Friday, July 31, 2015

And Speaking of Eulogies...

Last week I lost my little girl, Michelle. She was recovering from a 6-week bout of pneumonia. A couple of nights after her latest check-up she was coughing badly and hyperventilating. This time she didn't respond to the oxygen tank, or medicine, or sedatives.

There was really only one option and it was to end her suffering. I won't go into details but she went downhill rapidly. I wrote her eulogy, read it to her, and then I nodded at the vet. Most dogs go to sleep after the first shot, but not my Michelle. I held her and looked deep into her eyes and said "I love you" a million times. She held my gaze until the end. I shut her eyes. She was only 10.

I am devastated. I love that dog so much. She is brilliant, loving, strong, stoic, hilarious, and regal. She was commonly known as the Grande Dame and I her staff. She had some trouble getting up the stairs (but not a bit when I burnt bacon!) and she would go to the two steps to the platform, turn back as if to say"I am ready to be carried now." She would lay on the lawn at Mt Vernon and everyone would say how she just seemed to own the place. She pretty much did. I know she was thinking that I just need to get my finances in order so when George Washington's estate hits the market (or Vanderbilt's, she wouldn't be choosy), it should be bought for her.

And she's right.

This is a dog that loved her people; she had a special yip just for Shelties. She spoke Scots Gaelic and would smooch and snuggle on command. She also had a strange obsession with Highland cows and bagpipes but that's another story. I always told her I would take her to the Shetland Isles because in my mind the main island is a large grassy knoll with free-range Shelties frolicking on the hillside. I'll take her ashes there.

But grief is grief and it takes time. I've been throwing myself into playing my cello every day (which she surprisingly loved even when it sounded like a cat in distress). I am grateful for 10 years of wonderful memories, from her puppy/Tasmanian devil days of shredding everything with razor sharp teeth, to our morning and nightly Sheltie hugs where I would hug her and she would hug me back with her chin, to those wonderful Sheltie snores. I will also miss her barking her hellos to everyone, including the national call-outs and International calls I do for work. Without fail she barked through every single presentation I've done when teleworking.

So now I just work through the loss and the quiet and the absence of her. And I realize that Michelle knows I love her more than anything and I know she loves me more than anything. That alone shows me that love continues to grow within us for our duration. I have so much more love because of Michelle and God bless her for that alone. Now she has crossed over the rainbow bridge and I only hope to live a good enough life that I will one day pass, she will sniff the air and come running to greet me. God bless you, sweet little Michelley.

A Living Eulogy

It was my 41st birthday last weekend and it was lovely and understated. I actually prefer a lovely day having one good meal, relaxing, and talking to a few close family members and friends. The ostentatious parties, the expensive gifts- I don't really need that. Sure if you're turning a round number: 30, 40, 50- that's okay but 41?

Many years ago my sister and I started this tradition with birthday gifts. Every five years we do something big for the other (35, 40, 45, etc.). This includes flying out to see the other and a nice check for that person to have some fun with. This year my sister turns 45 so we'll meet for a long weekend in Vegas. But on the other years we simply give each other a $25 Amazon gift card and mandate one book that the other must read. This results in my always reading historical fiction with a romance and my sister reading esoteric novels written in a Modern-day version of Old English. I can hear my sister sighing now.

And since we've endured a slight torture with those off-year book suggestions we decided to incorporate a lovely tradition: a living eulogy. We first did this when our mom was in her final days with cancer. We both wrote our eulogies and read them to Mom- I mean why not guarantee the person you love is the one that hears this? And since we often take those we're closest to for granted, my sister and I decided to start a list of all the things we love about the other.

I would say that this was not an easy road to get to. No two people could be more different than my sister and me. In fact... it took me a minute but we have a love of history in common. And we both like bagpipes... yep! that's about it. I mean look at us! My older sister with her sable hair, dark eyes, and dark complexion. I am all light- hair, eyes, skin. But when Mom passed we had one more thing in common- we lost our best friend. And as we took care of her through her illness and dividing the work with the estate, we also had equity in common. Finally as the world moved on and we processed all that goes through loss- the letting go of small things, the earned patience, we had personal growth in common too.

It's not like we didn't have these things in common before but it was the first time we didn't focus on our differences and instead really took a good look at the other. I think it's easiest to take those closest to you for granted. It's also easy to not work near as hard to find commonalities. But perhaps I'm past the need to find things in common and instead look at what that person's strengths are that will help me grow into a better person.

I won't go into the details of our private letters but I will say that the impact is overwhelming. Not only do you realize that someone really SEES you but you also realize that they love, respect, and even admire your attributes. It's a very emotional moment and one you can't wait to do for the other.