her that she was a Believer, and while I should be assured that she is resting now with her Savior, I'm just not. At all.
I've prayed for her family daily, often multiple times a day. I sobbed uncontrollably after realizing who she was and thinking about how young, how much more life here on Earth she 'should have had.' It's not my place, right? To think something like that. None of us know the hour or the day of which we'll be called Home to our Creator, but six sweet children and a husband woke to their wonderful mom and wife, gone. Thinking about it honestly kind of haunts me, I have done the "what if" in my mind; what would my kids do? How would my husband react? Who would he call first? WHY would Jesus allow this to happen? I walked through the park with my kids last week and we passed her house. The dog was barking in the backyard and tears again immediately flooded my eyes.
I was alone with the kids and quietly asked, "Hey, Guys. Mama wants to pray. Is that okay? I just want to pray for the family who lives in that house." My 4-year old immediately said, "Why, Mom? Are you afraid they're going to die?" How he was that intuitive or immediately came to that concern is beyond me? But he continued to ask over and over and I felt like I was going to snap. I felt like I would be lying if I beat around the bush and avoided the question, so I answered honestly. "You know what, Buddy...? There are a lot of kids who live there and their mommy actually did die." Of course this brought a series of questions and a little bit of concern from my young son who cannot grasp the concept of death or his mommy no longer being here. And once again, my heart just broke. My son can't process it or understand, so how are her children doing?
The world is still spinning around and around, construction workers still working, basketball players playing ball on the courts, little kids riding their bikes... but a household is without their mother. A husband without his wife.
And the same for my neighbors... the world has continued to survive without their sweet boy; homework and school and sports and family dinners. But a giant piece of their heart is still missing. And what do we do about that?
Friends, I'm just immensely shaken. There is so much pain and hurt and suffering in this world. There are babies without their parents and parents without their babies. I don't have a solid answer on how to fix it and I know it's not my job to. But will you just pray with me? For the lives and hearts of Gods' children who all just need HIM to show up for them? To be their shoulder, their voice, their comfort, their song. It's times like this that I often begin to doubt the goodness of my Father, but I am fighting hard to hear Him through the tears. And the days for these families will be so much brighter if we can be in this together. Stand with me, pray with me, and remember that everyone, everywhere, is dealing with some hardship, so let's just LOVE.