Monday, August 30, 2010

Songs my mother taught me

There exist very few photos of my mother and me together. So much of my adulthood, years might go between times that we saw each other. One photo (for which I have just spent two fruitless hours searching) is of the memorable Christmas Eve that I surprised her by showing up in the living room at Kelly & Bev's, and I really love that picture that Bev snapped in the moment.

But I have thousands of moments in music to remember her by. I don't actually know many songs of contemporary worship. My history is full of old time hymns, and when I page through memory's songbook, I hear my mother at the piano and her high tenor in our family harmonies.

I find comfort in the old tunes and the plain words of belief, before boutique religion made such things obsolete. I have only to sing a few lines before the tears flow, and the connection to my mother is alive again.

Precious Memories
by J.B.F. Wright, 1925

Precious memories, unseen angels
Sent from somewhere to my soul
How they linger, ever near me
And the sacred past unfold.

Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.

In the stillness of the midnight
Echoes from the past I hear
Old-time singing, gladness bringing
From that lovely land somewhere.

As I travel on life's pathway
Know not what the years may hold
As I ponder, hope grows fonder
Precious memories flood my soul.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Memorials from Holly's ashes

I'm heading out shortly to meet with a local lampworking artist, Elise Strauss, to create glass beads from Holly's ashes. I found her at her Etsy store online, and then realized when I checked her main website that she was right here in Anchorage. That felt like I was being led in the right direction, but when I learned she's a full-on dog person (agility competitor), I knew Holly was guiding me to the right place. If you look at the Etsy store, you can see an example of the large glass beads; I'm thinking that's similar to what we will be doing for Holly's dad Gary and brother Beau as it has a beautiful but masculine look.

My own piece (a bracelet similar to this picture) is already underway at Art from Ashes. I am eager to see the results, but so far very pleased with the personal feel of the contacts I've had with them (caring, but also smart and funny), and the professional and sensitive way they handle the remains.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Is there a translator in the house?

The evolution of this bruise seems to be turning into kanji characters? I'm a little afraid to know what they might mean...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A prayer for Homeless Animals Day

God, creator and upholder of all creatures, make your peaceful presence known in this time.

We acknowledge, with distress and determination, our awareness of the plight of homeless animals in our nation. With shame we confess our guilt for allowing creatures of Yours, entrusted to our care, to be considered with such indifference and by such harsh and horrible ways. We recall before You, in this company, and with all others who share in this vigil, all companion animals who are forgotten, homeless, hurt, and vanquished.

God of Light, we bear in mind those animals who having once enjoyed the warmth of untold human companionship, have had their love and loyalty betrayed. We remember the untold millions of dogs and cats who, through human greed, ignorance, and irresponsible inaction, have been brought into life only to be destroyed. We recognize the terrible suffering of future generations of unwanted animals which will occur unless we change our attitudes and actions.

God of Mercy, we pray for the sanctuaries and shelters where loving workers care for these creatures during the last hours of their lives. Grant unto them the gift of continued compassion. Grant unto all abandoned animals the peace and protection which they did not know here.

God of Truth, strengthen all humane educators and laborers of the human ethic. Give them enduring courage, determination, and hope as they seek to end the suffering of your creatures. Touch and instruct our human hearts so that none of your beloved creatures shall be abused or destroyed.

God, Creator and upholder of all creatures, inspire us that we may, with optimism, shed light on the tragedy of dog and cat overpopulation in our country. Lead us from darkness to light, from death to new life.


Reverend Dr. Marc A. Wessels
Executive Director
International Network for Religion and Animals

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This theory needs a name

My line of work is fraught with injuries, but I'm still in awe of the inerrant ability of a dog to target the very softest spots on a woman's body to create the most painful bruises, like

But what I really want to understand is how Dog #2 knows to come along two days later andright on that very spot.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

She goes on little cat feet

Our little pal and regular home-medical project Mary Love will probably be leaving us in the next few days, from end-stage kidney failure. Though I feel sad, it's with a sense of gratitude for a pretty remarkable accomplishment... When Keith asked me in mid-January 2008 to help with giving fluids at home, neither of us had any idea that we would still be doing it two years and seven months later. It isn't a difficult task per se, but has required a big commitment in coordinating our schedules and so many demands. If we'd known at the beginning that through all the other insanities of life, we could keep this going without fail, I might not have believed it. It's been good for me to stop everything, take those few quiet minutes with Keith holding her, and just concentrate fully on this one small life and how it gets along in the world.

Keith has always said two things to others about this process. One is that "Mary Love wouldn't be alive if it weren't for Peg." He says this more with accusation than with gratitude. (Which, if you knew this cat, is also sort of understandable.) The other, every time I slide a needle in without a hint of a flinch from the cat (or from Keith), he says "If I ever need dialysis, I want you behind the needle." I don't recommend this.

Most satisfying about this process is that it has never felt pointless or without hope. It has translated to a great quality of life and a long extension of that life, and I just can't feel sad about that. She is one of the cutest little cats too, but of course last night when I tried to capture a final photo, all I could get from her was the stinkeye!

Monday, August 16, 2010

A small realization

With both my mother and my dear little girl dead now, it occurs to me that I now have the option of going somewhere, for the first time in years. There is still a lot attaching me here and a number of things that need to be resolved in other areas of life, so this isn't an imminent development. And I still have the impression that my next dog may arrive in my life in October or November. But still, as I'm finding the sand in my bucket running out faster than I can spade it in, I am trying on for size the concept of some small escape as an action and not a wish only.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Backtracking... Thoughts about blogging, and Holly, and Jude

One of the real down sides of trying to resurrect this blog is the big shift in how I process my own feelings in recent years. In the past, sharing the deep stuff came as easily as sharing the small moments. Maybe not everything and maybe not to a worldwide audience, but at least to a few. I could process and process and process and the words would flow evocatively.

Over the last four years I find I have changed more than I thought possible. Besides becoming a person who withdraws from others when hurt, I've withdrawn from myself too. And I also find that is completely okay with me. I've hit some places where just too much is wrong and there just aren't words for it any more. I am very okay being a person who can be totally emotionally present for others, but keep that a one-way street much of the time, or at least keep the traffic my direction well controlled. My heart was very open to giving, but mistrustful about allowing anything in return. I feel safer in silence. Alongside this evolution has been a stronger sense about what God asks of me in this world, and it never involves putting my own feelings first.

However, all of this is a disadvantage in trying to resume writing as an honest practice too. I realized this weekend that a compromise may lie in revisiting previous events, where the processing is largely done and some perspective has already occurred. Holly's arrival in my life unlocked some doors that had been pretty slammed shut, with the deaths of Hunter and Piper, the decline of my mom's health and the constant stress of worry about her care. Holly brought joy and resiliency and a willingness to open my heart to receive again.

And that brings me to Jude. Some months ago as Holly's dad, a former client, began making plans to move to the Calgary area, memories of my time there with Jude were very front of mind. I would often think with a smile of how Jude would have delighted to add Holly to her long list of beloved seniors. As Holly's relocation plan progressed, I began to feel something stirring as it clicked for me that her target, a small community south of Calgary, was the very one where Jude had relocated and where she died.

On May 3 in this blog, I wrote about my awakening feelings... "But the tide is ebbing and I am being pulled with its shift. And, not surprisingly, all of it is under the influence of one dog. This weekend was the first time in 18 months that I allowed it to take me deeply into the undertow. It was a meaningful baptism."

The previous Friday evening, I had taken Holly to see her dad before he left Anchorage for the final time. (All of this was before her cancer diagnosis and change in plans.) The next morning, the sun was really bright, I had a million things to do, but I sat down and started writing because I felt sad inside. I thought it was from sadness over watching the pain of that parting and thinking of my own loss in Holly's impending departure, but it turned out to be years of unresolved grief over Jude's death. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Then I edited and rewrote, and found words more perfect for what I was feeling, and cried harder than I have cried over anything in years. Under the tears I found the bright love that I carried for Jude and that I carry still, and the life-changing impact that her presence, like Holly's, had brought to my life.

I didn't experience this as a series of small coincidences (client has senior dog, client moves to town where friend died under strange circumstances, friend was champion of senior dog rescue). I experienced it as a series of doors unlocking quietly, and suddenly all of Jude's wonderful passion and heart was connected to mine again.

What I wrote that day is just for her. I hope that before too many more years go by, that I will go there one autumn day to visit Jude again, retrace some of the steps we took there together, and share all that I found buried in my heart for her that morning. To abandon the lingering burden of senseless loss in her death, and instead to look on our years of friendship with a sense of true healing and celebration is one of the greatest gifts that I have received, because of Holly.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Tonight's checklist:

Love suffers long and is kind.
Love does not envy.
Love does not parade itself.
Love does not behave rudely.
Love does not seek its own.
Love is not provoked.
Love thinks no evil.
Love does not rejoice in the wrong, but rejoices in the truth.
Love bears all things.
Love believes all things.
Love hopes all things.
Love endures all things.
Love never fails.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

My little girl died this morning

There will be lots of words said about Holly, and lots of tears from those who loved her. None of it will capture what I am putting away in my heart today.