At this time of year (around Easter) I spend time reminiscing about the souls that have touched my life. This essay is a tribute to unconditional love and awe inspiring moments.

It was a beautiful January morning.  The kind we seem to get every January nowadays. The snow had melted; the sky was a cerulean blue.  That magical yellow orb, high in the sky, spread warmth across my kitchen windows like butter melting over toast.  Looking outside I saw nothing but clear skies and the promise of warmth.

However, in my heart I was hollow.  For this was the day that I would have to lay our beloved Rufus down.

I went through the motions of getting breakfast ready.  After pouring the coffee, I knew I couldn’t eat a thing and since Hannah had planned to come with me to the veterinarian’s office, I knew her appetite would be non-existent as well.  So I gathered my hot steaming cup of Joe and sat on the living room floor with our dog.

The cancer came on quickly and was taking him from us even faster.  He hadn’t been able to muster that “catch me if you can” glint in his eye from the edge of the driveway for weeks.  He looked at me with his deep, melancholy brown eyes, obviously asking me what was happening to him.  I didn’t know how to tell him that it was almost over.  That soon he would be running through fields of sunflowers, chasing deer, pulling cat tails and chewing a never ending supply of organic rawhide.

The drive to the doctors’ office was too short.  Rufus couldn’t muster the strength to poke his head the window.  The air was cold, not the warmth I perceived in the kitchen.  Tears wouldn’t stop.  They silently fell as Hannah and I tried not to look at each other.  I lifted Rufus out of the car and we made the slow, sad walk to the barren examination room.  Even the doctor cried with us.

Hannah wasn’t able to stay in the room during the injections, but the doctor was kind enough to give the three of us as much time as we needed for acceptance.  As Hannah and I sat on the floor of the cold barren room, we felt the soul of our beautiful canine pass its way from his lifeless body into our hearts and smelled the result of his body’s last emission assault our noses.  Yes, our beloved Rufus passed gas.  We accusingly looked at each other before we realized that it was from him.  Then we looked at each other for permission to giggle, and we did.  We knew then that it was OK to leave.

The day was still breathtakingly beautiful, so we drove to the Family Life Center and walked the labyrinth.  We silently completed our circuits and silently hugged each other at the center.

We drove home and tried to muster a hunger for lunch.  A quiet calm enveloped us as we sat at the table together.  We didn’t smile, but we did reminisce.  As we ate in our “goldfish bowl” of a dining room we were joined by miraculous menagerie: a flock of birds at the feeders; 4 deer staring at us through the front windows (remarkably not eating the roses); an unknown cat, stoically perched on the boulder just outside; two turkeys peering from the edge of the driveway; and a pack of squirrels unusually calm in their scurries up the walk.  Never before had so much wildlife appeared so magically and so needed.  We were enchanted.

God was with us all that day and is with us every day.  God warms us when we felt cold inside.  God cracks a joke when we are reaching despair. God gives us peace when we need quiet contemplation. And God gives us friends to lift us.



Let’s Make a Deal

Many people proclaim that they have “made a deal with the devil”.  I on the other hand, made a deal with God.

I grew up without religion. In response to a request to go to a fundamentalist Baptist church with a schoolmate, my father, an avid atheist, once proclaimed to me “I don’t care if you go to church with your friends, you just won’t be dragging me there.”  I went to church with my friend and while in awe of the full submersion baptisms going on, I declared that I would rather bathe in private, without assistance and with shampoo.  Throughout junior high school, our house was the haven for errant Catholics, the place where friends would come hang out after telling their parents they were walking to mass.  I often served a breakfast buffet.  My mother, a lapsed German Lutheran, was much too busy being co-dependant with my alcoholic/drug addict brother to bother giving me any religious instruction.

As I grew up I developed a strong sense of independence.  I had no need for my dysfunctional family, I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself, and I was fiercely protective of my own integrity. I knew I had the strength to persevere, to make decisions, stick to them and make them work.  The family I created was going to be normal. Then my first marriage fell apart and my ex stole my children away to Texas.

In the depth of despair, unable to find a way on my own, I made a deal with God.  “Dude, if you just help me get my kids back, I promise to take them to church most Sundays.” I pleaded, I prayed, I cried and I screamed. One and a half years later, my children came home to me.

Seventeen years later I continue to make deals with God.  Raising 4 children has meant that I plead, pray, cry and scream a lot.  But now I know someone is listening.  Now, instead of just asking for things, I do things.  I am still searching for a comfortable definition of faith, spirituality and religion, but God and I are working things out.