Together Again

img_0654

The ping of a text notification sounds. Glancing at the phone, I see it’s my best friend asking which day might work for us to coordinate schedules for a warmly anticipated Meijer Garden trip with an out-of-town high school friend. Smiling, I respond to the text with possible dates.

About a week later, I pull up in front of Anna’s House to greet my two friends sitting outside holding our place in the long reservation queue. Because this is such a popular place to gather for a meal, I had to park quite a distance away in the bank parking lot nearby. Deeply inhaling the scent of spring blossoms around me, I walk toward the restaurant excited to join my friends.

As the three of us enjoy brunch together, we catch up on each others lives; kids, jobs, interests and “girl” things. One of these friends and I are reconnecting after many years apart. In high school we knew everything about each other. As adults, life took us each in different directions. As I look into her beautiful eyes, watch her familiar mannerisms and listen to her heart, it is as if I am transported back in time. Though we need to learn about who we have become as adults, I sense a connection unaffected by time.

Leaving the restaurant, we head to Meijer Gardens. It is a beautiful spring day and the gardens are a perfect place to enjoy flowers, nature and one another. We have the chance to discover if or where we fit in this familiar, yet, new collective friendship. As our time together continues, I sense joy rising in me. This rhythm of the three of us together is life-giving for me. Because we are very different as people, there is much we can learn about and with one another.

Glancing at a clock, we realize our precious time together is ending and we must transition back to our individual lives. After saying our goodbyes, I walk back to my car and notice a place inside of me is soothed. It is the place formed over 40 years ago when these two women first entered my heart. All those years ago, we supported each other as we were trying to discover who we were. We shared many victories and defeats together. We talked about boys, fears, insecurities, family, friends, hopes and dreams. Though the details are different now, we talked about and shared the same type of things happening in our lives as adults.

Through this past year, I have come to understand the richness and depth available in rekindled relationships.  I have discovered parts of me were tenderly held in shared history with friends. Aspects of my true identity have come back alive because of what dear friends remember about me from decades ago.

In order to experience resurrection, there must be death. Last year at this time, I felt like so much of me was dead. Through the steadfast intervention of the Trinity in and around me, I have been resurrected. I am still me, only better because of what I learned through great loss, debilitating grief and choosing to love unconditionally even through betrayal. The gentle embrace of Divine love continues to bring healing to my shattered heart allowing me to trust again in a new relationship and enjoy the familiar comfort of faithful, loyal friends.

Relationships are risky yet essential. It is the conduit most often chosen by God to bring growth and change. Reconnecting with my high school friend offers possibilities for both of us to learn and grow together once again.

May you find connections, old and new, where you will give and receive gentle comfort, gracious challenges and mutual joy.

 

 

Advertisements

Transitions

15c1324c-e3cc-4364-96de-dd18f817cccf-1

Yesterday, I attended a bridal shower. Viewing the RSVP status of the attendees online, I knew I would be seeing some old friends. This was an exceptionally hard and emotionally draining week. The one year anniversary of Richard’s passing is approaching, the dynamics of a valued friendship changed dramatically, my writing is stalled, professional decisions need to be made and household projects are in various stages of completion. I was looking forward to celebrating with some old friends and meeting some new ones.

“So, Jean, how are you doing?” asks a friend at the shower I hadn’t seen in a few months. “Doing pretty well.”, I reply. “Working through some transitions.”

As the guests continue to arrive, I start thinking, “Transition” is a good word for it. It seems like this entire year has been one transition after another. Watching Richard live out his final days, grieving multi-layers of heartache, engaging with new friends while connecting with old friends, trying to make the house mine instead of ours, making decisions without my favorite sounding board, taking care of the dogs alone while engaging in life away from home, writing our story without falling apart because of the emotion it continues to stir up within me, daring to consider loving again, wondering if I will ever trust another man and most significantly, how these last few years have shaped me. Whew!

Thinking about all those changes, I ask myself, am I becoming a better me or am I reverting back to old patterns of survival? Each week, I see flavors of both. Certainly the shift has moved toward being a better me more consistently. Life lessons learned the hard way need not be repeated.

I want to know how this whole metamorphic adventure turns out. I remind myself, wanting it doesn’t make it happen. I wanted to know the end of my story with Richard every day for over a decade. I didn’t know until it happened. The only way I thrived and not just survived through all the insanity was to remember the presence of God is always with me and works in and through circumstances.

Though I was blindsided many times, God was never thrown off when a betrayal, diagnosis or crisis surfaced. He invariably carried me through every trauma. I didn’t always trust Him. I was often afraid and felt alone. Even so, I trusted the trustworthiness of the Creator. Gently I remind myself, He is with me now though every transition.

Re-engaging with the party, I press into the beautiful moments my friends are experiencing. They will soon be committing to a lifetime together, starting a new journey filled with possibilities and challenges.  I am truly grateful they have found love and are committed to loving each other well through life’s transitions.

The hopeless romantic in me wants to know if my story includes someone with whom I will share life and love; someone who will fight for me and along side of me as the uncertainty of life unfolds. The fear of heartache wrestles with the longing to love and be loved again. Once again, the answer only comes as it is revealed over time.

Life is always in transition one way or another. My transitions will continue, whether I like it or not. I will not know the answers until they are made known. I can choose to be worried about the ending, or just enjoy all that is present. I know my focus must be on embracing the Divine gift being offered: Resurrecting Larko.

I will follow the lead of my beloved Richard who showed us how to live in today. He embraced sacred moments as they came along and chose to make every day a GREAT day.

May you find peace in the storms of life, gentle reminders of love each day and rest knowing each day brings another opportunity to make a difference in the world.

Canine Companions

img_5901

Shiloh is on the left. Cricket is on the right.

I am a crazy dog person. I admit I have a problem. It is a problem I fully accept and will do nothing to change.

These two run my life. Very few people know what my furniture looks like without something covering it. Dog hair is on every piece of fabric in my house and I often stumble over dog toys as I move from room to room.

My dogs ride with me in the car whenever weather and schedules allow. I roll down the back windows in the winter time so they can put their heads out and enjoy the fresh air. Fur floats freely throughout the vehicle refusing to be contained even after the fur bearing beasts are back in the house. Leaving signs of ownership, the back windows display masterpieces they create with nose prints and slobber marks.

They are expensive, loud, inconvenient, demanding, limiting and dirty. So why does this insanity continue?

This morning I woke up, saw it was light outside and glanced at the clock. Ah, two more hours of sleep before I need to get up. After being in one position for several hours, it would be helpful to move around a bit to get more restful sleep for the next two hours. Is it worth the risk to show signs of stirring? Feeling stiffness in my shoulder and numbness in my arm, I slowly roll over to the side of the bed and glance at the floor.  “Oh, good, Shiloh must be in the living room.” Carefully, I move myself into a comfortable position and settle in for more sleep. Cricket, seamlessly moves with me, continuing to snore through the process. She pushes herself  toward me resting her head on my leg and offers a loud snort, as if to reprimand me for moving her. At least she settled back in. Whew, it was worth the risk of moving.

Within 30 seconds, I hear the sound. It is a cross between a cry, whine and whimper. “Hi, baby boy.” I say as I reach over to pet Shiloh’s head and scratch his neck. The sound is now accompanied by a wagging tail, attentive ears, a bright toothy smile, breathy pants and a look of love uniquely his. Busted! Now, I know I have to get up and let him out.

As I make my way to the patio door, trying not step on dog toys or wake myself up more than necessary, I say, “Come on, Baby Girl. You are going outside, too.” Cricket dutifully runs down the hall and out the door with Shiloh.

After they come back in the house, I walk back down the hall to the bedroom to try to go back to sleep. I get into bed and Cricket quickly follows, finding her spot. Then it happens. Shiloh jumps up on the bed, over Cricket and around to my other side. He crawls up the side of me, puts his sweet head on my shoulder, snuggles in as close as he can get and mumbles sounds of contentment. Cricket then snuggles in a bit tighter, sighs and begins to snore. Feeling the warm loving presence of my two canine companions on each side of me, I soak in the reward. Ah, a Mommy sandwich. We all fall back asleep and all seems right in my world for another hour.

Feelings of loneliness, grief, uncertainty, sadness and fear are all soothed when I am surrounded by puppy love.

This is why I have dogs.

It’s a great year.

A time for everything.

img_0139

This afternoon I checked my Facebook from a year ago. This is what I found:

It’s been a challenging 36 hours. Thursday, Richard became more weak than ever before. By evening he was exhibiting very serious new symptoms. He did not want to go to the hospital concerned he would not ever make it home again. We prayed and listened for Divine promptings. Richard had not been able to speak very well but suddenly energy poured out of him and he said God was telling him “it’s not time” and to “fight”. He then handed me the phone and said call 911. After several hours in the emergency room, the conclusion was his blood sugar dropped to a dangerous low (he has no history of blood sugar issues). He was treated and released. The ER doc found another area of great concern needing further testing not related to ALS or low blood sugar. Prayers are appreciated for proper diagnosis and wisdom regarding treatment options. He continues to gain strength and feels so much better! Being aware of the steadfast love and presence of God is truly transforming.

Our lives changed that day. The doctor asked us, “How long has that lump been under his chin?” My response was, “What lump?” As I looked over at Richard lying on the hospital bed, I could see it. His appearance changed so much over the previous year, we hadn’t noticed. His tongue had been paralyzed for months. He thought the degradation of his tongue and rapid weight loss caused the lump he noticed while shaving.

After some tests were run and the results were back, the doctor came into the room and nonchalantly announced, “The apparent squamous cell carcinoma tumor identified a year ago has grown significantly.”

Horrified, I spoke up, “What tumor? All evidence of a tumor was ruled out through biopsies last year.” The doctor replied, “The CT scan shows a large mass at the base of his tongue in the same area identified last January. You will need to see a specialist for further testing as soon as possible.”

After the doctor left us alone, Richard’s response was, “It is what it is. There must be a reason for us to find this now. Perhaps it will help someone.”

It did help many of us. It helped us realize how little time we had left with him and he with us. We were able to live life even more intentionally from that point forward.

So today, I chose to pick up my favorite leash hand woven by Richard and me, call for my walking buddy Shiloh and set out to enjoy a beautiful, sunny, 60 degree day in February. As I walked I decided to go stroll though the nature preserve  Richard and I enjoyed frequently throughout 2015. Instead of pushing a wheelchair, I held my collie close to me as I remembered those walks.

I remember Richard and I marveled at how the preserve changed during the year. We enjoyed the barrenness of the post winter thaw. We saw the first signs of spring as tender green shoots pressed through the muddy ground. Focusing on plant life cycles, we anticipated buds emerging to fill the preserve with endless shades of green and multi colored wild flowers blooming in the weeks to come. We watched for and counted deer each time we visited this sanctuary. Soon we would see fawns welcomed into their families.

We enjoyed watching the fawns grow and the spring evenings turn into warm summer nights.  Taking in the sights and and sounds of this beautiful place, we lingered with nature, God and each other talking about life, love, dying, and God. In the fall of 2015, we knew each visit to the preserve could be our last one together. He was getting weaker and more frail with each passing month.

Often during our walks as the seasons changed, Richard would sing The Byrds song:

“To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep”

We laughed everyday in 2015. He had a really great laugh. I miss hearing his laugh. I miss laughing with him.

We cried together, but not everyday.

Today on the trail, I remembered Richard’s laugh and started to cry. I remembered him singing silly songs on our walks to make me laugh, and I smiled through the tears. As my tears continued to flow, Shiloh became unsettled. I stopped for a few minutes to reassure him and take in my surroundings. Though there are no leaves or flowers yet, there was beauty in what remains. The hope of spring, a resurrection of sorts, was alive all around me.

There is a time for everything. Today, I was given another day to live. It was a day healing came through remembering and weeping over what was lost. It was a time to allow sacred memories to bring smiles through the tears. Today, I was reminded, resurrection comes only through death.

It’s a great day.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

Finding Home

The last week has been tough for me. Waves of grief have been welling up and crashing into me. Last year at this time, Richard’s physical condition dramatically deteriorated and we entered into his last few weeks of life. Lately, when I look at the date, memories of those days surface and deep sadness sets in. Friday, I realized I needed to spend some time with my Mom and Dad. Looking at the weather report, I began planning a trip to my hometown for the following day.

I woke up Saturday morning two hours before my alarm clock would have sounded its familiar chime. The excitement of spending time in St. Joe was too much to keep me in bed. As my feet touched the floor, my dogs looked up a bit perplexed at the early start. Usually they hear the snooze alarm a couple of times before I get up. With tails wagging, they raced to the patio door and ran out to the back yard with excitement. After doing their “business” and playing for a few minutes, they bolted back toward the house. They knew something special was happening.

The smell of coffee filled the kitchen as I began to prepare breakfast for all of us. The familiar travel gear was packed with provisions for the day. After we had our food, it was time to pack up the car and get on the road.

On the ride to St. Joe, I enjoyed the quiet whirring sounds of the road thinking about the day ahead and what my heart needed. Connecting with the steadfast love of my parents made me feel more capable of doing the hard work of grieving. Though I can talk to them anytime, being in my hometown allows me to enter into a different, more simple time of life.

As I drove over the bridge just outside the city, I could see my familiar destination in front of me. Entering into the quaint little town, I parked my car on one of the cobblestone streets downtown. Leaving one snoring dog on the back seat and another nervously wondering where I was going without him, I went into my favorite five and dime to look for treasures.

Throughout my life, my Mom and I spent hours in this store looking through the melange of items to be found among the cluttered aisles and overly packed shelves. The store smelled the same as decades before, a bit earthy, yet not musty. Walking along the rows of merchandise, I smiled as I felt shifting in the worn hard wood floors under my feet and heard the familiar creaking sounds announcing each step. I picked up a few trinkets along the way to take back for my office as new reminders of “home”.

It was time to look for some flowers for my Mom. I think I enjoy getting them for her more than she enjoys receiving them. Who doesn’t like to make Mom smile? I walked over to the flower aisle and looked for the right colors. I chose pink, white and yellow bringing a bit a spring into this special day. I paid for my treasures, held the bag close to me and returned to my car.

As is my tradition, I drove down by the lake and marveled at the beauty all around me; the wind blowing across the lake and over the sand, the waves crashing on the shore. I could feel my blood pressure lower and my heart rate decrease. I delighted in the moment. After being cooped up in the car for a couple of hours, the dogs needed a walk so, I drove up the hill to the bluff where I could see the lake as we strolled along a familiar path.

img_4364

After trying for 20 minutes to calmly walk the dogs, but failing (they pull me in two different directions), it was time to get back to the car and move on to our next destination. Winding my way through neighborhood streets, I drove slowly past the house I grew up in to see the changes the new owners made after they bought the place. I was hoping the owners wouldn’t see me. Didn’t want them to think I was a stalker. I just wanted to see my childhood home and remember the love we all shared in that space.

Continuing on through town, I turned in to where I would be having lunch with my parents. The overcast, 40 degree February day was a bit chilly but not anything harsh enough to ruin our visit. Leaving the dogs in the car, I parked, gathered the flowers, a waterproof tarp and my food. I walked a few steps, greeted my dearly loved parents with tears flowing down my face and placed the flowers in the ground in front of their gravestone. Clumsily, I laid out the tarp and sat down with my lunch. img_4366

For the next hour or so, I poured my heart out to my parents, with God, knowing He is with all of us. I talked about how sometimes a girl just needs her Daddy to hold her while she cries over a broken heart and her Mommy to play cards with for hours as a fun distraction. Through quiet consistently falling tears, I told them how hard it was to no longer be able to receive those expressions of love from them, yet, the memories are always with me and I am so grateful to be their daughter. They both loved me the best they could for as long as they were able.

We talked about Richard and how they now know  the “real” him. They know how hard it’s been for me to grieve through so many layers of loss. In that sacred space, I knew they loved him too and warmth filled my soul. We talked about how love keeps all of us connected even though we aren’t together physically.

After I finished my salad, cried what seemed like a bucket of tears, I sent a picture of the headstone to my sister in a text saying, “Having a late lunch with Mom and Dad.” She understands what all that means. All four of us siblings miss our parents and realize how fortunate we were to have them as long as we did.

After saying my goodbyes, I gathered up my things and headed to the car. I was greeted with wagging tails and happy faces welcoming me back to the pack. After I put my things on the front seat of the car, I opened the back door to hug my furry babies reassuring them I was ok. Their love is so pure and help fill in the cracks of my shattered heart.

As a magnet to steel, I was compelled to drive by the lake one more time to enjoy the mesmerizing energy of Lake Michigan. I parked by the beach to watch and listen to the waves. It once again provided it’s soothing effect on me. Grateful for the day, it was time to prepare for the drive back to my current home.

The dogs needed a walk, so I drove up and parked once again on the bluff. I got out of the car, leashed up the dogs and I tried to absorb my surroundings one last time. Breathing in the fresh crisp air while enjoying the natural beauty surrounding me, I was caught up in the blessing it was to grow up there.

It was now getting colder and starting to rain. It was time to say goodbye to St. Joe for now. It had been a great day. Everything I hoped it would be and more. I was able to grieve with my parents, grieve for my parents and miraculously receive comfort from the Source connecting us all.

With one dog snoring in the back seat, and another one periodically grumbling in his sleep, I drove out-of-town at dusk remembering the love I experienced in St. Joe through the years is continually with me along side of the love I experience from people in my life now.

Home is where you hold memories of love.

Love is not bound by space or time.

Love never fails.

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

64df2b54-6aee-40a3-879e-6bd227114c9c

The last week of his earthy life, Richard was in Trillium Woods hospice facility. Terminal restlessness, confusion and hallucinations made it impossible for me to continue caring for him by myself in our home. We knew the cancer was likely spreading into his brain.

Because he was confused and disconnected from what was happening, he had to be taken to the facility by ambulance in the middle of the night. When I arrived at Trillium, he was sitting up and asked if I would go get him chicken McNuggets. It was 3 o’clock in the morning. He was joking, I think. The previous 24 hours he was in and out of reality: he did however really like his McNuggets.

Aside from the ALS and cancer, he was still relatively healthy and young. He was just 59. His heart, lungs and other vital organs were still functioning. Though he was ready to die, his body needed time to shut down. This was going to be a matter of hours, days or weeks; no one but God could know.

The staff at Trillium is outstanding. I knew he would receive exceptional care. Before Richard got sick, I used to take Shiloh, our Collie, to visit patients and families while they were going through this process. Hospice workers are a rare breed. They are given the ability to love beyond the norm.

After that first night, he was no longer able to interact with us. The medical team kept him sedated to keep him safe. The first few nights, I stayed with him overnight. Periodically throughout the night, I would gently slip onto the bed, lay next to him and hold him. Telling him how proud I was of him and how much I loved him, I assured him it was ok for him to let go and he was “ending well”. That was his greatest desire, to end well.

Overcoming the life long pattern of hiding guilt and shame with drugs and alcohol, the last year with him was nothing short of miraculous. He was fully present every waking hour. He was attentive to the needs of others before his own. Every opportunity to encourage someone was embraced with love and laughter even through drooling. Richard became so “other “focused, he didn’t care if he drooled. Loving was so much more important than appearance.

The life of addiction requires blame shifting to protect the lifestyle. During his last year, he took every possible opportunity to make amends and take full responsibility for the hurt he caused. Focused on the needs of those who cared about him as well as strangers, he spoke life into us every day. He wanted to try to make up for all the years he was emotionally absent.

A couple of weeks before he went into hospice, we were having our daily, “How are you doing?” conversation.  This became our daily routine throughout that last year. An opportunity to talk about life, death, dying, transformation, love, God and anything else we needed to share, was necessary for us.  Richard, through tears, said, “I want to hang on as long as possible to give you, my kids and my mom what you need to make this transition easier on you. I spent so many years turning away from you. Now that I know how to love, I don’t want to take that away from you again.”

I was listening to his sweet, sensitive, sincere heart, as a question only the Spirit could give me flowed out. “Richard, in all the years of addict insanity, did you ever ask God to do whatever it would take to make you stop hurting the people you love?” He replied, “Thousands of times.” I said, “What you have done this last year by being present with us has brought tremendous healing. As you have told me many times, you know you were only able to do this because of getting ALS. Knowing you were dying was the final catalyst to step into the reality of living. If this is what it took, is it worth it to you?” He, without a second’s hesitation said, “Absolutely. I would give my life to heal the hurt I caused.”

All we ever wanted was Richard to be Richard. He ran away from himself and us for years. The last year of his life we had him and he was wonderful. The courage it took him to do what he did in that transforming process still amazes me. He was physically dying yet mentally and emotionally coming alive. It was a privilege to watch.

This picture is the last picture we have “together”. I took it a day or two before his heart stopped beating. The last night I stayed with him, I held his hand all night long and most of the next day. Though his body was shutting down, I could still feel warmth in his hand.  I wanted him to be free from this broken down body. The chronic pain perpetuating the addiction, the addict thought patterns he had to fight so continuously, guilt and shame from choices he made and every lie he believed about being inadequate, not good enough or a failure would be eliminated permanently.

Feeling the warmth in his hand, I soaked in the moment as tears streamed down my face. His beautiful, sparkling, bright, blue eyes which were so clear the last year were now dull and void of emotion. He was already in a better place, all that remained was a portion of him connected to his physical body. I wanted to hold on to his warmth for just awhile longer; to remember the last year and thank God for the man he became. He found freedom to be Richard, living in reality, with us. Many people would say how sad it was he couldn’t have found it sooner. We just celebrated it happened at all.

 

 

 

Choices, Choices, Choices.

img_0050

A few weeks ago, I decided to not schedule clients today. The plan was to meet with my spiritual director and spend the rest of the day hanging out with the Creator. There were some grief issues I needed help sorting out. Last week, those issues were resolved leading me to postpone my session. Now, I could take an entire day to focus on embracing my connection with God.

Late last night, a progressive wave of grief surged from deep within me and felt like it was going to take me out. This sorrow presented as overwhelming loneliness. Emptiness of this kind does not come from me being alone. Measured time in solitude is something necessary for me to recharge. There was something stirring in me needing attention.

Knowing my schedule was clear today helped me remember Divine Love works mysteriously and often with simplicity. Holding on to Love, I stayed up very late pressing into deeply painful emotions. Allowing and inviting every painful memory of loneliness to surface enabled me to release them. Trusting the One holding all of eternity together allowed me to sleep peacefully knowing this process would continue the next day.

Instead of trying to figure out what happened last night, today was the time to listen; just as planned weeks ago. This afternoon, some of the pieces starting coming together. Last night, I thought the loneliness was coming from thinking I will be alone the rest of my life. Today, I know it has nothing to do with the rest of my life. The loneliness was coming from the past.

When we love someone who is emotionally unavailable for whatever reason, it is profoundly lonely. Though Richard and I were together for 17 years, over 15 of those, he shut me out. He blocked everyone out. Last night, I was finally strong enough to make room for the embedded emptiness to be recognized and validated.

The grief was not related to Richard passing away and no longer being with me. It was sorrow from the years of being alone while we were married. In order to stay with Richard, I had to minimize and deny the excruciating pain of loneliness. Today, I can see it for what it is and gratefully allow acceptance, forgiveness and pure Love to cleanse and fill the void.

As for the rest of my life, I would like to share my life with someone again. We are created to love and be loved. There is comfort knowing, though the desire is there, it is not mandatory. Having a life partner who is “present” would be spectacular. For the time being, my life is full of deeply satisfying relationships.

May you offer yourself the space and energy necessary to explore what might be lingering inside of you because of painful experiences from the past. Allow the greatest Advocate to be your guide, paving a road of compassion to liberate parts of you held captive. In so doing, may you discover strength, contentment and the peace that passes understanding.

Thanks for stopping by.

Let’s make this a great year!

 

 

Daddy’s Baby Girl

In the fall of 2008, Richard and I agreed to foster a puppy for Paws With a Cause service dog program. The agreement was, we would raise her for the first year, learn how to train her and give her back so she could be a service dog for someone with a  specific type of physical or emotional need. If she didn’t fit into the program, she may go on to be another type of service dog: arson sniffer or DEA canine investigator. The next group of puppies, Labrador Retrievers, were to be released to foster homes in January 2009. We were going to be welcoming a female named Cricket.

We had to wrestle with the thought of falling in love with a puppy then being required to surrender it back at the end of a year. Richard and I both deeply bonded with pets all our lives. This was going to be tough, but a privilege to be part of providing a canine helper for someone living with a disability. We agreed it was worth the heartache to be part of the work they do.

My initial though was, “Well, she is a Lab. They are so “plain”. It will be easier to give her back than other types of dogs would be.” Clearly, I had never encountered a Lab before. There is nothing “plain” about Cricket.

When we went to pick her up, there was a group of us who were excited about meeting our temporary canine family members. The trainer pairing people with puppies mentioned there was one puppy who pouted and went to sit in the corner after she received her inoculations. Guess who we got? We were taking home the drama queen of the litter.

This little bundle of Labrador charm completely captivated Richard.  We took her on agreeing he would have to be the primary care giver for her. I had no extra energy to deal with anything, let alone a puppy. We were constantly juggling the insanity of addiction.

The first night she was home, Richard slept with her, “breaking all the rules”. She had diarrhea all night. He let her sleep with him in the spare room. He had such a tender heart.

Initially, both of us took her to puppy training every week. After several weeks, it was just me. Richard was the one who just loved her. That is not what we agreed to, it was just how it played out. She was “Daddy’s Baby Girl”. She bonded with him. He bonded with her. I was the task master who  had to provide the training and discipline necessary for her to become a service dog. This was not what I signed up for, yet knew it probably would turn out this way. Acceptance is key. We commited to this and follow through was important.

Cricket developed a hormonal imbalance after she was spayed. She would need to take medication to keep her from urinating in her sleep. This disqualified her from the “service dog” program. We received a phone call asking if we wanted to keep her as a pet. After having her for 10 months at that point, the decision was easy. We loved her. Richard was totally “taken” by her. She was now our pet.

Cricket tolerated me. I was the one who disciplined her. Richard was the center of her universe. She displayed all of her charm toward him. All of her affection was directed at him. Because of Richard’s physical disabilities, I had to be the one responsible for walking Cricket.

This dog is incapable of being calm on a walk. She pulls with the strength of Iron Man. If she is allowed to run freely, she eats every poisonous substance along the way. If she cannot run free, she acts as if she is being tortured. Walking her is not fun. She is a challenge every step of the way. She use to turn and look at me with contempt because she couldn’t get away from me. Acceptance, once again, is key.

Several years later when Richard was dying, she was by his side every moment. This purely loving creature was committed to being everything he needed. When he was at Trillium Woods, the hospice facility, she was completely beside herself.  I would come home to let the dogs out and she was obviously looking for him. She could smell him on me yet couldn’t be with him. It was heartbreaking.

I took a pillow from home for Richard to rest on at Trillium Woods. One of the doctors suggested when I take that pillow home after Richard passed, I could let the dogs sniff the pillow. There is a theory about a scent of death that lingers on an object after one passes. Dogs can pick up on that scent and it helps them process the loss of someone they love. Smelling death allows them to release the hope a loved one will return.

After Richard passed, I brought the pillow home and put it on the mattress in the spare room. Both dogs gravitated toward the pillow, sniffed it and laid next to it. Much to my surprise, they both got up relatively soon, within minutes and  went about their day. They knew he wasn’t coming back.

At that moment, Cricket started the process of bonding with me. She knew Richard was gone and I was all she had left.  All her charms turned toward me. If she wasn’t as sweet as she is, I would feel resentful. As it is, Cricket is so purely loving, I just enjoy what she offers and remember how hard it must be for her to not have her “Daddy” around anymore. Today, she sleeps snuggled up to me all night long. We comfort each other.

There are moments, I sense she misses Richard. After all, she was Daddy’s baby girl. She looks at me with those deeply loving, brown eyes asking me to love her like he did. I can’t help but look past all of the years she “tolerated” me and embrace the gift she offers of pure love now. I am all she has. She is so innocent and dependent on me. How can I help but love her as her Daddy did?

When I look at her, I see Richard. I see the creature who loved him while he was making choices that were unlovable. She was the one who could love him during the years I had to pull back emotionally from him because of betrayal and deception. I see the canine companion who offered him comfort during the last year of his life when I couldn’t be with him.

Cricket is still hard to walk. I have tried every collar on the market to keep her safe from pulling. The difference now is when she turns to look at me, she has such love in her rascally eyes, not contempt. She works it, and it works.

Now, she is Mommy’s baby girl.

Thanks for stopping by.

Let’s make this a great year!

 

 

 

 

 

My Kind of Town

c44af953-2f2d-4b09-8ae0-f02ad31f3bc0

Chicago is one of my favorite places to visit. Growing up in St. Joseph, MI, Chicago was close enough geographically to enjoy long day trips and far enough away for weekend getaways.

Some of my favorite memories of Chicago were made with my best friend. She and I have been friends since junior high. Exactly how many years ago that was isn’t necessary to know for this story. Suffice it to say, we know what a disco ball looks like on a Friday and Saturday night.

As young adults, we used to enjoy girls weekends away in Chicago. I remember taking the train in together talking about life, love and frustrations. These days we go there to enjoy the bustle, sights and sounds of the city and to visit her delightful son who lives downtown.

We are opposite in so many ways. She is model thin, literally. Professional model is on her full resume. While l lived in Paris, she came to visit me for a week or so. We ate similarly and participated in the same physical activities. She lost weight and I gained weight.

She is an accomplished high-end interior design professional. When I say high-end, I mean multi-million dollar projects. I struggle to know if the curtains in my dining area match the wall covering. Her personal space is meticulously contemporary. My space is…ummm…eclectic.

When it comes to life experiences, we are very different. She has two very accomplished adult offspring. My experience with parenting has been with four outstanding step children. For a period of time I was a Licensed Minister. She would be content never stepping foot into a church ever again.

Musically, give me a sappy love song and I am happy. She wants more upbeat dancing music. She prefers a thick, rich beer. Give me a pale ale. She is a cat person. I am a dog person. The list is long.

What is profoundly rich about our friendship is our differences. We do not judge each other because we are different. It actually makes us laugh at times and makes us better together all the time. We know each other really well yet we continue to learn about the other as we learn about ourselves.

This friend is priceless to me. When we share our struggles or victories, we view them through the eyes of the other. We remember the things important to us aren’t necessarily mutual and that doesn’t matter. Primary importance is “seeing” the other. Whether it’s entering into pain or excitement, our focus is meeting there and bringing both of our strengths together offering support, encouragement and courage.

Who are you journeying with through life? Are you with people who celebrate the uniqueness of you or do they try to get you to conform to their preconceived idea of who you should be. Worse yet, are there people who are trying to make you into them?

Treasured friends do not ever make us feel insecure about who we are. They encourage us to be an ever evolving better self. Best friends know only you can find your true self and they do not want you to settle for less.

May you be and find the type of friend who joyfully embraces the differences.

If you have not experienced this type of friendship, consider how you can be and find an exemplary friend who will purely love at every stage of the emerging self.

Thanks for stopping by.

Let’s make it a great year.

 

 

 

 

Resurrecting Larko

IMG_4218

As many of you know, the last two years of my life have been filled with many challenges. After being together for 17 years, my Richard passed away in April of 2016. For over a year, his quality of life diminished with every passing week due to ALS, degenerative bone disease, and finally cancer.

Though his physical body was being attacked by fatal illness, his mind became more clear than ever before in his life. Richard suffered from severe chronic pain for decades. In and through his battle with pain, he became hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol. Apart from the insidious nature of addiction, Richard was truly a remarkable man. He was loving, intelligent, funny, nurturing, supportive, faith filled and the best kind of life companion.

In and through our time together, our relationship changed dramatically due to the destructive nature of addiction. One component never changed. We loved each other. For any relationship to survive the trauma of deceit, betrayal, manipulation and blame shifting, love must be central. We learned to define love as, “Choosing to do what is best for the other, even if it is not what I want.” Love can be very painful.

Our last year together, Richard was dying and it was by far the best year of our relationship. In and though the fire of life, we both learned how to love purely. Richard wanted me to write a book about our life together and tell the good, the bad and the ugly. He said, “If people don’t know the bad and the ugly, they will never know just how good the good is.” He was so wise and became selflessly courageous.

In this blog, I will be sharing excerpts of our story. Our purpose for exposing all the pain we experienced, is to help others who may be going though similar challenges. It took the process of losing his life for Richard to enjoy the freedom he fought so hard to find. His greatest desire was to be a catalyst for others to never give up fighting for what is right and to experience the freedom Divine Love longs to provide.

Shortly before he passed away, Richard told me it would soon be time for me to go find Jeanie Larko again. Being Jean Root had taken its toll on me. Since his passing, my journey of grief has been horribly painful on so many levels. Without a death, there cannot be a resurrection. Through the trauma Richard and I experienced, parts of me died, so the rest of me could survive through the insanity of loving someone caught in the grip of addiction.

The last several months I have been pressing into resurrecting Larko. I am still me, just different because much of what was, is no more. Reclaiming the lost parts of me has been painful, yet liberating. Resurrection can make us better than we ever were before.  It requires us to grieve so we are able to leave behind what has died. Relinquishing what is no more, frees us to embrace what is available now.

So, starting today, the name of my blog is changed to Resurrecting Larko. It is my hope for you to find comfort, if you are grieving, knowing the One with resurrection power walks with you in your grief.

Thanks for stopping by. Please come again. You never know what you will find here. 🙂

Let’s make this a great year!