For the first time in a very long while, the sun refused to shine…in Kellie’s World. The heavens opened and another soul was released from this beautiful earth. Thunder roared, amplifying the pain pounding in my chest.
The rain has continued for days. Each morning I’ve walked, allowing the rain to wash away the tears from my face.
Last Tuesday our sweet, sweet black labrador retriever, Miss Riley, fell asleep beside Beau and I one last time. I’m certain Riley was an angel sent from heaven to care for our family and, that, she did.
In August 2001, I finally gave in. Our children had been asking for a dog since they were able to speak. Beau and I gave them stuffed dogs, walking, talking, barking toys~anything but the real thing. I knew if we got a dog I would be the one who ended up taking on the responsibility of exercising and training the pooch.
I say I don’t know why I was ready that August morning, but I’ve been going back in my memories and I remember. I was reading a series of books in which the main character was a doctor that went on search and rescue missions. Her faithful companion and partner was a yellow lab. Her bond with the lab was something I longed for. I had the romantic notion that I might have the same kind of communication and affection with a canine.
Riley became a part of our family just a month before 9/11. Our daughter, Brittany Hope, and our son, Ryan, chose her. A little less than a year later, Brittany was pronounced dead on the scene of a single car accident. Six years following her arrival, Ryan left us with an empty nest. Each day during all of these dark, unbearably sad, seemingly impossible times, Riley stayed by our sides and reminded us she WAS there.
Riley was adored by our entire family. Everyone agreed she was one of a kind, someone very special.
One of her greatest gifts to me was that she insisted I walk, that we get outside, to hear the birds, see the blue sky, feel the sun on our faces and know that the world was still turning. Our morning walks were never negotiable. She would patiently wait while I had my coffee, then prod me with her pleading eyes, bringing me shoes and finally giving a little bark. Her terms were simple. “Give me treats. Keep on moving.” That time was essential for me to heal. I didn’t know that, but she did!
“Walking clears your head, fills your lungs with fresh air, lets off steam, builds up strength and centers your spirit.” Sarah Ban Breathnach
In my quest to understand this journey called life, I’ve learned to keep an open mind and embrace what I cannot see. I know a wonderful woman who communicates with animals. On the final day that Riley was with us, she compassionately facilitated one last conversation; a beautiful blessing. I asked Riley if she was done. She told me it had become too hard and she just didn’t know how to do it anymore. Her back legs were failing her. I asked if she was okay. She repeated the word “complete” and shared the image of her life as being bookends, bulging over with love. She asked if I was okay, if we were okay. She had a message for Ryan and one for Beau and said it felt like Brittany was holding her face in both hands. She said, “We’ve done it all together and it’s been an honor.”
She was right. We have navigated many storms together. I realize while I was searching for answers, this beautiful soul rescued me from despair time and time again. We did, indeed, have the bond of love and affection I originally set out to find. I carry a notebook whose cover reads:
We are not here to wait for the storm to pass~
but to learn to dance in the rain.
Even when we know final hours are near with our loved ones, even though we know they’ll be free from pain, even though we know their spirit lives on….our hearts hurt. There is no avoiding it. My heart just hurts. I keep repeating these words from The Greatest Secret in the World….
“I will love the sun for it warms my bones;
yet I will love the rain for it cleanses my spirit.
I will love the light for it shows me the way;
yet I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.
I will welcome happiness for it enlarges my heart;
yet I will endure sadness for it opens my soul….
I will greet this day with love in my heart.”
I will miss her so, but I am very blessed to have been part of the life of Riley! Like Britt, I know Riley will live on in my heart, walking, silently with me each step every morning. I picture her swimming, sniffing, snacking and looking at me with those soulful eyes!
My friend, Sandy Alemian, is a spirit medium. She sends messages by email called “Your Daily Hug”. Today her message confirmed what I know and what comforts me. She says the two most commonly asked questions from her clients are …..”Are they okay?” “Are they here?” Her reply is “yes” and “yes”. Thank you, Sandy:)
We honor the story of our loved ones by grieving. I will grieve. We will grieve, but we will do it differently. I can’t avoid the pain in my heart. I feel the pain, but I will let it go much sooner than I have in the past.
I have learned that tears are toxic if you keep them penned up and they release stress when we let them flow. I will cry but not for as long. I will whisper words of gratitude for the love Riley brought to our home.
I WILL greet this day with love in my heart. I have learned to dance in the rain. I prefer the sun and I have faith it will be shining soon. Hope
(Brittany Hope) brought me faith, and faith gives me H.O.P.E.
We love you, girl! It has been our great honor to be cared for by you.
Thank you for allowing me to share Riley with you today.
If you are missing someone you love dearly, my thoughts are with you. You are never alone. Love never dies. Of this, I am sure.