It’s New Year’s Eve. It’s a time of reflection and a simultaneous opportunity for renewal.
I’m not going to lie, 2015 was a more difficult year than it was a good one. 2015 was filled with a lot of loss and a lot of questions that hopefully 2016 will provide answers for.
The year began with a lot of self-inquiry and, frankly, a lot of darkness. I’m just being honest here. In the midst of the sadness, the hubby was let go from his job of 11 years in the first quarter of 2015. We didn’t know it at the time, but they ended up letting go of everyone in Wisconsin, but for many days it felt very isolating and scary. We believe it may have been the push we needed to jump “all in” to our business, but being pushed is never the way you want to jump into anything.
On the heels of navigating that fear, the hubby’s cousin was tragically killed in Tennessee. The shock and grief that came from that didn’t help all of the internal questions we were already facing. How can this be happening?
And just as we sat into the reality of our new circumstances and tragedies, my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer in the late Spring. Our family history includes all sorts of demons like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, but this was the first of the BIG “C” word that our family has encountered. While we know we are blessed to have made it this far, the news was almost too much for us to bear considering she initially thought she had slipped a disc due to lifting too much weight at the gym. The news from the doctors kept coming fast and with each new discovery, posed new questions. As of this writing, she is still undergoing treatment and we recently received word that her health insurance ends today.
Late Summer provided for some relief from tragedies and ushered in some much needed reunions with old friends, a few fun-filled trips and the addition of a new employee to our store. Finally, we felt like we could breathe a sigh of relief.
Until October 13th . . . On that date, my beloved Golden Retriever baby, Presley (11 years old), suffered a grand mal seizure in the middle of the night. Hoping it was a one-time occurrence, we all went about our day. Until she had another one late in the afternoon.
After a 2 hour vet appointment which ruled out virtually everything, they determined it was a brain tumor and that we could have weeks or years. The vet put her on anti-seizure medication the day before I was to leave for Boston for my birthday. See photos from that trip on Instagram. I remember thinking as I was driving to the airport “maybe I should stay home”, “how can I be so selfish to leave when she is so sick?” Everyone kept telling me not to put my life on hold, that she’d be fine. And she was. She was back to her old self for 2 weeks. Until she had a break through seizure. We then put her on her pills 3 times per day. And that worked for about 1 week, until she had another break through seizure. It was all happening so fast! The vet then advised to give her her pills 4 times per day, but warned me in that cautious, sympathetic tone “just so you know, Laura, this is the maximum dose we can possibly give her.” I understood all of what they were telling me. And I hated it.
Despite the maximum dose, which we began on Thursday, November 5th, by Saturday, November 7th, the poor girl had 3 grand mal seizures in one day and then 3 more the next day on Sunday, November 8th. Needless to say, I cried through all of this. Every day, all day. I slept with her on the floor for 3 nights straight. I even made a recording of the sound of her breathing. It may sound a little dramatic, but you see, she was my first baby. I brought her home on December 11, 2004 when I was single and at a very pivotal point in my life.
I did everything a good dog-mother would: I spoiled the heck out of her, I took her for a walk every day after work, I took her to obedience classes (because I wanted her to be a good doggy citizen) and I socialized her at the dog park. She was my world. She went everywhere I went.
Despite my best prayers that God would take her so I didn’t have to make the decision no loving dog owner ever wants to make, I knew at 5:00 a.m. Monday morning, November 9th, after watching her circle in a 4 foot radius for hours that it was time. She was ready. I wasn’t. I hated it but I knew it. She was dragging her back legs by this point and when I called her name, she would look in 6 different directions. She had no idea what was going on anymore. It was a slow, but obvious descent in a very short period of time. You could see it in her eyes. She was no longer my Presley anymore. I called the vet. I then took her on one last walk together. Considering we walked almost every day together for many years, it was the fitting thing to do. I took photos and made videos of our last walk. I talked with her constantly.
If any of you have ever had the pleasure of owning and loving a dog, then you know the signs you look for to make it okay for yourself. On the way to the vet, I sat in the back seat with her and she cuddled up on me and put her head on my shoulder. I talked to her (and balled of course) the entire way. She just stayed there, calm, against me with her head on my shoulder. She knew. Also, whenever we went to the vet, she would always bark when we walked in the door. She didn’t bark that morning. She just kept looking at me. She knew.
I had no idea what I was about to endure. The pain that came after she was gone was the worst I’ve ever felt. I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. I empathize and feel for any of you reading this that have had to endure the loss of a pet. I stayed in the room with her for an hour and a half. I couldn’t leave. I just wanted her back. I felt so helpless. She was fine 4 weeks ago. How did this happen? She was supposed to live forever, right?
The lessons in the losses of 2015 has taught me, in the hardest ways possible, to not take things for granted. We all talk about it all the time and we say it so flippantly without really meaning it. The losses have taught me to be grateful for the customers that visit our brick and mortar and online store in a way I had not done before my husband lost his job. The losses have taught me to call family more often and visit whenever you can, because no day is a guarantee. The losses have taught me that instead of looking for something to insert itself to make me feel better, that I need to feel good about what is right in front of me.
Now I am human, so it is not always easy and I don’t always feel like being that optimistic because boy, life can be so hard, can’t it? But even in the midst of extreme darkness and pain, there is always a choice to look at the situations in ways that bring lessons, growth and maturity. I choose to do that instead of letting the darkness take over me completely.
So as I shed 2015 and move into 2016, I move into it stronger and a better person than when 2015 began. I’m more aware and conscious of the choices I’m making each day. I most certainly put my Word of the Year for 2015, which was GRACE, into practice over and over and over again, not only with other people but even grace with myself, to be human, to make mistakes, and grace to keep trying. Although I am not healed and, in fact, cried during most of the writing of this blog post, I am changed. I am refocused on what’s truly important. I’ve shed some toxic things in 2015 that weren’t working, in order to make way for the more precious things. I’m not sure that would have happened were it not for the unfortunate tragedies of 2015.
May God be with you all and may you find joy in your daily lives, now and in 2016. Happy New Year!
P.S. My blog posts have suffered this year because of all of this. I have some great things planned for you in 2016 so a GIANT THANK YOU to each of you that have stayed here. I can’t thank you enough!
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