Saturday, August 18, 2012

Maggie...Not too Big, Not too Small

My dad
The day my mom passed away, I was standing by the french doors in our bedroom, looking out toward our back yard.  I wasn't really focusing on anything specifically, just staring, when I noticed a small scruffy, rusty brown dog trot by, tail and ears down, looking very abandoned.  We lived in a semi-rural area, about a mile from the main highway, so it was not unusual for people to dump unwanted animals on our road.  Often these scared little creatures would show up on our doorstep.  Another forsaken dog left to fend for itself, was my original thought.  Then for some reason out of the blue it struck me, could this be exactly what my dad will be needing--a furry companion to help ease the powerful sense of  loneliness that would only intensify with each passing day? We were all going to miss my mom something fierce, but since my dad would be living in their house all alone now, he was to bear the brunt of it.  He and my mom had been together for 70 years.  Now she was suddenly gone.

As I expected, the deserted dog hung around our house...especially since I began to feed her. She was such a sweet gentle thing, not too big, not too small.  Huge brown eyes! And longish wavy fur that needed a good brushing.  Her reddish hair made her appear somewhat "Irish" to us, so my husband and I named her Maggie. It was evident she had recently had puppies, which was probably her big mistake (as if she could help it). That's too often the reason many people decide they don't want to be bothered with a pet any longer, so they do things like ditch them on a country road.

It was as though Maggie had been dropped into our lives from heaven.  We hadn't yet had time to assess  the ripple effects of the loss of my mom.  Obviously, my dad was going to be painfully lonely, we could have predicted that.  But it is not something one thinks about in the midst of all the emotions and stress of a lingering illness and subsequent death of a loved one.  Prior to the moment I saw the little stray, there had been no thought of getting a pet for my dad.  So, it became clear to us God lovingly arranged all the circumstances for Maggie to enter our lives on the very day of my mom's death.  He knew how much my dad would need some company.

So many good, longtime friends and beloved family attended my mom's funeral.  For our grandchildren, it was the first funeral they had ever been a part of.  They loved their great grandma so much.  The casket was open during the memorial and they each carefully laid a rose next to her as they said goodbye.  Tears flowed.  My dad was so grieved, he could not bring himself to attend.  But he had been strong enough to spend some time alone with my mom in the funeral home the previous evening.

After returning from the funeral, we brought Maggie next door to my dad's house for a proper introduction.  Initially Dad was a little dubious about the name we had given her. I suppose we should have let him name his own dog.  But he soon began to call her Maggie too.  They quickly became fast friends.  Maggie was very well behaved, didn't bark and slept inside on a throw rug on the floor next to my dad's old green recliner. Each morning, when we saw Maggie playfully running around the yard, we knew Dad was up.  She blended seamlessly into the family as though she had been hand-picked.

Thirteen months after losing my mom, my dad passed away at age 93.  Hospice staff had been coming by to assist him since my mom died and one male nurse in particular, whose name was Ali, became exceptionally attached to my dad and to Maggie.  During one of his visits to see Dad who had been hospitalized prior to his death, Ali told me if anything should happen, he would love to take Maggie as a souvenir of the warm friendship he and my dad had formed.  We had mixed emotions about letting her go, but it seemed to mean so much to him.  And sure enough, the day my dad was put to rest, I watched as Ali drove away from my father's house with little Maggie, snuggled next to him in the front seat of his car, looking confused, but not unhappy.  So the unexpected gift from heaven named Maggie, that had helped fill a void in my dad's broken heart, went on to her next assignment--bringing more memories, love and loyalty to a compassionate nurse and his young family.

The sunset of life can be beautiful.....