My First Mother’s Day Without Mom

This is the first Mother’s Day since Mom passed away. One month ago today, actually. Ironically, today was going to be our first Mother’s Day together in over a decade.

Since I adopted my sweet baby girl, Grace, Mom had wanted to meet her. For over three years, I sent pictures of Grace to Mom, showed Mom videos of Grace, and I told her what a comfort Grace had been to me since the day I brought her home from the shelter. Nearly every time we talked, Mom would say she wanted nothing more in life than to meet her grand-dog. It sounds dramatic, but trust me, Mom had a flair for it.

Grace even signed cards to Mom

With me living 1,200 miles away and Mom no longer traveling, it was almost impossible for Mom to meet Grace. Almost.

This year I planned to drive from North Carolina to Illinois and rendezvous with Mom at my sister’s place in May (sister was going to pick up Mom a few days prior and bring her to Illinois). After a few days in Illinois, I would drive Mom home to Wisconsin, all with Grace at our side. Finally, Grace and I would make the trek from Wisconsin back to North Carolina on our own…all Thelma and Louise, but without the cliff.

Mom was beside herself about meeting Grace. She talked about finally meeting the grand-dog every time we spoke. Then she would say she didn’t think she would live that long, and I would say in a teasing yet gentle way, “Mom, surely you can hold on until Mother’s Day to meet Grace!” And Mom would chuckle and say “Okay, I’ll wait until May.”

But Mom couldn’t wait until May. She passed away on April 14, which makes this first Mother’s Day without Mom that much more sad. The thing she talked about for over three years, I missed by a month. Things happen the way they happen, and I’m not blaming myself, but it hurts my heart. I would have loved to have done that for Mom. I would have loved to have seen her face light up and her heart swell when she met my sweet, lovable, snuggly Grace.

In the week leading up to today, my friend Karen asked what I was doing this weekend, and invited me to visit with her and her Mom who lives in an assisted living facility. Karen is gaga over Grace, and her Mom loves dogs as well, so of course Grace was invited.

I think Grace is gaga for Karen as well!

A couple of years ago I took Grace to a therapy dog class in hopes that we could visit nursing homes and such spreading Grace-style cheer. It’s something I feel Grace would do well, and something I would enjoy. Maybe because I surprised my parents late in life and they were older than the typical Mom and Dad–it’s hard to say–but I definitely have a soft spot for the older folks.

The problem was, Grace and I didn’t do well in the class. Grace was easily distracted and began to lose her manners as the weeks went by, so I pulled her from the program.

Fast forward to our invitation this weekend, where Grace was the life of the party at the senior living facility. I was so proud of my girl and Mom would have been, too. We spent time with Karen’s Mom in her private quarters, where Grace gently took treats, snuggled, and gave kisses. Karen’s Mom was delighted.

 

Being the perfect pup for Miss Dolly

We joined other residents and their families for a Mother’s Day Tea in one of the common areas. The place was packed like a Friday night happy hour and with the noise level to match. In all the chaos, Grace didn’t miss a beat. She sat when I asked her to, she let people awe over her and pet her, she had her picture made with several folks, ignored another pooch who walked through the room, and sat nicely while a little fellow of about three timidly pet her and ran off squealing.

Giving the facility director some puppy love

The staff gushed over her, sat with her, loved on her. This is exactly how I imagined she would behave in this environment. Grace was made for making people smile, for bringing them comfort, and it brought me as much joy as it did the residents.

Grace loved everyone she met

To bring this back to Mom, and the ache in my heart that she is gone, that I did not get to be with her today and watch her face light up at the sight of my smiling dog–my first Mother’s Day without Mom was made less painful knowing that a few other Moms enjoyed the company of a sweet, little red shelter dog who loves as big as the world.

I am blown away by the people in my life who made sure I was not grieving alone this weekend. Whether you reached out to me in person, or simply held me in your thoughts, thank you.

To Mom: I miss you more than words can say, but I take comfort in believing that you’re smiling. Smiling because your grand-dog and I did some good in the world today. Happy Mother’s Day in heaven, Mom.

Cheers,
Kelly

My Dog Grace: Grief Counselor

Anyone who knows the love of a dog will likely tell you that dog is their baby. What many folks don’t share is that said dog is their world. I’ve been admitting that since the day I found Little Miss on the Wake County Animal Center website. I met her, and my heart melted. She was mine, but more importantly, I was hers.

I was going through a tough time when I adopted Grace, and it is no secret that she rescued me as much as I rescued her. She was homeless, emaciated, and had heart worm disease. I had just moved back to my condo and found myself alone for the first time in decades, and I was only beginning to deal with the psychological aspect of breast cancer. Grace and I were destined to save each other, and you will not convince me otherwise.

That was over three years ago. Fast forward to two weeks ago when I lost my Mom, my first best friend, and I couldn’t conjure the emotional strength to leave my bed. I got up at 7 a.m. to let Grace out for her morning business, but then went right back to bed and curled up with my heart aching. I could have stayed there until it was time for Grace’s evening break.

Typically, Grace will fuse to the sofa or the bed right along with me during a Netflix binge or while I read a book, but on that particular day, she got restless. She had stretched out next to me with her snout on my chest long enough. Around 10 a.m., she made a show of jumping out of bed and left the room. I could hear her huffing somewhere in the house. Large inhales followed by audible exhales.

I got out of bed to see what was going on, and this is what I found right outside my bedroom door:

Waiting for her Mum

She was feet from my bedroom, impatiently waiting, giving me the gentle signal of her huffing and puffing until I got myself out of bed. As soon as I stood in the doorway looking like an extra from The Walking Dead with bed head, puffy eyes, and still in my PJs, Grace jumped up and greeted me as she always does. With joy, gratitude, excitement, and unconditional love.

With her beautiful, soft brown eyes, and her gentle flicking of my hand with her muzzle, she convinced me that a walk was the best thing for us. And so I got dressed and we walked. Exercise, fresh air, and my whole world walking next to me. Just what the doctor dog ordered.

I recommend letting your friends and family help you through difficult times, and talking with a professional counselor. I’ll likely seek that out in the weeks to come. Also, I highly recommend adopting a dog.

Cheers,
Kelly