Childlike Christmas

Sleigh Ride

I’ve always wanted to ride in a horse drawn sleigh.

I picture myself with a red and black plaid blanket draped across my lap while snowflakes tickle my nose and eyelashes.   In my mind’s eye, we ride past snowmen with carrots for noses and Christmas lights shining through frost filled dimly lit windows.  I, in my dream, am singing Christmas carols for every passerby and sipping on a thermos of hot chocolate.

I can just hear the jingle bells dangling from the sleigh as we slide up and down hills and down windy roads.

Doesn’t that sound dreamy??

I can feel my heart flutter at the thought of it.

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The days ahead promise lights and tinsel, glitter and bows, caroling and celebrating the birth of the Christ child.  There’ll be apple cider simmering on the stove and my breath will turn to tiny ice crystals in the crisp, cold air.  Churches will display manger scenes with miniature Mary and Josephs standing faithfully beside live donkeys who are only interested in the hay.

The joy of this holiday is as palpable as the jingle bells on my imaginary one horse open sleigh.

Oh how I love Christmas!

My husband and I took a stroll around our local mall recently and the gigantic Christmas tree is up in all its shining glory.  It’s a two story mall and the tree is in the very center reaching proudly to the glass ceiling above.  Giant red and green balls hang from its giant green limbs, the lights twinkle to their own rhythm and Santa is sitting close by, listening intently to the wishes of children one and all.

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The smells of cinnamon and spice are in the air.

I’m using great restraint by not pulling out our Christmas tree and putting the one thousand pieces together tonight.  Yes, we have an artificial tree.  I just can’t see the romance in a real one.  (I heard some of you gasp.) We had a “real” tree once as a kid and all I remember is the little needles falling off and getting stuck in my feet.   And, having to vacuum constantly because of the dreaded needles.  I love the idea of walking through light snow, picking out a tree, cutting it down and bringing it home.

But, my real life is not a Hallmark movie.

Reality tells me I’m way more suited for an artificial one.

Now to find a Christmas radio station and listen to tunes on loop from now until the big day.  I’ve done this for years and it usually drives those I love crazy because… how many times can you listen to “All I Want for Christmas is You” before losing hope in humanity??

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So many wonderful memories come to mind when I think of Christmases gone by.

One of my favorites was the year Mom decided to sew my younger sister and me each a doll that was as big as we were.  She worked tirelessly on those giant dolls and wouldn’t let us see her painful progress. She insisted we wait until Christmas morn.  I had a bad habit of sneaking out of bed on Christmas Eve night when everyone else was asleep and peaking under the tree, desperately hoping Santa had already been there.  This particular year Mom decided to sit the giant cloth dolls on the couch so they could greet us like new friends ready to play.

They sat quiet, with their yarn hair and giant eyes, staring blankly into the night.

I snuck into the living room, silent as a mouse, careful not to make a sound.  The moonlight shone through the window and cast the smallest light across the room and I caught a glimpse of a two silhouettes.  I nearly peed my pants.  They looked like large weirdly shaped people sitting, waiting for me to appear so they could…well, I don’t know exactly, but I laid in bed with my eyes wide open the rest of the night worried about it.

Scared me to death.

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You would think I would’ve learned my lesson, but, no.  The next Christmas I found where Mom hid my gifts and unwrapped each and every one.   I even took the time to re-wrap them.  Looking back on it I wonder why Mom didn’t blow my mascaraed.   I knew she could tell the gifts had been opened and carefully put back together, but, she didn’t say anything. Then she watched me pretend to be surprised with each gift KNOWING I had already opened them.   She told me years later it was my Christmas and if I wanted to spoil the surprise she wasn’t going to stop me.

I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but I snuck into the Christmas gifts every year.

Ya’ll, I was such a mess.

Our tree always had multi colored lights and lots of tinsel.  I’m sure some would say it was tacky, but I thought it was perfect.  Homemade ornaments hung from its boughs along with the occasional candy cane, usually broken or half eaten.  Decorating the tree was one of life’s greatest pleasures as far as I was concerned.  Staring at it as it illuminated the night was nothing short of magical.

I remember I wore my pink homemade housecoat that slipped over my head and fuzzy slippers, dirty from wearing them outside.   I would sneak out of my room and down the hall to the living room where I’d curl up in a ball on the sofa and dream little girl dreams as the lights played charades with the darkness.  And, because I sat up late with the Christmas tree, I was always tired the next morning.  And then I’d pretend to be terribly ill in hopes I wouldn’t have to go to school.

I didn’t realize when you put a thermometer into a hot glass of water it looked like you had a temperature of one hundred and ten.

So off I went to catch the school bus, no fooling Momma.

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It was in my early years, between the Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven and my beloved Tinker Toys, I learned about the greatest gift of all.

I have to be honest, I didn’t totally understand salvation as a kid.  I was just glad this Jesus guy was born so I could receive presents.  As a pastor’s kid, I was often a part of the Nativity. I was Mary, an angel or occasionally a shepherd every year.  Now I realize all the gifts, the trees, church Christmas plays, all the stuff, led me straight to the manger time and again.

And somewhere along the way I fell in love with the baby in the manger.

The one who grew to be the Savior of the world.

The One who makes all things new.

The One who loves me unconditionally and gave me the GREATEST GIFT OF ALL.

Hope of life eternal.

And, maybe, just maybe, the hope of a one horse open sleigh ride.

Cue in “Jingle Bells” here.  (Hum it to yourself as you read the last line.)

And now, let the gift giving, tree lighting, cookie decorating, ornament hanging, popcorn stringing, candy cane licking, movie marathon-ing, wreath making, bell ringing, absolute BEST time of the year begin!!!

Merry CHRISTmas season!!

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PSA:  Parents, hide the presents real good because I can ASSURE you one (or more) of your kids is looking for them in the dead of night.

Dancing Into Glory

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I was weaving through the aisles of Target absent mindedly enjoying the yellows and browns of the fall décor.  I love this time of year.  As I rounded the corner I passed a grey-headed attractive lady and, as usual, my heart wilted a little because my Mom would never get the chance to grow old.  But, in a wonderful mood changing moment, she offered me the sweetest smile.  I hadn’t even smiled at her first, I was lost in my thoughts.  But, as the corners of her aged mouth turned upward, the wrinkles around her eyes became more pronounced and I couldn’t help but grin right back at her.

It was lovely.

I’ve been thinking about my Mom a lot throughout October.  She’s never far from my mind or my heart at any given time.  But, this month stands out because it marks five years since she went to heaven.

Five years.

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So much has happened in those years; I couldn’t begin to name everything.  Words fall short. What’s most audacious is that life actually went on.  I mean, I really didn’t think it would.  I thought everything would stop, especially living.  But, that’s not what happened, instead a great divide formed…the before and after.

We speak in terms of “before Mom died” or “after Mom passed.”

Life will forevermore have a chasm.

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In the years “after Mom passed,” I’ve learned so much about living though grief and hard times.   Lessons I never wanted to learn but now wouldn’t trade for the world.

I’ve learned…

  • you can have a shattered heart and still cheer for your high schooler who needs encouragement.
  • you can cook supper when your mind is numb from pain.
  • you can still see a good movie, even if you do cry through half of it.
  • you can hide in a bathroom stall if you can’t control your emotions.
  • you can laugh and cry at the same time.
  • you can get up out of bed day after day even though you don’t really want to.
  • you talk to yourself more than ever in an attempt to keep your sanity.

You keep on surviving.

Then you keep on living.

In that order.

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After year one, you’ll have a relapse and fall into deeper grief. 

Just when you think you might’ve turned a corner, you’ll sink deeper into the pain.  You wonder if joy exists anymore.  You also wonder how others can go on with life as though nothing has happened.

Year two comes and you finally begin to wrap your mind around the finality of loss.

You don’t find yourself picking up the phone to call them as often and you don’t wake up every day thinking it was all a bad dream.

By year three, your heart begins to thaw from the frozen state it was shocked into for survival.

And in the thawing comes a lot of remembering.  Remembering things you’d forgotten or suppressed so you could function.  With remembering comes more pain.

Year four is full of longing and sadness watching life continue knowing how much the one you loved and lost would want to be there. 

Weddings, new babies, graduations etc.   You set out their picture at each occasion as a reminder wishing there was a window from heaven.

Then there’s year five.

The milestone year.

Half a decade.

In year five I’ve begun to fully accept her absence.  I’ve decided as long as I have breath I will miss her and long to talk to her; that will never change. 

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I walked into church this week with an open slightly broken heart and sat down about half way up the aisle.  I seated myself on the end as I always do, and waited for the service to begin.

The music was uplifting and worshipful, then it was time for the message.

I pulled out my pink notebook to take notes.  Yes, it’s pink, I’m sure that’s God’s favorite color too.  As I began to write I noticed a theme…death to life.  He spoke from I Corinthians 15 and I quickly realized the Lord was talking to me.

How tender is our Father to know what I needed right in that moment.

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You see in I Corinthians 15 Paul answered the question about our resurrected bodies.  He explained to the Corinthians that we MUST die in order to really LIVE.

“These earthly bodies cannot handle all God has prepared for us to experience,” said the speaker.   He went on to tell us God has more art, more music, more beauty, more love, more life than our feeble human bodies can absorb.

MORE.

Death is our passage to the greatest part of our lives.  The eternal part.  The part where we’ll never shed another tear or lose another soul.  The part where blue skies are endless and the temperature is perfect.  Well, I made that last part up, BUT blue skies and perfect temps sound like heaven to me.   Can I get an amen?!

On this particular Sunday morning, listening to a theme I’d heard before, it resonated with my heart like brand new.

Maybe year five made me ready.

Maybe it took this many years of working diligently to find mental health in my grief.

To come to terms with the depth of my loss.

Whatever the case, for the first time I felt like dancing FOR my Mom.  Dancing because she made it, she’s WHOLE and experiencing REAL LIFE like never before.  Dancing because even in my sadness I can rejoice that SHE LIVES ON.  I can rejoice that she ran the race, finished the course and is literally living her BEST LIFE EVER.

I wept tears of joy.

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I’m so proud of her.  So proud of the person she was, so proud she lived her days practicing what she believed.

I’m so proud she MADE IT.

She has her NEW heavenly body.

Let me tell you a little secret about my Mom, she loved to dance.

Now, being the Preacher’s Wife, and because she was “old school,” she would never be seen dancing in public.  But, sometimes, every now and then, she would play a song from her teenage years and cut a rug in the living room.  I remember when we three girls were little we would squeal with delight when she did.  Sometimes we would jump up and join her and sometimes she and Daddy would dance and we would watch.

Sweet, innocent times.

So, with this in mind, I’ve declared this fifth year of missing Momma to be a year of dancing.  Dancing because of her beautiful life.  Dancing away my hurt.  Dancing through the sorrow. Dancing to remember.  Dancing in celebration. Dancing in my spirit.  Dancing around the living room.  And, maybe, occasionally, cutting a rug down the aisle in Target. Who cares about the security cameras, maybe it will make someone smile, or laugh, or both.

And, honestly, that would make Momma the happiest.

Because I have NO DOUBT she is dancing around heaven, living her BEST LIFE and glancing occasionally at the Pearly White Gates looking for us.

I’m so ready to see her again.

So ready to hug her tight and squeal with delight and dance our way into glory.

Apple Pickin’

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I went to the apple orchard recently.

It brought back so many memories.

We used to go when the kids were little; such sweet times.

We’d climb on a hay filled trailer pulled by an ancient tractor and hold on for dear life as it bounced and bumped us out to the fruit laden trees.

I still remember so clearly.

The kids would jump off when we finally pulled to a stop and run between the rows and rows of apple trees, squealing with delight.

And, oh, the juicy goodness of those fresh apples; store-bought ones can’t compare.

Those were the days.

On this day, the one more recent, we piled out of the car to crisp mountain air.  They don’t call it Sky Top Orchard for nothing.

The drive up was breath taking, if a bit unnerving.

When we walked into the open air barn it was like stepping back in time.  The rugged building was meant to fit in with the mountainside, fancy would never be used to describe it.  There were small lights hung in rows from the ceiling and tables were loaded with freshly picked apples and pumpkins.  Pickled apples and homemade jams lined the walls in mason jars and there was a flurry of activity.

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We decided we’d like to pick our own apples right from the tree, even though there wasn’t a child among us.  I’m not quite sure why. Maybe so we could relive former days or maybe because we knew our watches were counting steps.  Whatever the reason, the brilliant blue sky beckoned us to come and play.

We stood in line, paid for a basket and started down the trail. Our route was highlighted on a cryptic map given to us by the nice man who worked behind the counter full of apple samples.

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As I said, this orchard is on the side of a mountain so the views are spectacular, but that also means you’re either going down or up.  Down is not so bad, but up, well that’s not for the faint of heart.

The ground was wet and our tennis shoes soaked up all the moisture they could, causing my socks to sound like a duck calling to its friends across the pond.

But, I didn’t care.

I was enjoying the smells and sights and batting away the occasional bee.

It was like living a Hallmark movie for a few minutes.

And, you know how much I love Hallmark.

We were all aglow with delight.

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But, as real life would have it, we took a wrong turn somewhere in the orchard and wound up on the exact opposite side of where we wanted to be.  This is no small place, so it was a bit discouraging to realize we had to trek back down the path from which we’d just come.  Or maybe it was up the path or both, whichever, we were tired and it was hard.

I had my mind set on making some homemade apple pies and I wanted a certain type of apple, like the one I had sampled in the rustic open air barn.

No other type would do.

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And that reminds me, who knew there were so many types of apples??  Did you know there is one that tastes like a pear?? Asian Pear in case you’re wondering. It’s confusing to your taste buds when you bite into it.  Is it a pear or an apple?!  And if it’s an apple, why do we need pears?

These are the thoughts of a simple mind, namely mine.

As we walked along, our socks honking, I noticed a tree standing proudly in the middle of all the others that had exactly zero leaves on it.  I did a double take because it looked so very out of place amidst the green glory of this mountain.

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What happened to this tree, I wondered.

Interestingly, it had small apples all over it.

How was this tree, so dead looking from the outside, bearing fruit?

How??

As I walked closer I noticed something.

All the apples on the tree were small.

Like too small to be of any use.

They were stunted and undergrown.

Pitiful.

All around us was life brilliant with color.  There were juicy apples hanging on trees literally right next to this one.

And yet, here it stood, looking lifeless with unhealthy fruit trying unsuccessfully to blend in.

What happened to it?

It had the same water supply, the same minerals from the soil, and the same amount of sunlight as all the rest and yet, it was dying.

The Bible talks about trees in Luke chapter six.

“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.”  Vs. 43 NLT

Luke goes on a couple of verses later to compare our heart to trees; good things come from a good heart and evil things come from an evil heart.

I looked at the half dead tree and then the healthy tree next to it, it was a perfect example of these verses in Luke.

Each tree had the same opportunity but one was dying and the other living.

I wonder, if trees could think, if that tree realizes it is half dead.  I wonder if it wishes to be green and leafy like it used to be.  Or has it been dried up for so long it no longer has any hope of change?

Settling for barely living because it’s forgotten what it feels like to be fully alive?

But, trees can’t think.

And life is hard.

I long to be fully alive.  I want to chase hope until it captures my heart.  I want to grow strong and healthy through seasons and hardship until I am truly ALIVE.

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Ah, if only this were an easy task.

But, this tree stands as a tangible reminder that I can have ALL I need exactly where I need it and still be lifeless.

I can read God’s Word, attend church, be kind to others, put encouragement on Facebook, give to the poor, rescue lost puppies, witness to the lost, tutor kids who need it, lead Bible study, sing in the choir, listen to the lonely, volunteer for Meals on Wheels, I can do ALL THE THINGS but still stand there with brown limbs and useless fruit.

What makes the difference?

For me, it’s putting the WORK of God AFTER the WORD and WORSHIP of God.

I have to keep it in the proper order.

Now, I am no botanist, I have absolutely no advice on how to help this tree.

But, I’m no dummy and I can tell you something in its life needs to change.

Can you relate?

Is there something in your life that needs to change so you can feel alive again?

So you can produce fruit that is worthwhile?

So you can be vibrant with spiritual health?

Ask the Lord today to show you what needs to change, He is faithful, he will show you and he will walk with you into a better place flowing with hot apple cider and homemade apple cider donuts.

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Oh Lord, I didn’t mention the homemade donuts, did I?

When we finally made it back to the barn, our basket brimming with fresh apples, we treated ourselves to heaven on earth in the form of a donut.

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They were amazing.

Dredged in cinnamon and sugar with pieces of fresh hot apple inside.

My goodness, steaming, hot perfection.

They were a perfect finale to a perfect afternoon.

And now my life is now complete.

Even so, Lord Jesus come.

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The Preacher

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I don’t recall a time in my life when my daddy wasn’t a preacher.

I’m told I was about five when he and Mom sold everything they had, packed up a Uhaul, and headed to Colorado Springs to attend Bible College.

You know, I’m still amazed when I think about that.  My mom was always so reserved, almost shy.  But, clearly, she had guts.  I mean, who packs up their whole house, sells everything and moves across the country with three children with no job and or place to live waiting for them?

The planner in me curls into the fetal position just thinking about it.

As a mother of young adults, I ask myself what their parents thought of this plan? Or lack of plan? Or whatever was going on here…

I can just imagine the conversation.

“Yes, mom, we are moving.”

“Moving?  Moving where?”

“To Colorado.”

“What’s in Colorado?”

“Colorado Springs, there’s a Bible college and we’re going back to school because we feel called into ministry.”

“Oh. (Dramatic pause to make a point.) You have good jobs and a home here, do you have a job there?  A place to live?”

“No, we have neither of those things.  The Lord told us to go, so we’re going.  He’ll provide.”

“Let me get this straight, you have no real money, no job, no place to live, three children and you’re taking off on the promise that the Lord will provide?”

“We don’t have all the answers, we don’t have ANY of the answers; we just know we HAVE to go.  Will you pray for us?”

(Long silence.)  “Yes, I’ll pray….pray you’ll get some sense knocked into your head.”

Of course I have no idea if it actually went this way…maybe I’m thinking how I would feel if it were my kids.  And as a follower of Jesus, I feel embarrassed to admit that.  Why is it so shocking when people step out in faith?! Why don’t we celebrate it instead of discourage it?

Something to think about.

So, Mom and Dad and three little ones arrived in Colorado.

Mom said they drove straight through from Florida to Colorado because they had no money for a hotel.  Can this story get any more touching?  They were young, the kids were young.  Some might say they didn’t know any better than to trust God would provide.  They hadn’t lived enough life to know we have to use common sense.

But I choose to believe they knew EXACTLY what they were doing.

They packed up a truck and backed out of the driveway, trusting in a promise that no one else quite understood.

Trusting God for big things starts with big obedience.

Upon arrival they enrolled in Bible College and found a basement level apartment.  Dad then found a part time job at a grocery store.  He cleaned the store at night and attended school during the day.  The apartment was small so we had to be real quiet when Daddy was sleeping.  Because there was no washer or dryer Mom had to wash the clothes in the bathtub and hang them to dry all over the small dwelling.

When Mom told this story I don’t remember her complaining about the living arrangements, she knew in her heart it was exactly what they were supposed to be doing.  All of the inconveniences were part of the journey to the life God had in store for them.

I honestly believe it became her sacrifice of praise to the Savior she loved so much.

She took Jeremiah 29:11 to heart.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

She trusted and had hope for our future.

The years flew by and hardship always prevailed during this season.  The Lord did always provide, but it wasn’t easy.   I’m sure the lessons learned while leaning so heavily on God were foundational for the life of ministry ahead.

I remember living in Louisiana.

It was my dad’s first church assignment fresh out of Bible College.

He was definitely a “freshie.”

There were a lot of Cajuns in New Iberia, LA and they spoke their own special kind of English.  Kind of like English with a French flair.  I loved our little singlewide snuggled up next to a giant ditch that separated us from a cow field.  I spent many hours running those fields and picking black berries from the ditch.  Broken white shell was used to cover driveways and country roads instead of rock or concrete.  They were sharp as a blade but before we moved I was able to run across them like they were carpet.

I have good memories of flying across the broken shell driveway, my stringy brown hair swinging behind me, to play with my best friend across the street.

They were good days from a kid’s perspective.

The next move landed us in Forest City, Arkansas.

We lived in a giant two story house, a far cry from the snug singlewide in Louisiana.

Next to the house was a giant hill, and we spent many a day sliding down it on flattened cardboard boxes. If you’ve read my blog, you know I found the communion wafers in the fellowship hall and used to sneak in the kitchen to eat them.

Lord, forgive me, they were just so good!

After Arkansas we moved to Pace, Florida.

We spent a number of years in the panhandle, it was here I graduated high school.  Daddy loved this area since it was so close to where he grew up.  It’s safe to say my daddy will always be a Florida boy at heart.  He loves the smell of salt water and to him there’s nothing better than backing his boat into the water.

Especially if it involves a fishing rod.

When we made another move it was deeper into the peninsula of Florida.

Archer, Florida was a hop, skip and a jump from Gainesville. And this is where his love affair began with the Florida Gators.

Ever heard of ‘em?

It was during his long stay in Central Florida that he became a Gator MEGA FAN. If this is not a term I think it should be.  It is the only phrase I can think of that adequately describes him.  He has worn his Gator tie to church more than one Sunday morning.  I think at one point he even had an orange blazer although I’m not sure.

The last move he made in his long, prestigious ministry was to Brewton, Alabama.

Lower Alabama

L. A.

He’s lived here by far the longest and has fallen in love with the area as well as the church.

It was in Brewton he lost Momma.

I’ve shared with you again and again how much he loved her and how he sat by her side until the very end.  She was his partner, his love, and worked right alongside him in ministry.  She believed great things for our family and God has honored her prayers.  There’s no telling where I might be had it not been for her good example and longsuffering for an immature girl who wanted to be good but struggled with obedience.

I’ll always look back on those days of Mom’s sickness as the most bitter of my life thus far.  But, I heard a great quote recently that has helped me to put her life and seemingly untimely death into perspective.

“You’re either praying for a miracle or you are the miracle.”

Momma was and is the miracle.

These days made a deep impression on us all and we will never be the same.

I would be leaving an important part of the story out if I didn’t tell you God has brought a precious woman into my dad’s life.  He is happily married these days and I will sing Hallelujah forever because of it.

You see, it doesn’t always end up the way you planned, but it is God’s plan, and HE KNOWS BEST.

When I think back on it, Daddy has had a successful ministry.  He’s touched countless lives and has led the charge in building some sort of building everywhere he pastored.  I have vivid memories of him and Momma laying cinder block at the small church in Pace, FL.  They were building a sanctuary and the volunteer list was short.  He and Mom went out on almost a daily basis and worked hard in the Florida sun.  Before they left for the next assignment, a new church building was standing.

He’s slept in hospitals when a church member was ill.  He’s eaten in more homes than I could ever count.  He loves fried chicken, btw, in case you want to have him over.  He would want you to know he has to eat baked chicken these days to keep his sugar regulated, something he’s not real happy about.    He’s prayed over sick children, baptized hundreds, preached thousands of sermons, loved on mean folks, been talked about good and bad, visited nursing homes and sat by the bedside of the dying.  He’s been prayed for, prayed about, he’s led many to Christ and I am convinced we’ll never fully know his impact until we get to heaven.

Daddy has a thousand colloquialisms, but one of his favorite things to say is, “Well, if they’re talking about me, then they’re not talking about someone else, so let ‘em talk.”

He loves deep and his humor has helped him to keep his sanity.

We don’t go ANYWHERE without running into someone he knows.  “Hey, preacher.”  Words carved into my mind because I’ve heard them thousands of times.  And every time, he stops and takes time for the person calling out to him.

He told me he plans to retire the pastoral side of ministry but he will always be a preacher.

All in all I’d say their step out into faith was a raging success.  God provided again and again.  They touched countless lives because they had the faith of a mustard seed.  Some called them ignorant, some said they were crazy, others called them irresponsible.

But, God called them to go.

And because they trusted, they saw God work in amazing ways.

I’m so glad they listened.

 

A Hard Goodbye

Tait

Dear Tait,

I remember when you came to us.

It was Christmas.

Well, you were too small to be there in flesh and blood so we pasted a picture inside of a book about dogs and gave it as a gift.  I wish you could’ve seen their faces, the kids, I mean, when they opened the brightly wrapped package.  They were giddy with joy, a puppy after all is a big deal to three wiggly kids in the dead of winter.

It was still winter in Iowa when you finally arrived ten long weeks later.  You were so small. We put you in an old playpen and stared at you through the mesh. You whimpered and peed all over, we held you and cleaned up mess after mess.  We tried to take you outside but the snow was so deep and you were so little.

I hope you remember how much you were loved.

When you fell asleep for the last time, I hope you dreamed of a good life.

We moved before you were a year, you probably don’t remember being dragged across the country so your family could start a new chapter. By this time you slept in your own bed in the room with your kids.  You were persnickety then and you never changed.  You sure didn’t like the hot weather of the deep South, your long hair was a curse.  You also hated going to the groomer, it was ill fated that you had to endure both all of your life.

I’ve cried a thousand tears for you.

The house feels empty.

You never were one to play.  Or take a walk.  We teased about your disposition.  But, you never failed to meet us at the door day after day.  You were such a part of our lives, the kids don’t have many vivid memories before you.  You went on countless road trips, stayed close to Christian when he would wake up in the night with yet another ear infection.  You were beside Abbie when she had her tonsils out and thought she might die of pain.  You were loyal to Travis and slept by his bed for years even after he left for college.

You lived through the changes with us.

You did life with us.

How can you be gone?

One thing you never thought was funny was eating late.  You made sure we always remembered.  You had to drink out of a hamster water bottle because your face was so flat we thought you might drown drinking from a bowl.  Thanks for being okay with a pink one since the pet store was all out of the blue ones.

When my mom died, you sat by my feet in the living room when I thought my heart would surely explode in my chest.  You were never one to be overly affectionate, but you sat with me and I felt your presence.

You rode in numerous cars as we passed them along to the kids and bought newer ones.  I know you hated every ride, we really did have your best interest at heart, I promise.

You wore bandannas after being groomed and I’m sure you despised us for it, thanks for tolerating our inexpiable desire to make you “cute” even though you were all boy.

I wonder if you’ll ever forgive is for feeding you only dog food because the vet said people food was bad for you.  We really wanted you to be healthy.  I can only imagine what the neighbor dogs thought when you told them your plight.

I’ll always remember you prancing around the back yard, tail high, looking for something, we never knew exactly what.

And I’ll remember how much the kids grew while you were with us.

Thank you for sitting with me when the house was empty.  For being near as we dropped one, two and finally three kids off at college.

This note to you wouldn’t be totally honest if I didn’t mention how ornery you could be at times.   How much you didn’t like company.  Well, I guess you liked a few people, but not many.   You’ve given us many laughs over the years as you snubbed your nose at yet another well-meaning guest.

It seems the years went quickly and then you didn’t have a skip in your step anymore.  Your eyesight faded and then your hearing.  We tried to be gentle with you, I’m sorry if we scared you trying to pick you up.  It must’ve been difficult not being able to see or hear.  We only wanted to help.

And then you couldn’t walk.

And still I couldn’t let go.

How do you say good bye to nearly sixteen years of good life wrapped up in fur?

I hope you can forgive us.

We loved you and will miss you.

The lady at the vet said letting go is the greatest act of love we could give to you.  She said sometimes old dogs hold on for their owners.

Were you holding on for me?

Were you staying present like you have so many times before?

We’ve had so much change and some disappointment lately, were you trying to see us through?

I guess I’ll never know the answers to these questions.

But, I need you to know that no dog will replace you.  We’ve picked a picture we feel captures your personality and we’re going to hang it in the house.

You will always be a part of the family.

Always.

This Christmas, we will remember you.  We’ll hang your collar on the tree and take the time to talk of your antics and you’ll make us laugh once again.

Thank you for the memories.

We will never forget you.

I believe you’re in heaven, waiting for us.  You’ll probably fuss about something, but you’ll be there.

Present, just like always.

Love, your human mom