A New Year of Lights and Darks

The rain is softly falling outside my window as smooth jazz instrumentals serve as a tranquil backdrop. The New Year is fast approaching here in the US, only a few hours away.

I’m grateful to be surrounded by love, peace, warmth and safety. My 2019 vision board is propped up in it’s place of honor serving as a reminder of all I wish to manifest in the new year as I align my intentions and let go of the old. Candles are glowing, incense burning and beautiful rescue companions sleeping soundly all around me.

I have given my myself this time to slow down, process, feel and reflect on all that has transpired in this past year. I have been mindful to check in with myself daily throughout the year and this practice has proven to be most beneficial if not absolutely vital.

There has been much loss in 2018, this I am abundantly aware of. The loss of three of my beautiful rescue animals, Arielle, Petey and Clyde was no doubt challenging on the heartstrings. The outpouring of love from family, friends and people all over social media was unbelievable and made me feel like I was being held in a blanket of love.

There was the additional loss of other animal companions that I had adored and cared for for many years, but no longer lived with. I had not seen these beautiful souls since December of 2016 but I carried them in my heart always. This was a different kind of goodbye for me, the one you learn about from a third party, and have to process on your own without a proper farewell. I believe you learn in these moments if you are able to step inward and away from the outside noise and just honor the connections you had and let go.

Then on November 6th I got the call that would challenge my heart and my belief system. One of my closest and dearest friends, Dacia Jackson, had passed away from cancer. I had said my final goodbye to my beautiful friend by her hospital bedside two nights before. I felt like all the oxygen had left the room, that my words were just hanging in the air. I knew the world was about to lose the most beautiful, brilliant, compassionate and giving soul. I was about to lose a woman I considered the sister I never had. My heart ached and I found myself searching for answers that were not to be found. I sat with that then and I continue to sit with it now.

I learned at a very young age that life can change in the blink of an eye. Your animals can be there one minute and gone the next. Family members pass on both old and young. You can be laughing with your best friend and eating dinner together and hours later he is gone forever. One minute your texting with your friend about how he was not feeling well. The two of you begin to brainstorm ideas to visit different wellness practicers. You never make it to those appointments because two weeks later he is hospitalized. He never comes out, leaving behind a beautiful wife and two young girls. Students who you laughed with, educated, adored and had the highest of hopes for even in the most challenging environments pass on, often in tragic and horrific circumstances.

I understand loss.

I understand death.

I understand that darkness.

I understand the whys.

Yet tonight as I write this New Year’s Eve post I am aware of just how different I am today than I was during many of those times. My ability to sit with my feelings now and not stuff them. My ability to get quiet instead of creating noise or chaos within myself or in the outside world to distract myself from the pain. My ability to feel and then continue to live.

The greatest gift I have learned in the past decade is that of honoring those who leave this world, both people and animal companions. Honoring them not only through my words but through my actions, and not just on the anniversaries of their passing but daily in my own life.

I recall sitting by Dacia’s bedside and thanking her and telling her how much I loved and valued her. I told her she was safe and that everyone would be alright. I told her so many things that evening, but the most important thing I believe I said to her was that it was okay to let go.

I did the same for my animal companions as their health continued to fail. This is a fairly new practice for me or at least it wasn't a consistent one in the past. It is however, the one that I am most grateful for. You see, instead of wanting them to stay so desperately that I lose sight of their needs I now sit with them and tell them that when they are ready to let go I will be there. They do not need to be strong for me or anyone else. They can just be. I tell them to let me know, that I will be listening and that I will honor their wishes and help them transition as peacefully as possible from this world.

Arielle and Clyde’s departure from this world went much smoother than Petey’s but in true Petey fashion he wanted to be sure I had learned the lessons. When he collapsed at 4 AM that morning I freely admit I did slip for a moment. I remember retelling the story to my vet and friend Dr. Amy Matthews who has consistently reminded me of the importance of this practice. I explained how I initially bent over Petey saying, please, please don’t leave me, hang on Petey, I need you! Then as quickly as I had let those words escape my mouth I stopped, almost paralyzed and I knelt down looking at him and said, I love you and I am here. I told him, if you need to leave this world, I support you and I am here for you. I will never forget the look in his eyes it was like a relief swept over him, he was tired and he knew I was there. I was grateful that I was able to shift in that moment, that I had learned the lessons. I put Petey first. I was able to give him the gift of love, dignity and compassion. I honored him. I honored all of them.