Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The tree of life


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I wonder every time I pass by here what kind of stories this tree would tell if it could talk. At any given time there are people gathered under the tree. A family comes to have professional pictures done. Students meet to study and listen to music. Children play, dogs run, and squirrels hide in and around this tree.

As a young child I passed by this tree on my way to church, or to my grandparents house. As a college student I lived in the dorm situated behind the building you see in the pictures above. As a parent, I too have thought of trying to capture a family portrait with this tree.

As I stopped to photograph the tree one night after baseball, I wondered about the thunderstorms the tree has weathered. The thousands of feet of snow its been buried under. The ice thats draped it, the fog thats surrounded it, the lightning that has singed it... the tales the tree has heard. The confessions, the tree has sheltered. The secrets its been told, the marriage proposals that have been uttered underneath its branches. The tears and the sorrow that have soaked the tree.

I noticed how gracefully the branches have bent over time, bowing to the ground as an invitation to young and old alike to easily step up into the tree. The low trunks are sturdy, steady and allow for one to traverse over large portions of the tree.

That tree has a legacy. Its an iconic landmark to so many. While the landscape changes and people come and go, the tree is a constant. Big in its glory and rich in its tradition and history. As I left the tree, I looked back over my shoulder and witnessed the sun, low on the horizon, casting one last glorious ray of light over the tree. I walked away, satisfied with my time at the tree.



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I was working on this post Saturday. Dakota in her last few weeks had turned into such a mommies girl. With her at my feet I worked away on editing these photos on a gloomy day. But Nolan was out of sorts. He woke up irritable, moody. Nothing, no one, agreed with him. His friends were gone, it was raining outside and his mood matched the dark clouds in the sky. He wore on our nerves, battled his brother and even set up the tent in the yard for awhile, in an effort to "run away."

I have always said he is an emotional barometer for the workings of our family. In hindsight, I see he may have felt the shifting of the ordering of the universe, long before we did. We made our way through the day on Saturday, hoping that sleep would be the salve he needed to restore and refresh him.

We woke to sunshine on Sunday, and a slow-moving Dakota. She has been on steroids for an autoimmune disorder. She'd been showing signs of restored health, although we all felt uncertain of just how many more weeks/months our 12 year old may have left.

I've heard so many say "They can go so fast." They can. Although as a testament to her spunk and spirit she tried so hard on Sunday. But all too quickly, slow moving, became unable to walk. She stopped eating and refused water. And yet, as weak as she was, from both vomiting and diarrhea, she made it to the door to go outside, every single time.

I'm not sure when she left us that day. Rick was in and out trying to meet a deadline for work. The boys were at the neighbors who kindly kept them for the afternoon. But as the day wore on, her eyes grew more vacant. Her breathing became labored as my heart shattered. By the time we got her to the vet, we knew she wouldn't be coming home with us. He affirmed what we had surmised. But suffice to say, our Dakota as we knew and loved her, had begun to move on.

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Its harder than I could have imagined. Its so damn quiet I can hardly take it at times. And she remains everywhere in this house. Her fur in the lint trap of the dryer I went to empty. Her toys strewn about downstairs. Her rope, abandoned across the peeling boards of the deck. And the absence of barking when the doorbell rings, or when someone walks past the house.

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This much I know is true. Its the cliches I repeat to myself in a mantra... she's in a better place, better place, better place. We'll all be with her one day again. She is no longer hurting. She lived a good, no, great, life.

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Our summer has returned. The sunshine and the heat are in full force. There is talk of the 90's. Dakota and I shared our love for the sun. She'd lay on the deck beside me and bake until her sides heaved with panting when she could no longer take it. I can't help but feel this blue sky and sunny day is a last little gift she's left me with. A smile from heaven, as life goes on.



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24 comments:

  1. Oh Vicky. My heart is breaking as tears are running down my face. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Savor the memories. Many hugs to you, my friend.

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  2. Tippa, so good to hear from you friend :) Thank you :)

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  3. Oh Vicky, I am so very sorry for your loss! Prayers for you dear friend, I hope you feel peace in knowing that you loved Dakota enough to end her suffering and let her go. (hugs to you)

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  4. I didn't know her...but I love her just like I did. She is beautiful...and I type through tears. What a touching post...and those photos...those photos did me in.
    I'm going to lay down for a while and have a little cry by myself...
    Love to you, Vicky

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  5. Vicky, I am so sorry. What a difficult time this must be for your family!

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  6. I hope you are all holding up okay. It's such a tough thing to get used to.
    My parents weren't going to get another bulldog after our Lazzie died. After two months, though, my dad said it was too quiet and the house stopped stinking. Maybe in time, you will want to replace the quiet with the yips of a new puppy. It will never replace Dakota, but you know what I mean.
    Hang in there.

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  7. Kaleena, I do find peace in feeling like it was her time and was honored to be there with her. Thank you for your prayers.

    Jackie, you have such a tender, dear heart :) Thank you for all your support.

    Chelsea, I haven't thought to even ask if Harley and Davidson are still with you? Its up and down with the boys but gradually they are accepting it.

    Bonnie, I am so glad you told me that about your dad. I told Rick I do want to get another one sometime, but he will take the longest time to get over this. Thanks for your thoughtfulness :)

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  8. Man, Vicky. It wsa all I could do to read through this. You wrote it SO beautifully and captured the very essence of our beloved dogs. Our old Jo is having a hard time getting up sometimes and just yesterday was at the vet for a cortizone shot. She's almost 12. I can't imagine life without her and yet that's exactly what you're walking through.

    I'm so sorry for the quiet and the hole she's left in your hearts. But what a testament to how dearly she was loved and treasured among you all. If life doesn't feel terribly altered for awhile, the relationship wasn't what it should have been. You had it all with her. What a wonderful life she must have had with you.

    Much love, sweet friend.

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  9. Hi Vicky

    The tree above that has seen so much has the most unusual growth habit...It doesn't appear to have a trunk, but many arms reaching out of the ground to encompass the world around...


    I still hear my dog's rattling collar, and talk to her...


    Happy days

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  10. Vicky...she's absolutely beautiful!!!!!!! You've been on my mind these past couple of days. Praying for you!

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  11. all pets are special but I favor dogs. Those are great pictures.

    all the best.

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  12. Oh Vicky, I'm in tears as pet become part of the family, they have their own personalities and are not replaceable.

    I am so sorry to hear this sad news. Try to find some comfort in knowing that you gave her a good life and she gave you her love in return. She looks like she was a beautiful dog.

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  13. Robynn, prayers for your walk with Jo Jo. As a pet owner we all know this will happen to us one day, but nothing makes it any easier. That is a lovely bit of truth... "if life doesn't seem altered, the relationship wasn't what it should have been." Well said. Thank you Robynn :)

    Delwyn, exactly:) You articulated something that is so essential to the tree in a beautiful way. Thanks for that lovely addition.

    Thanks Stephanie :) I appreciate the prayers.

    Thanks lisleman, nice to have you show up here and well said :)

    Liss, thank you for your words of comfort :)

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  15. I am just so sad. And, you know that it hits home really hard also because we have an almost 11 year old counterpart to Dakota in Fletcher -- no one likes to think of the day they will have to go through what you had to on Sunday. Life moves on - but sometimes it would be nice to just capture it and keep it as it is -- I suppose that is what memories really are.

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  16. Kristi, I still remember when you lost Tiger :) We sat on the phone commisearating for hours. "That day" is implied when you take on a pet but nobody wants to acknowledge it until they have to. We'll hope Fletcher has a lot of good years left and I know you will make the most out of them!

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  17. hi, sweet friend. this was so beautiful and heartbreaking. those last two photos make me want to get in the picture and curl up next to her... i'm sure you feel empty not being able to do that yourself. sending big hugs to all of you.

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  18. Oh my Vicky. I'm so glad you took me here. I felt heart broken when I heard but it's even deeper for me now. I'm crying with you. I can't stand it that Kota's gone but really don't anyone try to tell me that our beloved friends won't be in heaven when we get there. I know they will. It just wouldn't be heaven without them. I am just so so sorry.
    Love to all of you...

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  19. Dear Colton and Nolan:

    I am sad to hear about your dog. Dakota was a good dog. I liked your dog. I am sorry. I know you will miss her. I will miss her too. Hi Colton. How is baseball? Do you like the cookie monster? I want to watch cookie monster now - talk to you later. Bye.

    Your friend, Christopher

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  20. Sara, I have had you in my thoughts as well and know its no small feat that you are showing up here in support of all of us... thank you :) I've been realizing how much she was my "go to" for comfort and yes, empty is very accurate. Still keeping you close in my prayers...

    Robin, yes I do believe we'll see them again and be with them. I have to hold to that thought and it helps. And your sweet words and compassion truly mean so much, thank you :)

    Christopher :) You just made two boys very giggly :) Colton misses baseball, but he has a little surprise for you about golf for tomorrow. Come to ur house and play soon! We will have such a good time and you can bring your mom too :) And you should know I love riding the lightrail trains! We'll have to do it together sometime :)

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  21. I am so very sorry to have learnt this! Words offer little consolation in an event like this! I can sure imagine what it must feel like. Like you said, she is free from suffering and pain. Something we'd always wish our loved ones :) May God give you and your family the strength to deal with this. Take care!

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  22. Stillness, thank you for your gracious words :)

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  23. Just precious Vicky. Those photos of Dakota - think of the wonderful times. She was ready to move on. Maybe make a little memory of her someplace - little photo book. She was an important part of your family and its natural that her absence would have such a big impact. It is a real and heartbreaking loss. Take Care and I hope in time you do get another pup too. New memories to look forward to. And I have said this loads of times I know but you write so damn well. Really.

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  24. Awww Lilly, you know how to put a smile on my face :) I will share with you all someday when we've figured out how to memorialize her. She WAS ready, so true, and we of course are never ready. Thank you for your kind words!

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