Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Tribute to Koda...

It's been exactly a year since you've been gone, Old Girl. But today, it feels like we lost you only yesterday. I wish the last day of your life wasn't a memory. It was one of the worst days of my life. I will never forget your big brown eyes looking into mine, begging me to do something to take the pain away. As we sat on the floor with you and gave you our last goodbyes, I literally felt like my heart was breaking in two. Thankfully, that was only a day in your ten years. And in those ten years, I have more memories of you than I could ever detail, and that one day cannot overshadow them. Here are the ones on my heart tonight:

I remember the night we met you. You were a silly, clumsy puppy, but already so smart. We ran inside to grab some food at Braum's and left you in the car with the motor running. The next thing we knew, you were hanging out the window about to jump to freedom, having opened it by standing on the switch. Erik ran out and kept you in Jeep Jail, much to your dismay. I still smile thinking about your goofy, happy face, tasting freedom for a few moments.
Our first night with Koda.

One of our all-time favorite Koda pics.

I remember the many, many tricks we taught you. You amazed everyone with how you would get a Kleenex when I would sneeze, how you could turn lights off  and on, and how you would obey every command with merely a hand signal. I remember one year when we were showing off your Kleenex trick at my birthday party, and you got a little overzealous. You started pulling tissue paper out of all of the sacks and you were just so pleased with yourself! You had a knack for making people laugh.

Koda loved to "laugh." (These pictures were taken years apart).

I remember how you used to lay in the doorway every single morning as I was getting ready for work. You would roll the ball to me with your nose, and wait for me to roll it back. It was one of my favorite games to play with you, our private ritual. But on the mornings that I was running late, I would refuse to play along and ignore you altogether. Oh, how I wish I could have a few of those mornings back!
Our house on River Birch
New house, same routine...

I remember the night you got stung by something. Maybe several somethings. Your nose was swollen and misshapen and your breathing was heavy, and I stayed up all night with you, barely daring to blink. I rested my head on you and lay on the floor with you the entire night. The morning couldn't have come fast enough. It was my first taste of how it might feel to be a mom.

I remember the darkest of days, when I would sit on the floor and cry, or stay in bed recovering from yet another procedure. You would lick my tears away, never intruding, just there. My healing shadow. There were days you never left my side, wouldn't even go outside for a potty break. You knew I needed you, and I can't imagine getting through some of the hardest days without you.

I remember you with Addison. You were only a part of her life for a brief time, but you were her best friend. She still prays for you every single night, without fail. Seeing her rest her head on your belly and read to you would always bring me such pride in both of you. Your kind, patient temperament was such a marvel to anyone who didn't know you. Those of us who did, well, I'm sorry to say that we often took it for granted.

You were such a beautiful dog. You were a conversation piece everywhere we took you. From the ever-popular "I didn't know they came in black," to the curious, "What kind of dog is that?!" we responded to questions and comments about you left and right. I always thought that one day, that gift could translate into you becoming a therapy dog, but you just had such a puppy-like spirit, even at the age of ten, that it seemed a shame to try and rein in that exuberance.
Koda loved her daddy.

We grew up together, you and I. You saw me go from a silly, adult(ish) woman, to a nervous, but overjoyed, mom. I'm so glad you got to see that transformation. I know the sadness of our hearts had to affect you, as you were such a sensitive dog, and I'm relieved to know that in your final years, you lived in a house of contentment and peace (definitely not quiet, but peace nonetheless). You brought us so much joy, love, and companionship over the years, Old Girl, and I can only pray that we gave you even half of that in return.

I brought you home,
A ball of fluff.
You licked my face
I was enough.

My tiny shadow
Grew big and tall.
You had three loves:
Mom, Dad and ball.

We saw the light
In your dark eyes.
Your happy spirit
Shone through gray skies.

When Addison came
You took her in.
Soon enough you
Were such close friends.

That bleak day came
Caught by surprise.
We saw that look
In your kind eyes.

It broke our hearts
To say goodbye.
For days I couldn't
Help but cry.

I pray someday
We'll meet again
A gal's best friend.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Somewhere Over the Rainbow...

It has been many months since I have blogged. I remember finding it so easy to write when I was in the midst of pain or anxiety, but I find it much harder now, when I feel like my days are (thankfully) more mundane. Today, I was reminded that it is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, thanks to post after post on Facebook. It seems fitting then, that tonight, I write.

My last loss was in April of 2011. I remember it vividly because I spent my 30th birthday not out celebrating, but recovering in bed from yet another D&C. When I was going through my 5 losses, I only knew one person that had suffered a miscarriage. Now, I know too many to count. Back then, I had never heard the term "rainbow baby." Now, it is a universal phrase of hope. I pray that it is because we are finally understanding that miscarriage is not something to be ashamed of. Not something to blame ourselves for. Not another reason to look in the mirror and feel like we aren't enough, don't have enough. Maybe it is finally becoming okay to talk about your loss, to feel it, to grieve it, to share that grief with others.

I know from experience that grief is so very complex. Completely universal, yet incredibly personal. Here are just a few things I wish I had known years ago:

Grief does not, and will not, look like someone else's. I know some were incredulous that I did not plant trees, buy necklaces, or really do anything tangible to remember my babies. But I didn't, and now I don't feel the need to. They are in my heart, and that is really all I need. Don't feel guilty because you aren't grieving like others think you should.

It's okay to ask for help. I certainly did. I knew I wasn't dealing with a lot of things during those dark years. Our marriage was in shambles, my grief was eating me from the inside out, and to everyone else I still looked like I had it all figured out. We did not escape unscathed, but we were able to persevere and grow with the help of an amazing counselor. There is NO shame in admitting you cannot navigate it alone.

You don't have to keep it together for anyone. You will make people uncomfortable. It is not your job to worry about that. Yes, talking to someone about death is hard, but experiencing that loss without support is even harder. Good friends will listen, give you grace, and not expect anything in return. You need to take care of only you, for at least a little while.

Try not to stress the excitement out of your next pregnancy. Sometimes I wonder how much my story has colored the lives of those around me. I know of only one woman personally that has suffered more than one miscarriage, and yet I have tried my best to reassure so many who are terrified of that very thing. I am a fraction of 1% of the population. Please learn from my mistakes. I thought during each pregnancy that if I just prepared myself enough, detached myself enough, that I wouldn't feel it if or when I said goodbye to a once-beating heart. I am ashamed to admit that I didn't do so many things for Addison's pregnancy; now her baby book sits unfinished in a drawer, a testament to my worry that a loss would happen again. I let my fears leach away what should have been hers.

Grief does diminish over time, but it is still there, may always be there, lying dormant, waiting. Facebook posts, a friend's loss, a certain time of year...grief will return. It may not be as strong as it once was, but you are allowed to feel it. And you should. It is a part of the healing. And although I'm not sure if anyone ever finds total healing, I feel like you can get pretty darn close. For us, it came through God in November of 2012 in the way of Addison's big blue eyes, bright red lips, and squishy pink cheeks...a rainbow baby if there ever was one.