My first grandparent passed away when I was in the sixth grade. I remember it more clearly than the loss of my other grandparents, not because of his significance but because it was my first traumatic loss. He had pancreatic cancer and passed away within 8 weeks of his diagnosis. A few days after Christmas. My parents still made me go to swim practice, and I cried inside my goggles the whole time. When winter break was over and I went back to the awkward middle school environment, I thought “No else has ANY idea what just happened.” I was utterly heartbroken.
JP, my other grandfather passed away a few years later, followed by his wife/my grandmother, and then Meemaw, my mom’s mom/Pappaw’s wife. Within those 10 years, I lost all of my grandparents. As a child, I dreamed that all of them would be at my wedding, but their time to leave this earth came much sooner. Around those losses, several other family members and close friends left this human existence too. As a young adult, I had been to more funerals, visitations, and services than I care to count, so I was all too familiar with death.
Or so I thought.
Each death is very heartbreaking and difficult to grieve, but losing our Sarah Belle has been harder than I could have imagined. Most of the deaths I have experienced were preceded by old age, illness, or a rare accident.
Sarah was none of those.
At least in my eyes.
My husband bought Sarah Belle when she was 8 weeks old, well before I knew him. She was the runt of the pure black labs. Our sweet girl would not fight for her milk with the other puppies, so she was bottle fed. Always such a baby. When John took her home, she slept on his belly or in his arm nook. His first year in college, he had to live on campus and could not have a “pet,” so Sarah stayed home with his parents. He went home often, and by his second year at UA, she moved to school with him. Sarah Belle and John were inseparable.
I met John a few years later and fell in love with the pair. If we were sitting on the couch and I got up, there was a big chance Sarah would steal my seat. There was an even bigger chance I would not ask her to move. I knew John was my soulmate, but Sarah was his too. She was meant to have him as a daddy, and eventually me as her mommy.
When I moved to Nashville after college, we made plans to visit each other every weekend. In our lives, relationships are the most important no matter what other people may advise us. John and Sarah would drive up one weekend, and I would travel down to Alabama the next weekend. They finally moved to Nashville and Sarah Belle was the center of attention. Since John lived with his band mates and I lived in a one bedroom apartment, he would bring Sarah over everyday. She was with him in the mornings while I worked, then with me in the evenings when her dad worked. She went with him to band practice and rode with me in my car everywhere. A yoga mat rolled out meant that Sarah was either going to sit right in the middle or lie down beside me while I practiced and wiggled around. She was never left alone for more than a couple of hours. Spoiled puppy 😉
For our dating anniversary, John and adopted our calico kitty, Luna Mango. She was only a few months old and had never been around another dog. Though Sarah was curious, she never taunted or chased her kitty sister. Quickly, they became best friends. Luna would steal Sarah’s bed and Sarah would go lie on the ground. Yes, the kitty would take from the black lab! That is how sweet and submissive Sarah was, never putting up a fight or showing anger. Road trips were a little stressful for Luna (and me), but she always found comfort next to Sarah. Our puppy face had this soothing, calming presence that literally helped everyone!
Sarah got sick around 5:30am and was gone by that afternoon. She was at the emergency vet, and we were with her, holding her most of the time. I prayed more that day than ever before, begging God to leave our baby here with us. Something was terribly wrong, but in our eyes and plans, we had 5 more years with her. She was in PERFECT health, and I remember pleading with God out loud and sobbing. It was the worst day of our adult lives. Since Sarah Belle passed away, the kitty is obviously lonely.
Our puppy brought so much fullness, happiness, comfort, love, and patience to us and helped form our relationship. I always feared when she passed because I knew John would be completely heartbroken. Not expecting her passing to be so soon, I never knew how destroyed I would be too.
The thing is: loss never gets easier. I miss all my grandparents, family, friends, and now my sweet puppy every single day. No matter how much time has passed, I never stop longing for their presence and love. Loss becomes part of your life, and there is no way around it, but to accept it and learn to live with the emptiness. The heart slowly mends but feels as though it will always have a hole.
Pictures and memories help with the healing process, but there is no rush to “get over it.” There is no getting over anything or forgetting about a loved one. Death is a [massive] part of life and is always difficult to endure.
You want to know what has helped me THE MOST after losing loved ones, most recently our puppy girl?
There is promise in eternal life, life after earthly death, with our Heavenly Father. Without this knowledge [and support from friends and family] I have no idea how I would be “dealing” with this loss. It hurts everyday, but as soon as I begin to pray, calmness swarms in my body, and I’m comforted. Isn’t that amazing?!? When I sincerely trust that God is taking care of Sarah Belle and all our loved ones and I ask him for comfort, He is there to cater to my humanly needs. What an amazing God and wonderful gift to help me heal.
This does not mean I cease longing for them to be with me; it means I am trusting in something, someone, who is so much bigger than me.
Fly high, my angel puppy. You are always on my (and your Daddy’s) heart and mind….