Monday, March 14, 2011

"Smile, open your eyes, love and go on"

“You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she'd want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”

~ David Harkins

I found the poem above while searching the Internet tonight.  I guess you could say I just needed to find the right words, so I could get my feelings out on paper.  Isn't that what this blog is all about?  Well, I found the perfect words, the words that sum up my weekend. 

You see, I received a Christmas present back in 1995 from my father.  I had been asking for a Jack Russell pup and I got my wish, sorta.  I remember him calling on December 23 that year and I could hear something in the background.  He said, "I have your Christmas present up here, can you hear it?"  I was in shock.  I couldn't believe I was getting a dog.  All I could think of was that my mother was going to kill me because I was bringing another animal into her house.  But boy was I excited. 

Just two days later, early on Christmas morning, my father showed up.  He started to unload his truck and on his second trip in he came in the kitchen and said, "Meg, look what I have."  Tucked in his jacket against his chest was the cutest little white dog with brown spots.  He said, "she's not full Jack Russell but she is part Jack Russell and part Chihuahua."  OMG, this puppy was so cute.

I took her and never put her down.  She weighed only a mere pound and a half, she was so tiny and so cute.  I still remember the first few nights with her.  After trying to decide on a name and running through several, I decided on Abby and I was very matter of fact that it was A-B-B-Y and not A-B-B-E-Y.  We found a large box and put a blanket in there so she could sleep the night in my room.  That was sure a memory.  Boy did she yipe.  After a few nights, she became used to it and eventually she was house trained and could roam the house. 

What a loyal dog Abby was.  She would follow us kids everywhere.  She would sleep with us, play with us outside, and even sit with us on the couch to watch TV.  Abby had several toys but her favorite was a little stuffed bear, oh how she loved that toy. 

Of course, when you get a dog at 15 and you go off to college three years later, the dog has to stay home.  Ever seen the movie "My Dog Skip"?  (It's one of my favorites)  I am reminded of when the boy goes to college and leaves Skip behind.  I did the same thing with Abby.  Of course, I still saw Abby when I would go home and every Sunday at dinners.  She quickly became my mother's dog but she was happy with that. 

Every night Abby would lay with my mom on the couch, snuggled up on the blue fleece sheep blanket.  This took place until Abby got sick one summer and eventually lost strength in her legs, making it difficult for her to jump.  Abby wasn't supposed to live through that summer, she was really sick and the vet couldn't figure out why.  But Abby pulled through, she was one tough little dog.

Over the next few years, Abby contracted Lyme's disease, but again pulled right on through.  Of course, she was still weak as any dog over the age of ten usually gets.  In 2009, Abby started losing weight and she was place on a lot of medicine.  The vet again said, "it's only a matter of time".  But Abby remained strong enough to fight. 

Over the course of two years, Abby started getting bad.  This weekend, Saturday night, I received a call at 10:33p (which is late for anyone, even family, to call my house).  I slowly answered the phone after seeing the caller id on the TV.  It was my mom.  I knew a call past 8:30p from her meant something was wrong.  I said hello and all I heard was my mom on the other end in tears.

The words poured out, "I just got home and Abby....".  I thought for a second and I knew what the rest was of sentence was but I let her finish.  "... is dead." 

I normally don't go to my mom's house more than once a week but this week I had been there on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  I remember seeing Abby all four times and each time she just look like she hurt.  Abby had gotten to the point where she could hardly walk, she had trouble seeing, and her paws looked like they were twisting.  Abby started losing more and more weight to the point that she was really just bones.  I remember thinking after the Thursday visit that her time was coming and it was coming very soon.  I knew this because she didn't even get out of her bed to get a treat, something she loved more than anything. 

The words ranging in my head, "Abby is dead".  I had a sobbing mother on the other end of the phone and heart that was melting faster than a Popsicle on a summer day.  My dog that I received 15 years ago as a Christmas present had just been found dead in her bed.  I quickly found myself dealing with something every so familiar to me, something I hated more than ever, something that I had dealt with 9 months ago... DEATH. 

I told my mom that this is better, that Abby was free from hurt and pain.  I remember saying that it was her time and that she needed to go.  I wasn't trying to be harsh, but she was living in pain, her paws just looked painful and she couldn't even walk.  But that night was tough. 

Brian spent over an hour building a cute little box for Abby, a coffin if you will.  He thought of Abby like his dog, for he knew her for 11 years, she basically was like part of his family too.  At just past midnight, we drove over to my mom's house.  I uncovered Abby (as I told my mom to cover her with a blanket), who was laying in her bed.  We don't know when she died, my mom was not home which was also better.  They say dogs like to die alone, that sometimes they stray off to die.  We do know she died in her bed, which gave us some peace of mind.  Abby looked peaceful (though her eyes were opened), her little tongue was sticking out just a bit, but she was all curled up in her bed, the place she felt the most comfort in since she had gotten so sick. 

I knelt down and rubbed her little head and back for the last time and played with her cute little ears.  We said our last goodbyes and I called her Abbers one last time.  I lined the box with a blue towel and Brian picked her up out of her bed and placed her into her box. 

For the last time, I walked over to the box and said goodbye to one of the best Christmas presents I had ever received.  My Abbers, my Boobers.

We buried Abby the next evening, Sunday, after our family dinner.  It was suitable as she would have wanted everyone to be there.  As we were burying her, I decided to point out something with my shoe.  Because Abby could hardly walk, she used to go to the bathroom right near the front door.  There was always a joke of who would step in her mess.  As I pointed with my shoe, I realized the joke was on me this time.  Yep, that's right.  We were burying Abby, but I had just stepped in her mess.  Many would just brush off the subject, but over the past 9 months I have noticed signs.  Others call the signs winks.  This was definitely one of Abby's winks, because the joke was on me. 

I told Wyatt last night while I was getting ready for bed, that he would now have a puppy.  I said, "You can call her Abbers or Boobers, that is what Mommy used to call her."  In that moment, I felt as though death was not the end, but just the beginning of something new and different. 

In the past 9 months, I have dealt with pain, hurt, a broken heart, and death.  Through it all, I have learned one thing and that is that I will "smile, open my eyes, love and go on."

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