Life Goes On

It is one week today that we said goodbye to our 13 1/2 year- old Golden Retriever, Chelsea.

For the first few days without her, I made it a point to leave the house when the kids left for school, and not return until they got home. I just couldn’t bare to be in the house alone. There wasn’t much motivation to write without my writing companion either. The spot next to my chair was empty. There was no one to read aloud my rough drafts for approval. But, by the end of the week ,we all cried less – each day has been better than the one before.

There were several moments this weekend that struck me as ironic reminders that life really does go on, whether we want it to or not. Saturday, our family spent several hours participating in Relay for Life. The Tortoise and I walked the first six miles together, talking and laughing at silly stories we each shared. It was a wonderful bonding time and yet, I couldn’t help but be reminded the whole day of cancer and of Chelsea. I was reminded of the people in our life touched with cancer. Some are in remission, some we have lost. Afterall, it is a walk raising money in the hopes of finding cures for cancer. The Tortoise must have made the connection too, because she asked me if I thought Chelsea knew she was going to die. I think she did. On Monday morning, after laying still for over 24 hours she managed to move herself to the hub of our home – the kitchen – in order to be in the center of our family. We cried a little but then amazingly, The Tortoise said:

“I think it would be okay to get another dog. I don’t think it would mean we loved Chelsea any less. It just means we have a lot more love to give.”

Later Saturday afternoon, The Tortoise mentioned that she didn’t feel 100%. It’s sometimes hard to tell how she is really feeling, because she constantly has a nervous stomach. This had been an emotional week anyway, but we also had our big 5k run on Sunday and she has a solo in her school concert tonight. The nerves are high. We all went to bed at a reasonable hour Saturday night, preparing for the big 5k event, but at 1 a.m. I was startled by the sound of “MOM!” coming from the girls’ bathroom. It’s amazing how awake you become when one of your children are crying out. The Tortoise had thrown-up all over herself, the tiles and her bath rug. The smell and the content were overwhelming. After I helped get her cleaned-up and out of the way, DW came in to help. We both struggled (me more than him, I must admit this was enough to put me into dry-heaving convulsions) but I couldn’t help but think about how strange it was that just the Saturday before I was cleaning up after my now deceased “child”, Chelsea. Just a week before I was surrounded by another stench, cleaning a part of my life that I didn’t realize was soon to be gone. Cleaning up after The Tortoise was one of the few times I can think of that I was at peace disposing of such a mess. I was almost thankful that I had this mess to clean. It meant that my child needed me. She was present.

Getting ready for the 5k to start.
Sunday morning was beautiful. The sun stretched out her arms widely, surrounding all the earth in a warm embrace. Our 5k site was already buzzing in pink bliss as early as 8:15 a.m., waiting for the arrival of almost 1000 runners. As they started showing up, smiles seared my heart, burning images of all the hard work and commitment the teams had endured during the weeks leading up to this big day. I was excited to see our efforts come to fruition, even on this extremely hot morning. We gathered together, rows and rows of girls, their parents and coaches dressed in this year’s sea of soft blush. And then we were off.

The Hare is struggling to see, the sun was so bright!
At first I ran with a couple of my struggling runners, but the excitement of their peers running charged them with energy, sending them forward without effort. I found myself running alone. This was my fourth 5k. In runs past, I did my best to run for long periods of time, but there was always an occasional intense walk to catch my breath. Today was different. My body was filled with emotion, fueling my legs, pumping my arms. I ran through mile one swiftly. At the water station I drank while on route and then ran on to mile two. The trail was very familiar and I knew that passing the big softball field was my cue that there was only about a mile left. I ran. A small cramp began forming on my side but I took slower, deeper breaths. My mind drifted to the week’s events and suddenly I forgot what I was doing. I started forgetting how much life seemed to stop. The cramp disappeared. I kept running. Sweat dripped down my face, reminding me of past tears shed, tears that were now replaced with a smile. The finish line was near – I could hear the crowd cheering and voices calling to me:

“Good Job Coach Emily! You’re almost there!”

I was almost there.

I was almost there.

Me and one of my students.
An arch of colored balloons beckoned me to the end. I sprinted. And as I passed through the finish line, welcomed by hundreds of faces – some I recognized and some I didn’t know – I felt relief.

I knew I was indeed, almost there.

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11 thoughts on “Life Goes On

  1. Hmm, you did it again! I had tears welling up. The first week or two are the hardest. She was as you said “your child.” An important member of you life and daily routine it is very hard to adjust. Take it one day at a time. It is especially hard becuase you are dealing with your own feelings plus helping your girls deal and probably being a sholder and rock to your husband. Your likening of cleaning you after your daughter to cleaning up after Chelsea was greatly insightful. You never know when complaining is going to be the last thing you share with someone or something! (I am not chastising you, just showing you that I got your point.) I am new to your blog and I really am enjoying it! Thank-you!

    1. Thank you for your insight too – I’ve appreciated your comments. Finding a new routine is hard, no doubt.

  2. I participated in my first Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society after we had to put our 6 year old husky down because she contracted leukemia. Weird, huh? I had signed up for the walk months earlier because my office became a sponsor. I secretly walked in her honor. Sometimes the universe puts things in perspective for you in such a way that it seems to literally be hitting you on the head and saying, “Pay attention, THIS is important!”

    1. Amazing coincidence – I, too, had signed up for the Relay for Life months before Chelsea died of cancer. It does sometimes feel like someone is trying to send us gentle (and not so gentle) reminders. Thank you for letting me know that I am normal for thinking about her during that walk.

      1. Using me as a gage for “normal” could get you in trouble, but yes, you are not alone in your level of love and devotion to your dog.

  3. “i believe you’ll find that when getting another dog,you might feel that your replacing chelsea and even feel a bit guilty at first but that will subside quickly”

    this can be taken in 2 ways…while my Mom believes that getting another Dog would mean saying bye to Dino’s memories forever… I believe that I would bring Dino back home. He was a German Shepherd and I am very adamant of getting a German Shepherd again….no other breed…. though its a straight no from my family but I have made it clear to them that once I get married and have a place to ‘rule’ on my own terms…I am gonna get one…till that time I keep doing different things to remember him…like I have decided that he would be there to welcome me on my blog everytime I open it up…hence, his pic would ALWAYS be there on the home page…my cellphone display pic is Dino’s pic…I have got one of his pics enlarged and laminated so that it can compliment one of the walls of my house…i plan to get a tattoo done…which would say “I Love You Dino….till eternity”…. the last one is goin to be delayed too, cos my mom doesn’t like tattoos…trying to find a husband who would 😛

  4. after my dog August was sent to heaven on March1, 2008,I went through terrible lonliness and frequent weeping and sorrow for months as i didn’t have anything to take up my time..no friends, but some family members.it’s extremely good that you have things in your daily life to keep you occupied. your kids and you seem very close..closer than most kids are to their mom’s today./that’s a fantastic thing,/ i wasn’t ready for a new dog until late june,3 months after my dog had passed on.i tried to choose a dog with a personality liken to my other..i thought that since my other dog was a terrier and laid back and not at all hyper,that i’d choose another terrier.i didn’t do any online research to help me decide and i chose to own a jack russel terrier…yikes!!!!…this dog bounces off walls for entertainment!!!!//i’m glad i down’t own a parachute ,as i’d probably wake up someday to find him leaping off the top of the apartment building witha smile on his face. //i’ve never owned a dog this hyper.i’ve had him for nearly two years now .that june in 2008 when i picked him up and took him home was the best thing i could’ve done for myself in the last 2 years.it didn’t take long to fall in love with him.what i found is that i never completely have gotten over or will get over my former dog’s passing away.in fact if i even dwell on him for the slightest little while i tear up and memories come flowing in.but at the same time i have such a deep love for my current dog that it actually equals the passion i had for his predecessor. //i believe you’ll find that when getting another dog,you might feel that your replacing chelsea and even feel a bit guilty at first but that will subside quickly.in fact,you’ll begin to notice similarities in the two dogs now and then(things they do,etc) and you’ll find the new dog as being a very welcome experience and soon acquire the same feelings for him/her as you have for chelsea.you’ll never forget ‘nor completely get over chelsea…never..in fact..there are some things you will begin to see as vague..some memories of her that are today so vivid and clear will begin to seem muddled and gray over time.on the one hand it’s kind of sad but yet a part of life. i feel very lucky, as i took so many pictures ,including webcam pics of my dog in the past,as well as vhs recordings(christmas’s and such) that i can view those and relive many of our happy times that we had together..and they bring up tears every time i see them of course.i would recommend that when anyone owns a pet that they take tons of pictures and record time they spend with their pet via dvd or vhs or both..they’ll appreciate the fact that they did someday./ now on the lighter side,let me say that when i saw the pic of you and your student,it was difficult to tell which was the student at first glance..my gosh you look so youngish./(no offense)…i wish i could muster up the kind of energy that you have..walking on the treadmill a couple times a day at the gym is the most excercise i get these days..well,,except for my burger and fries..you know.. the chewing and swallowing excercises.//

    i look forward to your posts.especially how you’re coping with the lonliness of missing chelsea.there will come a time when speaking about her will become less emotional.not non-emotional..just less emotional.

    take care & i hope you and your family have a wonderful monday evening!!

    1. What an amazing and wonderful comment. Thank you for taking so much time to share with me. It is encouraging to know that you were able to love another dog without taking away from the memory of your first. (And thanks for the compliment – I’m certainly flattered – it must have been the lighting!)

  5. STOP MAKING ME CRY!

    Well, I’ll take that back since it’s your superior writing that sets off the tears. You can just keep on truckin’ with no more pleas from me 😛

    1. I didn’t mean to make you cry! Really – but thanks for the sweet words. If you need some summer vacation plans…

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