Two weeks ago, I made a trip to Charleston to take care of my daughter’s dog while she worked an eight-hour shift in the echocardiogram lab followed by 16 hours overnight in the pediatric cardiology intensive care unit.
“We are keeping Allison’s dogs, too,” she texted. Allison and her fiancé were going to the Georgia-South Carolina football game. Allison’s dogs, Maggie and Capers, are Boykin spaniels. Maggie, the younger, is 1 year old and constantly playful. Capers is older, probably around 7, and though he has slowed down a bit, he still has spunk.
Both dogs love being outside and romping in the yard. I made sure they had plenty of time for that. On the other hand, my daughter’s dog, a Malti-poo, and my dog are indoor dogs. They enjoy the outside only for official visits or walks around the neighborhood; otherwise, they much prefer lazing about. The Malti-poo is a snuggler, and my dog, a mix, is 10 and old enough to enjoy resting much of the day.
On one of several occasions, however, all four dogs enjoyed playing together in the house. It was a sight to behold, laughter coming in fits from me as they chased each other, wrestled and teased each other. It brightened my day and infused hope into my current state of existence. I wrote the following in my journal: “The dogs are lively and active; they remind me of how I used to be – lively and active. In an odd, canine sort of way, they give me a certain hope that life WILL be good again. I will enjoy playing again, teasing others, relishing life, savoring every moment.”
As I write this, winter has descended upon us suddenly with a chilled rain that permeates every part of the body. I’m glad because winter is my favorite season. Since we did not have much of an autumn, I am increasingly glad that the cold has arrived. It means wood fires to warm the house and my feet. It means snuggling down with a good book. It means soups and stews cooked in the crockpot, the aromas permeating the air. It means permission to be lazy, to rest under the cover of a soft blanket.
I relish the cold so much that I walked onto the deck this morning to listen to the rain and to enjoy the nippiness of the air. I noticed right away that the camellia bush next to the back door is blooming with brilliant pink flowers. I grabbed my phone and recorded a video of the sound of the rain against the backdrop of the blossoms’ blessing.
I have not yet written in my journal today, but I think I will write: “Today’s camellia blossoms, shivering in the cold, dreary rain, reminded me that even in the darkest of times, there is still beauty. Though I may not be able to “see” the beauty in my life yet, the camellia reminds me of the truth of the scriptures: ‘Weeping may last for the night, but there is joy in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b).
I don’t know how long my “night” will last. Authorities on grief advise me the journey lasts at least one year; others indicate it could last longer. What I am learning is that I have no idea how long this will last … and that’s okay. My good friend reminded me this is a journey, not a sprint.
I have no idea when the “morning” will come. That’s okay, too. As long as the gracious and good God I serve uses dogs and camellias as harbingers of hope, I will wait for the night to end and relish the dawn of a new morning.