Finding the Gifts

May 15, 2023

Hello and Happy New Year, although I am late for the latter proclamation.  

I hope this finds your heart happy and life is treating you well!

This writing is going to be a long one. I hope it is worth seeing you stick with it to the end, and something in my words will help you. 

The picture you see above is of our sweet Zoe and Lee. Zoe is my shadow and mine and Lee’s very best friend on this earth. The one below is of my sweet little brother Griffen, our pup Forrest, and me.  

When we named her fifteen years ago, Lee and I did not know that Zoe meant life. We could not have picked a more fitting name. Zoe is the epitome of life and has been since we brought her home. Many would describe her as The Energizer Bunny. I would say she is LIFE and LOVE in the purest forms. I wish every human I know could be a Zoe. I could say the same about Griffen.

My Granny Lollis used to loudly proclaim that when it rains, it pours. I absolutely hated her proclamation. Then and now. While typing this post, I have come to a deeper understanding of why. In some ways, Granny Lollis was often right. Sometimes life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows as much as I might long for them to be. 

We discovered over the Christmas holidays that Zoe’s nasal tumor, which we had removed before, had returned. Sas, our female cocker before her and from the same lineage, lived eighteen and a half years, and we just knew Zoe would follow in her paw prints. 

One of my Soul teachers shared with me some time ago that there is a saying…the harder the life lessons, the stronger the Soul growth. My Granny Lollis never taught me that something positive could come from a negative. She taught that you could always expect bad things, and even when there were good things, she set an example of not enjoying them. I once sent her flowers in the winter when it was raining cats and dogs. Her response when I saw her afterward was a mean look and a grumpy…what did you go and do that for? I wondered then and now what would make someone so hard that even flowers could not solicit a smile. 

It should not have been surprising, and I often heard stories from her about how hard life was. Granny grew up poor with a father who was never happy, that I can remember. She quit school very early to go and work in the fields. She was who she was because of her life experience. My grandmother had a mother who loved her, but I think that was the only person in her eyes. My Great Grandma Estelle seemed happy but obviously had not been able to teach Granny that something good could come from something terrible, which in all honesty, makes my heart sad for both of them and anyone else who wasn’t taught that.

With all of that said, I don’t know about you, but I was more than happy to say goodbye to 2022. It proved to be one of my most challenging years to date, and that is saying quite a bit. I can usually find the good in the bad, but the struggle was much harder during some moments this past year. There were beautiful moments, but the hard ones cut my feet from underneath me. A strong relationship that I thought could survive anything vanished into thin air. Then our sweet little Cocker Spaniel Zoe started to have issues. 

Based on what I have heard from other people, I was not alone, and I am sorry if you had a trying year too. I am writing today not for pity but to share my heart and hope that something I say might be encouraging or comforting. 

We can get knocked down, but we must get back up again. There is something to be learned from falling. Soul lessons! Successful Soul lessons grow us closer to our Creator and, believe it or not, help everyone around us grow, too. We are all one, and what affects one affects us all. If we don’t grow, we are stuck, and that is not healthy for anyone — especially those around us.

Forrest Gump is one of my all-time favorite movies. I have never watched it without some tears and a whole lot of reflection. His Momma summed it up for us when she said, “Death is a part of life. Something we are all destined to do.”  She was right! None of us will get out of here alive, and just when I think I am all good with the dying part, I find that I am not as far along as I wanted to be when it comes to certain deaths.  

Lee and I were gutted when we learned that Zoe’s cancer was back. Like every other challenge, we agreed that surrendering the final outcome to our Maker was the only choice. Still, we did so knowing we would attempt everything we could to prolong our sweet girl’s time here with just one caveat — that she was happy. That in itself was a journey that I will shortly come back to, but first, I have to tell you how Zoe came into our lives to begin with. 

I know I just said everything is tied together. It is. Today was my sweet little brother Griffen’s last day on this earth. He had only been gone a little over a year when we discovered that an adorable little puppy in Victoria, Texas, would be given to us if we came and got her. Zoe came into our lives when the rawness of losing Griffen was at the forefront of our minds. 

My memory has faded in some respects, but I have never forgotten the circumstances of how Zoe came into our lives. I had a Cocker Spaniel named Sas when Lee and I met. She came from a long line of Cockers and lived to be eighteen and a half. When she passed on in January of 2006, my heart was broken. I swore I would never open myself up to another because I did not want to experience the hole and heartache losing one meant. But then, some time passed, and Lee and I decided that we would like to try again. Our friend and vet, Dr. Jenifer Dixon, told us we should not look for another Cocker Spaniel. She said they were nippy and had been overbred. 

I would typically follow her advice, but on gut instinct, I reached out to the lady Sas had come from. She told me that she did not have any puppies, but she knew of a rescue pup out of Virginia that was a male. I got his pic and showed Jenifer. Her first question was when we were going to get him. But? What about the overbreeding/nippy thing? Go, she said. So, we immediately made arrangements to drive to Richmond and get him. He already had a name….Forrest as in short for Forrest Gump. How fitting!

We were set to pick him up the first week in February, which also happened to be Griffen’s twentieth birthday. Griffen was partially living with us and asked if he could go along on the trip. He blushed when I told him that Lee was hoping for a little alone time with me and asked if he could still stay at our home. Of course, I told him. Always! We would go up and get Forrest and return in time to be home for his birthday celebration. Little did we know that would turn out to be his last. 

Upstate, South Carolina, had a nasty ice storm the night before we left. We woke up to hazardous conditions, and I was not sure we should go, but we agreed to try. I kissed my sweet brother’s head and told him to stay in and be safe and, of course, that I loved him. As always, he came back with I love you too!

Lee and I made it all of a few miles when a jeep in the opposite direction almost skidded into us. I was telling him we should turn back when Jenifer called and asked how far up the road we were. When I told her we were turning around, she said she was from Missouri, and if we could make it to the interstate, we would make it. We decided to keep going. 

Eight and a half long hours later, we made it. The road was never clear, and cars were in the median for quite a long way. As my Mama would say, my nerves were shot when we arrived at our hotel. I remember sitting on the bed and telling Lee I had changed my mind. I did not want to get another puppy because I did not want to endure losing another.

Lee is never really stern with me, but he looked at me and said that he had driven me eight hours to Richmond, Virginia, in an ice storm, and we would be going the next day to at least meet little Forrest. That was all it took. Forrest was the calmest little thing and slept so well in the soft crate we had gotten for him. That was until we stopped to pick up dinner and zipped him in. He went bonkers, finally throwing up a handful of bailing twine and Benadryl. Apparently, the place Forrest had come from had drugged him. Lee and I looked at each other, and I said well, there was no way we were taking him back to Richmond. 

Forrest came back home with us, and we celebrated what would turn out to be Griffen’s last birthday on this earth. He would be gone in just a few short months.

When Daddy and my baby sister Naomi arrived on our doorstep about 4:30 a.m. on May 15, 2007, to say that Griffen was gone, it was Forrest who alerted us to their visit. Our sweet boy never let me get out of sight and wanted to be right underneath me. He had some issues and was quite neurotic at times, but that was just Forrest. He would go on to provide a whole lot of Love and comfort once the news of Griffen’s death came. 

We were still in deep grief when I got an email from Cindy Lane, the woman who had brought Sas to us. She told us she had a litter of puppies and wanted to give us one because we had been so good to Sas. There was a slight catch. She had moved from Spartanburg, South Carolina, to a little town called Victoria in Texas. She sent pics of the cutest little black Cocker Spaniel that immediately stole our hearts. Lee and I made arrangements to fly out and get her. 

We flew into San Antonio and got our rental car. Then we went and checked into our hotel. Griffen loved to travel and was at the forefront of my mind. San Antonio was just gorgeous! I thought of how much he would have loved seeing a new city. The following day we took off for Victoria. I had no reservations whatsoever as I had with Forrest. The signs were everywhere from my sweet brother. I knew this puppy was meant. There was a car dealership named Griffen Motors and 111s everywhere we turned. I knew this new bundle of fur would be more Love and comfort — a welcomed respite from the sadness that still invaded my heart regularly. Honestly, during those times, I wasn’t sure I would ever move beyond the enormous grief and darkness that losing Griffen had prompted.

Down in Victoria, Lee and I sat on a swing with Cindy and watched the puppies play. As it turned out, one of them came right to us, which just so happened to be the one whose picture Cindy had sent. Lee and I decided to name our new little baby Zoe Grace. After some time with Cindy, we got into the car and returned to San Antonio. When we got back home, Zoe and Forrest hit it right off. There was not one doubt from that point forward and our lives would be changed for the better. Honestly, that would be an understatement.

Once home and settled in, we were at a restaurant one evening when the manager asked about our trip. She knew about Griffen and wanted to know what we’d named our new baby. I said, Zoe Grace. She began to tear up a little and asked. You do know that Zoe means life, right? No, I had no idea. I hadn’t looked up the meaning of her name. She repeated it…Zoe means life. I teared up because we knew how brutal Death was, and LIFE was truly welcomed. 

Forrest would not live a long, long life. In March 2019, he was diagnosed with Melanoma and threw a blood clot the next day. We had no choice but to give him his freedom. His passing was eased because of Zoe. She remained our constant companion, always overflowing with life. 

She was partial to me until a fateful day in May 2019, when my husband Lee had a terrible fall from a ladder and got a brain injury. Where Zoe used to sleep on my side of the bed, she began going up to Lee and laying her head on his shoulder by his head where she would rest for the night. I will always believe that her Love was a significant help in Lee’s healing. Animals are like angels, in my opinion.

In September 2019, Zoe started having nosebleeds. It had been a hard year, and I was terrified. Lee and I took her to her doctor — her Aunt Jenny — the same sweet friend who ensured we got to the interstate to get Forrest. She sent off a biopsy which came back inconclusive. The bleeds stopped, which made our hearts happy. We thanked God and went right back to enjoying every moment we had together. 

When the nosebleeds returned a little over a year ago, we took Zoe to her new vet because her Aunt Jenny wasn’t allowed to see her due to horrible life circumstances. Dr. Hollifield, who is wonderful, did the surgery. The biopsy came back as cancerous. Thankfully the nosebleeds stopped again, and we again found ourselves more than grateful. We prayed for more time, and we got it. We have been enjoying every single second because, as we know, no time is guaranteed. Lee and I do our best to take nothing for granted. 

Lee, Zoe, and I spent this past Christmas on the coast of South Carolina. We love Kiawah Island, but it is pretty clear that Zoe loves it even more than we do. She cannot get enough of the walking trails, and Lee and I are with her twenty-four-seven. 

We get out on the trails, and everyone always asks how old our puppy is. When we tell them that Zoe is fifteen, some look at us as if they don’t believe us. These days she has some white under her chin and around her eyes, but that’s it. Her vision is slightly off, but her life force is stronger than mine. Lee and I tease that she could pull a bobsled team on the walking trails if we let her. She could!

Before we left for the coast for Christmas, Zoe was racing to go to the potty one evening and ran between Lee’s legs and right into the door. When Lee returned upstairs, he told me she had hit the door, and her nose bled a little. I breathed a sigh of relief when we took her to get it looked at, and Dr. Cato, her other wonderful doctor, came in and told me they couldn’t find anything. Thank God for that! I didn’t go to the worst-thinking scenario, but I had a feeling that made me uneasy. 

When we arrived on the coast, we put up our Christmas tree, one of our favorite things to do. Christmas was one of Griffen’s favorites, too, and I will never forget the glee he had when we took him tree hunting. Once the tree was up, Lee and I began our routine of working during the day but taking the time to get at least one and often two walks a day with Zoe, even when it was bitterly cold, savoring every second. 

During our last week, Zoe’s nosebleeds returned. We talked to her Aunt Jenny, who suggested that as long as they were not constant, we should stay for the length of our trip and take Zoe to her doc when we were back in the Upstate. We followed that advice and made an appointment to have it looked at the following week. In the meantime, we walked, walked, and walked. Despite her nose bleeding sporadically, Zoe was as spry as ever. 

I became more uneasy with every bleed than before because my gut feeling was that this bleeding wasn’t a good sign. Despite those feelings, I did my best to do what I preach to everyone I know, which is to stay grounded and present and trust that no matter what, everything works itself out. There was a whole lot of positive self-talk in there as well. 

We traveled back Upstate the day after New Year’s Day. 

There is a little cheeseburger place in Columbia, South Carolina, that Lee has always loved called Rush’s. Griffen loved it too. During his first year in college, I drove down to Columbia every Tuesday and ate lunch with him there. I cherish those memories. 

We always make a stop there. As it turns out, Zoe loves it too. She has always gotten her own little kid’s burger. It might sound crazy, but our little girl knows when we are ten minutes from the exit. She always gets up and starts getting excited. That Monday was no different. She was sound asleep in her car seat until we hit the 111 exit before Rush’s. 

On our ride to the vet the next morning, I prayed my go-to prayer…I trust you, God. Midway, I clearly heard a voice say that no matter what happened, I had to believe that everything was going to be alright. That was a familiar sentiment, I had heard it before, and I knew it to be true. I also learned that things might not turn out as I wanted. I had prayed for a miracle for Griffen many years before and not long after he left this earth. That was the miracle. I knew my will and God’s will could be the opposite, but I kept saying I trusted anyway.  

All the way to the vet, the voice comforted me, and I felt a peace that I was not expecting. When we rolled into the parking lot, I saw a tag on a vehicle with 514…the last day my sweet brother Griffen had lived on this earth. Again, the voice said, “You know nothing here is ever as it seems. No matter what happens today, you have to know that everything is going to be alright.” I did know that in the deepest parts of my Soul. I knew and know that Death is only an illusion. We do not die. We transform because we are energetic beings, and energy lives forever. 

When it came time to pick up Zoe, I wasn’t riddled with anxiety, but I knew the news wouldn’t be what we wanted it to be. I knew that Zoe’s cancer had returned and that if there was nothing to be done, we would be staring down a loss that would be very hard for us. Zoe has literally licked away my tears. She has been a central part of our lives, bringing joy in on so many occasions when there was none to be found.

I went inside, and Dr. Cato came out and told me what I already knew. It was cancer. The options were surgery or signing up to see an oncologist. The surgery would essentially entail removing her nose with the possibility that they might not get all of the tumor and the wound might never heal. 

As you know or may not if you are new to my writings, Lee’s mom died of cancer, which was a major trigger for him. In the many years since her Death, we have often spoken of the sadness we shared that her treatment completely wreaked havoc on her quality of life and often wondered out loud how long she would have lived if she had never gotten treatment, to begin with. We would never know the answer, but we agreed that if his sweet Mama had it to go over again, she probably would opt to hold out.  

Because of that experience, we decided that we would take a little time to wait and see when it came to Zoe’s cancer. The tumor was small, and since it had initially appeared in 2019, we hoped it would be some time before we had to make any other kind of call. 

Life can shift in an instant, and it did. The tumor began to snowball, and it began to bleed even more. Zoe seemed oblivious. With blood pooling out of her nostril, her little tail would wag, and she continued to have the strength to pull a bobsled team on our walks. 

Lee and I, along with our support folks, decided to get a CT Scan and see what we were facing. We took Zoe to the Charleston Vet Referral Center and met a pleasant and comforting oncologist doctor. She was shocked that the original bleeds came in 2019. She said the type of cancer Zoe had was quick, and for Zoe to still be here was amazing. She did the CT and said the tumor was contained and operable. It would most likely require the removal of at least part of Zoe’s nose, but it was doable. She said we would need to meet with the surgeon for her to give us the specifics. We thanked her and made the appointment. 

When the appointment time came, the surgeon came in. I immediately sensed something that didn’t sit right in my gut. It wasn’t just because she had Zoe on a neck leash — it was more than that. We always use a harness because our girl had a prior undetermined issue with her neck that left us always cautious. Not in an overly protective mother sort of way, but this could be dangerous because that is what we had been told. Zoe’s Aunt Jenny was clear that another neck injury could end her. With that information, she also instructed me to always ensure that we let any place we visited know never to put a neck lead on Zoe. We followed that advice to the nth degree. 

I kindly said that to the surgeon. She looked at me and said I saw that on her chart. She then proceeded to tell us that the prognosis was not good. We told her that we already knew the prognosis and would accept what came, but with Zoe still so full of life, we wanted to give her any chance we could to make it. She went on with the cons. I came back with the pros. She finally said, well, she didn’t really read Zoe’s chart and would need to. Seriously?

As she spoke, the feeling in my gut of dislike grew stronger and stronger. Along with it, my temper, which I’ve learned to control, was flaring. Nothing she said was positive or brought any hope. There was a coldness to her. When she came in, I noticed she had some printouts with other pups on them. She rolled her chair over and said this surgery will disfigure Zoe, and here is what that will look like. 

I didn’t realize it then but later understood why my feelings of dislike were so strong and why my temper flared. The surgeon reminded me of the Deputy Assistant Coroner for Greenville County, who was in charge on the night Griffen was found dead on the side of the road with permanent marker drawings all over him. There was nothing warm about her either. I get being all business, but it was more than that. 

We told her that as long as Zoe was happy, we didn’t care what she looked like. Looks are on the surface — what matters is what is on the inside. She said she thought the Oncologist was too optimistic, but she could do the surgery and see. She kept on — finally making a personal reference that was out of line. She came back around and said she was confident that she could do the surgery as long as we knew what to expect. That was on a Friday. 

We made an appointment for the following Tuesday and left. When we got into the car, I told Lee that I didn’t like her and I didn’t have a good feeling. He told me that he thought it was because of the neck leash. No…it was more than that, but I didn’t and don’t know how to tell someone that sometimes when you know, you know. And when you know like that — you should go with it — no doubts. 

Tuesday came, and we drove up to the clinic. The first person I said good morning to was not having it, and so I did what I do. I tried to shift the lousy mood by saying something else pleasant. No luck. So, I tried again by saying it looked like a stressful morning. Every morning there was stressful, came the reply. In my Granny’s best voice, I felt a big fat OH GOD coming up. The energy was terrible, and here we were, trusting our baby to this place. Zoe gave us kisses and wagged her tail at us and everyone else as they took her back. 

At the front desk, there was some confusion about what would be done and how much it would cost. So, we were told we would need to meet with the surgeon and talk. Great! 

We waited and waited and finally saw the surgeon come in. She pretended that she did not see us and walked on past. Soon after, a Vet Tech came out and said the surgeon was waiting on the Oncologist and they would talk and give us a call. My stomach was in knots, and my temper was reaching a very high altitude. When we got into the car, Lee assured me that he thought I was just upset out of worry. No, it was more than that. 

We hadn’t wanted to eat in front of Zoe, so we decided to go to The Waffle House. It’s one of Lee’s favorites and a place we hadn’t eaten at but a couple of times since COVID. 

I was on my second bite of hash browns when my phone rang. I saw the name and stepped outside. It was the surgeon. She said the tumor was too big to operate on, and it would be much more expensive if we opted to go that route. What, since Friday? She said she would probably have to cut into the bridge of Zoe’s nose and that the cancer might indeed be back to her eye socket. If it were her dog, she wouldn’t do it. I told her we were coming to get Zoe. I rushed inside and told Lee we had to go. 

I called back and told the front desk we were on our way and that we would want to speak to the Practice Manager. Even though I was angrier, a wave of relief came over me. Since our first interaction, I hadn’t wanted the surgeon to touch Zoe, but we felt she was our only hope. 

When we arrived, they escorted us to a conference room. The manager came in, and I told her what had happened. I could see she was not sure everything I was saying was true. I am sure that often happens intentionally or not. But then I dropped the surgeon’s personal line and saw the bells go off. She looked me square in the eye and said you must be telling the truth because you would not know that. 

We then saw the Oncologist, who said she was so sorry. She did not expect the tumor to take off like it had. She suggested we make an appointment and look at Stereotactic Radiation. She thought it might be just the thing we needed. Upstate Emergency Clinic in Greenville, South Carolina, would be where we would need to go for that. She would send a message that we needed to get in ASAP. 

I had Lee run out and get two All the Way to Heaven and Back books, and we gave them to the two ladies. We got our sweet girl and left. We drove home and threw our stuff in the car like two people running for their lives. We had to get to the Upstate and get Zoe in to see if anything could help her. She was chill as ever and took it all in strides. She stood at Exit 111 in Columbia and got ready for her burger. We talked and agreed that whatever could be done, we would do. All the while, we said it was so hard to believe that much life could have something inside it that was slowly and now more rapidly threatening it. 

By the time we got to the appointment at Upstate….., the tumor was even bigger. The doc there was very businesslike, giving us his experience with Squamous Cell Carcinoma in the nose. Not good! He suggested Palliative Radiation or Stereotactic, which would be mapping the tumor, and then a three-day high-dose radiation option. The difference was the strength of the radiation, the length of days, and the cost. Stereotactic would be more substantial and more expensive. We agreed we wanted the one that was the strongest.

They mapped the tumor that first day and put in an IV line. We came home with instructions on how to flush the line and to be back the next three mornings. The doctor said the radiation would probably leave Zoe tired each day, so we were prepared for that. She showed no signs of tiredness at all that first week or three. When the tiredness came, her tail didn’t slow down, but her energy did wane some. We saw immediate shrinkage of the tumor and were elated. 

In the meantime, Aunt Jenny told us about an experimental drug called Torigen. It is an immunotherapy drug that uses the tumor cells to build a vaccine that will not cure cancer but has shown promise of stopping future growth. I called the company that makes it and talked to the CEO, who was very kind and informative. Lee and I, along with our support team, agreed that we wanted to try that, too, and immediately began making arrangements.  

The tumor was shrinking until it wasn’t, and the bleeds returned worse than ever. Aunt Jenny can’t be Zoe’s vet anymore, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be her Auntie, who also happens to be a vet. She, Lee, and I talked. I knew Jenifer would give the best advice. Not just because that is who she is but because she loves Zoe too. She said if it were her baby, she would try surgery. What did we have to lose? Yes, it would disfigure Zoe, but she knew we didn’t care. We made the arrangements. Dr. Hollifield, who had done the previous surgery, would go in and do her best to remove the tumor and the tissue now damaged by radiation. She would get the sample to make the vaccine. There would be no guarantees either would work, but with Zoe still so full of life, we all agreed to try. 

The day before, Zoe and I rode down to Aunty Jenny’s place to visit as we often do. 

On our way home, I started talking to God when I knew she was sound asleep. I told our Maker I knew Zoe, just like Griffen had been on loan to us all along, and I knew neither she nor any of us would live forever. I also knew a temporary reprieve would be just that. Temporary. If it was a day or another year, two, three, or.… I knew I had no say in any of it, so I thanked God for giving us Zoe and said that if it was time for her to go home, we would know she was going to be with all of the ones we had loved who were already there. 

Then I allowed myself to do what I wanted but couldn’t because I didn’t want to alarm Lee or Zoe. I let my tears start to fall. They did not come slowly. They spilled over like a dam whose river was overflowing. I’m pretty sure anyone who saw me on I-26 might have wondered if I had just gotten news that someone had died. It was one of the ugliest cries I have ever had. I turned the radio up, and I wailed. I could not think of what life would be like without Zoe. She has been the center of our world.  

On the morning of the surgery, I didn’t cry as I drove. I just said that whatever the day brought, I would trust it. I was elated when the call came that she was out of surgery and doing well. They had removed her nose and some of her lip. They had a good tissue sample to send off to Torigen. The team felt good about how well it had all gone. I was elated that by the day’s end, we could pick her up, bring her home, and enjoy being with her for whatever time we had. 

In true Zoe fashion, she was wide open even on high-dose tranquilizers and pain meds. She whimpered a little in the car, but that was it. Her whole backside had wagged when she saw us at the vet. Just as we knew, she was just as cute without her nose and little missing lip as she had been when she had those. It hasn’t slowed her down at all. In fact, she has fully recouped from the effects of the radiation and might have gotten even more energized. 

We are thankful for no nosebleeds and another opportunity to spend more time with her. We are happy we had options to keep her here as long as she is happy! She got her first Torigen vaccine on Wednesday and will get two more. We will enjoy every second we have left with her. 

All of the above led me to a whole lot of reflection. After all, it is that time of year. The time when the world got a little dimmer, and my brother hugged me and told me he loved me for the very last time as a human.

I don’t mean to be morbid, but looking at Zoe, I returned to our experience in Charleston. I was thinking of the surgeon’s photos, Griffen’s morgue photos, and how seeing him first on the ground in a dead body and then on a table with no life had really been traumatic. At the same time, it heightened my belief that the body really is only a vessel. In time, he has proven to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that we don’t die when we leave here. We move on. 

As I have reflected, I have thought of how even though I knew the images showed what was left of my brother, he was not there. I found it fascinating that Zoe came right after he left us physically and ironic that the side of Zoe’s body that had the tumor and now the scars are the same side of the body the fence caught his mouth and how the way the fence caught him — pulled his lip up and now she has the same. 

What has been so revelatory is how none of this triggered the traumatic feelings I felt after seeing those photos and losing my brother. Instead, I feel a sense of amazement at how far I have come. 

Don’t get me wrong. When Zoe does go, it will still be one of our hardest losses. I will ugly cry and probably do so often. But I want to believe that just like our sweet Griffen, she will never truly leave us. They never do!

When she goes, it will signal a new era. It will be the first time I have not had a dog in my fifty-seven years here. One last tie to the loss of Griffen. One more door closed on a time in my life that broke me in two and taught me immeasurable lessons. 

I don’t think things happen by chance. I see so many parallels between Griffen and Zoe. He didn’t have her name, but God knows he was overflowing with life. The energy he emitted was like the Energizer Bunny, and you always felt loved when you were with him. My dear little brother never let life’s hardships or those not like him darken his bright light. Instead, he glowed like the rays of ten thousand suns. 

Last night around 12:30 a.m., we hit the sixteen-year mark since Griffen’s last breath and passing. It is hard to believe it has been sixteen years since that fateful morning. In some ways, it seems like yesterday. 

Time. It stops for no one. It gifts us, and it grieves us. 

We can learn from both. There is no question in my mind: Griffen’s time here was meant to be short, and he lived to the fullest. His passing gifted me with many life lessons. Some of those stand out. 

  1. Be aware of who you surround yourself with. Pick people who care about you and honor and respect your life force. Return them the same favor. Walk away from toxic people and relationships even when they are family. 
  2. Live like there is no tomorrow because there just might not be. 
  3. Shine brightly….the world needs it!

Lastly, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! Love like my sweet brother and our little Zoe did and do! That is the best gift of all!
We never know what is in store for us in the very next moment, but we can hold onto the hope that, in the end, it all works out. 

I hope you have a wonderful day!

Thanks for reading!

Much Love,


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