Good-Bye, Sweet Missy

Reader beware.  This will NOT be a happy post.  So, you may want to save this for another time if you’re in the middle of having fun this weekend.

I had to make the heart wrenching decision to put my sweet Missy (Boston/Frenchie mix) to sleep today.  And since I have been working through my grief and pain of losing Dale through this blog, I figured why not continue the therapy here?  Anyone that knows me for more than a day will understand that my pets have always been like children to me.  Yes, I am that crazy, over-the-top animal lover that many of you may not quite understand.  And you won’t understand the depth of my grief.  But you fellow animal lovers will completely get this.

Missy came to us about 5 years ago after the painful, tragic loss of our Boston Terrier, Holly.  We really didn’t intend on getting another dog so quickly, but six days after losing Holly, we had our little Missy girl to help us grieve.  We were never sure what her first six years looked like, but clearly she came from an abusive background.  Despite five years of nothing but love and kindness, she was still afraid of the leash, still tensed up anytime I picked her up, and still bore some scars on her precious little body.

But regardless of that past, she had the sweetest personality of ANY dog I have ever had. And that’s saying something, because I’ve had some great dogs throughout my life.   She didn’t seem to be afraid of people or other animals, always greeting whoever came to the door.  She would wait patiently in the background while Daisy hogged all the attention.  Then it’s like she’d say, “Hey, maybe you could just give me a little pet, if it’s not too much trouble!”

It’s always amazing to me how animals can continue to trust us humans even when we’ve caused them pain.  We can learn a LOT from that.  I’m so grateful that we had her for as long as we did.  I always told people that Missy would be the perfect dog for anyone who didn’t like dogs, because she was just that precious.

She entered a household that was run by Crazy Daisy and they were a perfect match.  Missy needed a leader and Daisy needed another minion for her kingdom.  They were complete opposites and yet, perfectly paired.  God’s hand was clearly guiding the process of getting Missy into this home.  I’m grateful that Dale and I, along with our family and friends, could be the ones to show her what her life was supposed to be.

About a month ago, she started having some heart issues and was put on medication for that.  I was also to keep an eye on her breathing rate and get her back to the vet if it was over 40 breaths per minute.  She had been running around 20, so no worries here.

Last Thursday, her breathing took a turn for the worse and she clocked in at 60 breaths per minute.  At her vet appointment the next day, her X-rays showed a lot of fluid in and around her lungs.  A shot of Lasix and some water pills were our last hope to give her some relief, as she was clearly in distress with such rapid breathing.  I left for the holiday weekend with instructions to take her to the emergency vet if her breathing didn’t return to 40/min by 9 that night.  They did not, but I wasn’t ready to let her go.

I wanted to give the medication a day or so to see if it would help before making that final decision.  By last night, it was clearly not working for her and I knew what lie ahead for us.

In the 30+ years that Dale and I were married, he was the one who always did the hard work of taking our pets to the vet when their time had come.  I would stay home, lost in my tears and grief.  Dale would always, sometimes a BIT grudgingly, agree to get another dog, so that’s one of the ways that we would begin our healing process.

Now that Dale is gone, the decision fell to me – and even more importantly, the JOB fell to me.  I did have dear friends who offered to go with me and to them I say, “Thank you for being willing to grieve this with me!”  But I know what a basket case I would become, and I just needed to do that in the privacy of my own little world.

So, I made Daisy give Missy a last wet kiss, and off we went to the emergency vet clinic.  I won’t take you through all those tearful details, but will tell you that it’s a very peaceful process, if you’ve never been through it.  Peaceful, but final.

The pain of losing a beloved pet, especially for us crazy animal lovers, is one of the worst things you go through.  So, to have to deal with this while I’m still deep in the grieving process of losing Dale just doubled the pain.  Of course, I missed him not being here to do that hard work, but I also missed not having him here to grieve with.

But, as sad as this time is, and as much of a downer as this blog post is, I did have a very sweet thought that brings me some comfort.  I picture Missy waking up in heaven and running into Dale’s open arms!  What a precious homecoming that would be!  Can’t you just see it?

I know, I know – the Bible does NOT tell us that our pets will be there.  But, it DOES say that all creation will one day be restored.  And we know the Garden of Eden was full of animals, so I fully expect to see animals there.  I love what Randy Alcorn says in his book Heaven – “Wouldn’t it be just like God to have our pets in heaven?”  Yes, yes, it would!  So THAT’S what I’m going with.  I may be wrong, but I’m going to hang onto that picture and that hope as I continue to grieve both of these losses.

And if I haven’t made you cry yet, here’s my last chance.  My last words to Missy before she was gone were, “I love you, my sweet girl.  Now go run to Daddy.”  That’s the picture I want to remember.

Depression, Grieving…and Medication

Well, if that title isn’t enough to cause an uproar…, or trepidation on my part!  I’ve had a couple of blog post ideas floating around the past few days, but nothing that I felt strongly about running with.  In the past 24 hours, I’ve read certain articles and had several discussions with friends about this topic and then came that overwhelming sense when I know what the next post will be.  But this time, I thought, “Boy, I do NOT want to tackle this subject.  I don’t see an upside and I’m pretty sure I will offend people that I love and respect!”  I’ll just have to trust God for the upside!

So here I am, typing up this explosive topic – mind you, not before praying and asking God to give me HIS words.  So, I do pray that God would help me be clear in what I sense Him asking me to share, and that He would give all the readers an open mind and a heart of grace.

So here goes.  Let me begin by saying that I have never had to deal with any kind of long-term clinical depression and for that, I’m extremely grateful.  Nor have I really walked closely with someone dealing with that horrible disease.  I do, however, have friends who have dealt with this and several close friends who have spent decades walking through this nightmare with their loved ones.

I can’t even begin to comprehend what it must be like to deal with clinical depression personally, or to watch a loved one suffer through this.  My heart breaks for them.  Clearly these are the situations where modern medicine can and should step in to help deal with the chemical imbalance wreaking havoc on their brains.  I do know many people have found some sense of healing or relief under their doctor’s supervision.  I also know that healing doesn’t always come, and the pain and hopelessness continue.

If any of this describes you or someone you love, please know that my heart goes out to you as you struggle through this very real, very physical challenge.

That, however, is not what I’m experiencing as I grieve the loss of my husband.  Yes, I am sad, and I still cry daily, and I’m often overwhelmed by the loneliness.  But I feel that I do a disservice to those suffering from clinical depression if I think it’s OK to say our sufferings are comparable.  Or to put them in the same medical basket.

One thing we do have in common, however, is that the “solution” for either of us is not to just get over it.  Society may tell us to think positive thoughts and stop being so blue.  Wrong answer – wrong suggestion.  Neither suffering benefits from that advice.  Clinical depression likely will need medical intervention.  Grieving has to run its painful course.

Some in the field call my particular grieving a form of situational depression – a sadness borne of some great loss which, theoretically will lessen over time with or without medical help.  And maybe that is what I’m dealing with.

Enter the gray area where there is no right or wrong, but only what an individual feels works best for him or her.  I have close friends who have benefitted from medication to help them through some very difficult and stressful times.  I supported their decision to do so 100%.  It’s absolutely their call, and I know that they received relief.  No judgment on my part.  Grateful when they came out of their self-described fog.

Over the past 7 months, friends have suggested to me that I consider taking some medication as well, to help me through these dark days. I know, without a doubt, that they had my best interests at heart.  They don’t want to see me hurting, and feel helpless to know what to do for me.  I LOVE the heart of those friends who want my pain to go away.  But that’s not really how grieving works.  If it was, I guess it wouldn’t be called grieving!

As I explain how and why I came to the decision I made, I hope that you will also extend grace to me and not judge this personal choice I’m embracing.  When I engage in conversation with those suggesting I take some medication, I can honestly tell them that I’m functioning, I exercise daily, I’m sleeping quite well, I’m eating well (actually TOO much chocolate…).  I’m not without hope, I’m not suicidal.  I’M GRIEVING.  This is what it looks like. I would even go so far as to say that I don’t consider this to be situational depression.  It’s the process any of us must go through when we grieve the loss of someone we love.  Not grieving means you’ll pay the price in some other way at some point in your life.

I talked in an earlier post about how God does His best and most permanent work in our lives through our most difficult times.  I believe that with my whole heart as I’ve seen time and time again the lessons that God is teaching me as He walks through this journey with me.  Some I would never have learned any other way.

So the next lesson came in the form of a question that it seemed God was asking of me:  “If He does in fact teach me the most through my pain, why would I want to limit what He is going to do in my life by purposely lessening that pain?”  I’m not trying to be a martyr here; I’m just trying to be true to where I believe God is leading me on this particular issue.  And possibly share a perspective that you might not have had before.  I certainly didn’t have any clue about this until recently!

Let me be clear; this is MY path and decision.  It’s where God is leading ME.  I don’t know where He has, or is, or may lead you down the road.  It may very well be to help you through some dark days with effective and trusted medication.  And maybe I’ll be there some day, too.  But right now, this is where He has me.

I make no judgments on anyone choosing medication or procedures for any part of their healing.  And I ask that you not judge me for choosing not to go that route.  May God give us ALL the grace and understanding to support each other no matter which path we are on!


Vacation Re-Entry…and a New Hope

For those of you who saw my recent FaceBook pix, you know that I took a vacation to Phoenix, Arizona with some girlfriends.  These are friends from WAY back in my early days with Northwestern Bell – which became USWest, which became Qwest, which became Century Link.  We’ve been friends since 1983 and I’m SO blessed that they are still such a big part of my life.  It’s the kind of friendship that can pick up where we left off and not miss a beat.

We did all the fun things you do on vacation – lots of pool time, a little HOT golf, dinners out, trip to Sedona, sleeping in, and LOTS of chocolate and laughter.  Such an encouraging time for me.  And ironic that I would find a respite from the emotional desert in which I find myself – in that desert!  But it was a wonderful balm for my soul.

Most of us know that there is a somewhat depressing re-entry time after a vacation – or even after a nice, long weekend.  It means we go back to the reality of work or school or chores or problems or whatever.  It’s not my favorite part of a vacation and I’m sure it’s not yours.

But this re-entry was HARD!  The reality I faced after this trip was “full of emptiness” (intentional pun) and sadness.  I so wanted to call Dale and tell him about my trip.  Despite the dogs’ exuberance at my return, the house seemed very quiet and lonely.  I found myself tearful for 3-4 days after my return.

My grief seemed to center around the loss of this great love we had.  Like any relationship that is decades long, our love went through numerous stages.  There’s the beginning stage of new love with a little bit of infatuation thrown in. The kind where you just can’t stop thinking about him and feel incomplete whenever you’re apart.  It has to be one of the most exciting times in a relationship and ours was no different.  As the years went by, of course we worked through the issues that are bound to crop up in a relationship and marriage.

And yet, so much of that initial love remained for me throughout our marriage.  The bonus was that we added to that the deep, abiding love that grows BECAUSE of what you’ve been through together.  I learned that I could ALWAYS count on Dale’s love and I would trust him with anything.

I know how blessed I am to be able to claim that in my marriage.  But, of course, the flip side is that the pain of that loss is so deep.  As believers, the great hope we have is to see our loved ones again and spend eternity together before the throne of God.

That has been my hope as I lost grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and friends throughout my life.  Those relationships would all be restored one day, and I found great comfort in that promise.

But, I wasn’t feeling the same level of comfort when I thought about reuniting with Dale one day.  I know that sounds really crazy, so let me explain how I landed there.  The Bible says in Matthew 20:30, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven.”

I’ve known the truth behind this passage for most of my adult life.  Dale and I would NOT be husband and wife in heaven.  I won’t take the time in this post to get into all the nitty-gritty of that, but briefly –  marriage is not necessary in heaven.  All believers constitute the church of Christ and we are all Christ’s bride.  It’s a great picture of what marriage is really all about and it comes to a perfect conclusion in eternity.

So, what was my problem?  My love for Dale was the deepest love I have ever experienced in my life and when he died, it felt like my heart was ripped out.  I knew I would never again experience 35 years of that unconditional love, the kind that you can only have with a spouse.

And because of the “no-marriage in heaven” clause, it seemed as though my relationship with Dale, once I reached heaven, would be lessened somehow.  I imagined it would be more like getting to see a long-lost friend again, or even a parent.  And that’s NOT what I wanted!  I wanted to enjoy that deep love between a husband and wife for eternity.

Hence the extra sadness and, to a certain degree, hopelessness that I felt based on my assumption that I would NEVER have this love again…ever.

It’s pretty amazing how one can sit under solid Biblical teaching for so many years and still get some of the theology wrong!  And I’ll admit it’s a little embarrassing to have overlooked what should have been so clear to me.  Thankfully, God decided to straighten me out – and I’m so glad He did!  I don’t hear an actual voice of God, but I often get such a strong sense of what He wants me to know that there’s no doubt in my mind, or soul, that it is from Him.

That was the case as I was having that little pity party about never being able to experience my great love with Dale again.  God CLEARLY “spoke” to me and said, “The love you will have with Dale in heaven will be SO much more than anything you ever experienced here on earth with him, and more than you could possibly imagine with your limited knowledge in this life.”

Boom!  (I’ve always kind of wanted to put one of those in.  😊)  My lightning bolt hit.  Of course, God would NEVER have our experiences in heaven be anything less than perfection!  It is His pure agape love that will be present in every relationship we will have, especially our relationship with HIM!  Agape love is what we see in 1 Corinthians 13, often known as the love chapter.   It is EVERYTHING we would ever want love to be, and that’s what God has in store for us. Read about it below if you need a refresher.

Any of us who attended church or Sunday School as children learned this simple truth – God is Love.  He is so much more than that, but Love defines him and as 1 Corinthians 13 says, “So now faith, love and hope abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  So, of course God, the perfect embodiment of love, will get it perfectly right!

OK, I get it now!  Yes, I will still be so sad in this life that I won’t share that love with Dale on this side of Glory.  But, oh what hope I have that the heavenly, agape love waiting for us will absolutely blow my socks off!

These are the kinds of revelations God gives to me on this journey that remind me how much He does love me, and continues to walk with me and teach me what I’d likely never learn without this season.  Talk about trading sorrow for joy, tears for laughter, and hopelessness for a hopeful expectation.

I think I’ll officially declare this particular pity party over…  Thanks be to God!