Tag Archives: Grief

Their Only Fault, Really…

He's-Got-That-Loving-Feeling-W

He’s Got that Loving Feeling…

“Dogs lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” ~ Agnes Sligh Turnbull ~

It’s turning out that grooming day, or spa day, as we like to high handily call it in the Burch house, it becoming eventful. Eventful in ways I would rather avoid.

As coincidence would have it, the last two times “spa day” has fallen on each pet’s yearly physical. As I recounted in an earlier post, when we picked them up last time, we were told it was critical BabyGirl, our little Rain Man in a dog suit, have her teeth cleaned.

Boy was it ever critical. Tall & Handsome called me on the way home after he picked her up from her dental visit and broke the news, “They pulled 17 teeth.”

Now, those of you who know me really well will know the next sentence was the occurrence of a minor miracle – I was totally and utterly speechless. For about 45 seconds as images of a puckered face BabyGirl flashed through my head. You can read that post to see how BabyGirl and mom survived the outcome.

So, when we sent Watson and BabyGirl off for their grooming a couple of weeks ago we knew it was time for Watson’s yearly. No problem, just a formality to get out of the way.

Oh, wait – did you hear that shoe anvil drop? Yep, there was yet another surprise waiting when T & H picked our pups up after their “spa day”.

Now, for a little background let me preface with this – we rescued BabyGirl in 2012. She was about two years old at the time. As hard as it is to believe she will be with us four years this coming September. This makes her about six years old.

Watson, our Wonderkin, came to us two weeks shy of his first birthday in 2006. On August 30th he will turn 11 years old. As I type those words not only can I not believe it, but I have an overwhelming urge to go into denial mode because there’s a day in our future I can’t even begin to think about. I’ve even told T & H we need to start a Schnauzer Slush Fund to prepare for that day, because I just don’t know if I can survive without another Wonderkin.

So, T & H walks in the door with two transformed pups – all groomed and looking dog show quality. He on the other hand looked like a man searching for something, and he was.

The right words to tell me what he had to tell me. Oh, snap.

He said, “The vet wanted to talk to me about Watson before we left. Watson has a heart murmur.”

What I felt was indescribable. No, that’s not true. I wanted to rend my clothes, sit in sackcloth and ashes, weep and gnash my teeth and then sit Shiva – and I’m not even Jewish (well, maybe a tiny bit somewhere in my ancestry).

You see this little dog has been more to me than a dog. I know everyone says that, but he really has been. He’s been my friend, my buddy, my pal, my entertainer, my protector, my encourager, my confidant, my child and my angel unaware.

I had that once before in my Ladybug – my little English Cocker Spaniel. I never thought I’d have something like that again.

But, Watson has been that and in some ways has “gone where no dog has gone before”. He’s one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever known in my life.

T & H and I thought we were smart when we started spelling words to keep him from knowing what we were saying. Watson was smarter when he learned what we were spelling.

If I’m sitting on the bed with my laptop working on something and the timer goes off in the kitchen, he jumps down off the bed and heads to the kitchen ahead of me.

He’s crazy about Granddad, my Daddy and will greet him at the door with such excitement – screaming and carrying on like a teenage girl at a rock concert. And, then, they scuffle.

Like any “child” Watson has had his adventures and misadventures – many I’ve recounted here in this blog.

For instance, Watson is a chocolate bandit. Yes, I know! Chocolate is bad for dogs! Try telling that to the Jack Sparrow of the Schnauzer world. He’s managed to eat my one and only remaining Godiva milk chocolate and coconut truffle – and look punch drunk satisfied, sated, happy and not one iota guilty. He’d do it again in a New York minute. And, I’ve caught him mid-bite with a brownie bite in his mouth. He did have the good common German sense to let it drop out of his mouth. It was a pitiful sight.

But, like anyone with charm and charisma – you just can’t stay upset with him very long.

He’s the perfect companion for me, a person who battles chronic illness and disability. He helps me do it with humor, style and cuddles. He senses when I’m having a really hard time and then, like I tell T & H with humor, Watson becomes like a big hairy tick attached to my side.

How do you face the absence of that in your life? Roughly.

Right now Watson’s heart is compensating for the murmur and the vet said he should be fine unless he becomes listless or starts coughing a lot. For now, he seems as right as rain. We are choosing to enjoy each day as a good day, and so far it has been.

It is because of the men in my life I have a love for dogs. My Papaw had dogs and my Daddy made sure we had dogs when we were girls. T & H brought Watson home to me when Watson was two weeks shy of his first birthday.

I could extol the many wonderful qualities of dogs. I’ve always said there’s no mistake that dog is god spelled backwards – they are His ministering angels here on Earth. But, I am finding…”Dogs lives are too short. Their only fault, really…”

© 2016 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Animals, Babygirl, Daddy, dogs, Grief, Miniature Schnauzer, Pets, Photography, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day, Tall & Handsome, Watson

Life Gives Us Brief Moments with Others…by Beverly Hicks Burch

Life gives us brief moments with another…but, sometimes in those brief moments, we get memories that last a life time…” ~ Unknown ~

Daddy & Uncle Lee 5-28-2014

Say what you will about technology and Facebook, there is one advantage to both – reconnecting with friends and family. So, a few years ago I was delighted when I received a friend “invite” from my cousin Mel.

We hadn’t seen each other in years, and through Mel I was able to catch up on family members and enjoy pictures and postings of the latest “goings on”. I also learned my cousin had grown up into a warm-hearted woman who took very good care of her parents.

Mel’s father is my daddy’s last living sibling. Daddy and Uncle Lee have kept in touch over the years through calls and seen each other a few times, but during the last several years time had begun to intervene. They’re both in their 80s and have had to deal with respective health issues.

So, when Mel sent word to me within the last couple of weeks that Uncle Lee’s health was declining, I was crushed – especially for my Daddy’s sake. Uncle Lee is terminal and failing fast.

As a result, this Southern Daddy’s girl was on a quest – my Daddy had to see his brother one last time.

You see, when my beloved Aunt LaRue passed away in June of 2012 we had talked almost every day for years, but it had been sometime since I had seen her. I have regretted that every day, every minute, every second for the past two years. I didn’t want that for my Daddy when his brother passed away.

So, this past Wednesday we set off for back where I came from, and where Daddy came from – East Tennessee. As Daddy says, we were just a couple of ridge runners heading home.

Mel was going to wait and surprise Uncle Lee with Daddy’s visit as an early birthday present, because Uncle Lee’s 84th birthday was the next day, but they decide to go ahead and tell him Daddy was coming in case the shock might be a tad too much. When he heard Daddy was coming, Uncle Lee broke down and cried.

It didn’t make a whole lot of difference because once Daddy got there I don’t think there was a dry eye for a few minutes. At least for me there wasn’t.

That day my Aunt Van, cousin Jan, cousin Rick and of course cousin Mel came to the hospital. Aunt Bobbi, Uncle Lee’s wife was there, also.

Aunt Van and Aunt Bobbi are sisters and had married my Daddy’s two brothers. They both have had health struggles of their own, and on that day looked wonderfully strong and resilient. My lifetime memories of them will be their strength to survive.

I remember Aunt Van’s cooking when we visited them when they lived in Ohio where Uncle Jay was working at the time. I’ll remember Aunt Bobbi’s soft spoken inner strength and love for her family.

My memories of Jan are of us as young cousins who swapped letters as kids, shared a love of history – and one of my favorites – one summer when it was so darn hot, Jan and family visited us in Birmingham when we were kids. After we had been outside playing, we ran to the back bathroom, filled the sink full of ice cold water and took turns plunging our faces into that cold, icy water.

My memories of cousin Rick is of kindness he showed me as a young fellow when we visited his home.

And, of Mel, a soft spoken blue-eyed blond who grew up to be that hard working woman who takes such good care of her parents and honors them like the Good Book admonishes us.

But, my lasting life time memories was seeing two brothers visiting, probably for the last time on this side of eternity, knowing this and swapping stories of their youth. They each knew they were the last link to the first people they had loved the most of this earth – their mom and dad – my grandparents. The memories of Mawmaw are usually humorous, and the ones of Papaw so bittersweet they break your heart with longing, just wanting to see him one more time.

As Aunt Bobbi said, “He was a good man.” Everyone I know has always said the same thing about Papaw.

After we left the hospital that evening we drove up to the hotel, checked in, went to eat and then drove around a bit. Daddy was showing me his old “stomping grounds”. Places he and his brothers had grown up at and places some of the most infamous stories of his childhood had taken place.

They were memories that had lasted Daddy a lifetime…

Then, the next morning before we left we stopped by the Little River Railroad Museum in Townsend. My grandfather and great-grandfather both had worked at the Little River Lumber company. Papaw had been a clerk in the company store and my great-grandfather, Hughes had worked in the sawmill. The cousins had told us there were some pictures of Papaw in the museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed. But, we did get a chance to look around outside at the train engine and log loader.

Daddy at the Little River Railroad Musuem

We head toward the hospital for our final visit with Uncle Lee. I watched as Daddy and Uncle Lee sang an old hymn they had sang together as boys – old Southern gospel harmony- and once again talked about their mom and dad.

Before we left we gathered around Uncle Lee and Daddy said a prayer and in that brief moment I was left with a memory that will last a lifetime – of two brothers just this side of eternity…

© 2014 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Brothers, East Tennessee, Family, Grief, Little River Railroad Museum, Photogrpahy, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day, Tennessee, Townsend, Trains

This Too Shall Pass, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The very last words I heard her speak were, “I love you, baby.” That was just over a week ago. Those will be the last words I will ever hear my aunt speak. I cannot tell you how thankful I am those are the last word I heard from her and the very last words I spoke to her. There are no regrets there.

My beloved Aunt LaRue passed away shockingly suddenly early Saturday morning. I had been working on tagging photos Saturday while Tall & Handsome was outside mowing the yard. Many of the pictures were of my Aunt LaRue. I can’t tell you how many times I almost picked up the phone to call her and ask, “Aunt LaRue, where was this picture of you taken?” Had I done that there would have been no answer.

mom yesteryear

LaRue McGee Posey

As it was, my cousin called me Saturday evening about 6:30. I noticed the call was coming from my aunt’s house and at first thought it might be her. When I heard my cousin’s voice I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea how much my world was about to change and how broken my heart was about to become.

When Montee said, “Honey, I don’t know how to tell you this.” I replied with, “Montee, don’t give me any bad news.”

But, instinctively, I knew. As best and compassionately as she could, she broke the news. My precious aunt had slipped away early Saturday morning.

At that point, with T & H’s arms around me and him feeding me Kleenex, I would say I was ready to hire out as a professional mourner at funerals and wakes. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Many of you may be taking pause right now thinking, “Isn’t she being a tad irreverent?”

Well, let me tell you something. Yes, we all grieve in many ways and sometimes dark humor can be part of that, but my Aunt LaRue was a feisty, funny, smart, bright and fun loving gal. There was nothing she liked better than a good laugh. That’s one thing I loved about her and enjoyed about her. She would totally understand what I’m saying and chuckle herself.

In many ways she was like a big sister (there were only 15 years between us in age, she was my mom’s baby sister). She was also my champion, confidant, traveling buddy, second mom, partner in fits of mirth and most of all, a best friend. We would talk for hours, yes, I said hours, on the phone at least once a week and many times more often, depending on what life was dishing out to each of us.

Back in the late 90s she went to the US Virgin Islands and San Antonio with me. There were other trips I wanted us to take. We didn’t have a chance to take those other trips. Life has a way of intervening in ways we wish it wouldn’t. We both began to feel the disabling effects of chronic autoimmune disorders that tend to cluster in our family. We both had so many similar illnesses it’s like we shadowed each other. That was one strong bonding component we shared. That’s one thing that made us comrades. There wasn’t sympathy between us…it was empathy.

There were other things that kept us from those other trips…divorce (mine) remarriage (mine) and several moves me and my Tall & Handsome made to relocated due to employment.

T & H’s elderly mom began to fail a few years ago so we went to Minnesota several times to see her. We spent her ninetieth birthday and Thanksgiving with her in Nov. 2009. She slipped away in March 2011 and I was thankful T & H had that time with her. I just had no idea my time with Aunt LaRue was dangerously approaching that narrowing point in the tunnel where only one passes through and leaves the rest of us behind heartbroken.

I do have great memories. From family holidays, visits and those trips we did take. One of my favorite memories from the Virgin Islands is sitting at our table at the outdoor restaurant of our hotel in St. Thomas. The hotel was perched high above Charlotte Amalie on a hillside overlooking the beautiful harbor. As we ate a world class dinner we watched the sunset and a large cruise ship set sail and disappear into the setting sun. Aunt LaRue was in heaven…and I was thrilled to share it with her.

In San Antonio we visited the Alamo, the Riverwalk and ventured out into the hill country where we came upon a state park. At first the park seemed unassuming…a few camp sites, picnic tables and rural peace and quiet. Exploring a little deeper we came upon a place to get out and walk around near what we considered a creek. There nesting in the branches of the trees and what looked like moss hanging from the trees were thousands of colorful butterflies. It was breathtaking. It was a living kaleidoscope.

That wasn’t our only encounter with Nature during that trip. We had gone out to San Antonio for my son’s graduation from basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. It was October and the temperatures had been running from pleasant to warm. Right before we start back home there was a Nor’easter that barreled into the area. We were ill prepared for it…we had mostly short sleeves tops and cloths for warmer weather. In no time the weather turned to fiercely cold with freezing rain that pierced your skin like little needles. We laughed clinging to each other and tried to run as one entity as we ran from our vehicle into a place to eat. We just couldn’t believe how cold we were and how badly our skin was stinging from cold, driving rain!

But, we shared laughter, secrets, recipes and so much more. I introduced her to one of our favorite authors, Ann Rule, who writes about procedural criminal stories with the emphasis on the victims’ story, especially women who are victims of violence and abuse. We both loved procedural crime shows, both fiction and non-fiction and sometime I think if we had been well and lived closer together we could have been amateur Agatha Christies. We both have an uncanny ability to size up a person’s personality.

I just never expected to lose my aunt this early in life. Even as sick as she was, she was an anchor and rock for me. She always seemed strong. But, she was taken as the sayings goes like a thief in the night or in the twinkling of an eye…she was here one day and devastatingly gone the next.

Diabetes was her killer. She had been diagnosed not too long ago. It seem like it’s not even been a year. It was a diagnosis that was hard for her to accept and like they say in football, almost a penalty like unfair piling on…one disorder, one more sickness too much to deal with.

She had told me a few time that “diabetes was licking her” or “getting the best” of her. I can recall a couple of time I call her and after we talked a little she’d tell me her sugar was over 500! I wish to God I had known then what I know now…sugar levels that high are indicators of impending diabetic coma. She also had been throwing up a lot and had been really sick at her stomach. Just the last time I talked to her she told me how much she had been throwing up and she could hardly eat without getting extremely sick, or as she put it, “as sick as a dog”. I was so use to us sharing a common rotten stomach and gastro problems I thought she was going through an extreme period with hers. Now, I know that vomiting and nausea are yet more indicators of impending diabetic coma.

When she got to the hospital, her sugar was between 1500 and 1600…

I have beat myself up too many times to count over the last week wondering what would have happened had I known those warning signs or if I had just called her one more time. I know in the end, I cannot think like that…it is just part of the grief process.

What I can do is this: I beseech you…if you have a loved one that lives with diabetes know the symptoms of impending diabetic coma or Ketoacidosis.

Early symptoms:

· Thirst and dry mouth

· Frequent urination

· High blood sugar

· High level of ketones in the urine

Other symptoms that began to appear:

· Constantly feeling tired

· Dry or flushed skin

· Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain

· Breathing difficulties

· Fruity smelling breath

· Confusion and hard time concentrating

If you do suffer a loss understand there are stages of grief you will go through. There are different kinds of loss, too: death of a loved one, death of a pet, loss of a job, divorce and any other kind of life altering tragic change.

Some say there are 5 stages of grief . There is another school of thought that spells out 7 stages of grief. Dr. Kubler-Ross truncated the stages into some pretty simple efficient stages. And, then, there is the New Grief Stages. I tend to like this last model best because I like how it’s put best: Shock, Suffering and Recovery.

Until Recovery comes, you will loop through the other stages and maybe even experience them together…maybe many times over. No one can tell you when to “get over it” or when you should be better…it’s not their grief…but, at some point you will move on and heal…for yourself and in honor of the one you lost.

I cannot even tell you that I’m at any stage of recovery. I do know I’m trying to find some sense of reason…

I keep going back to the last words Aunt LaRue and I spoke to each other. Some people never even have that. I know it’s not logical, but I ache for one last conversation…one last word…one last sound of her voice…one last time to catch a whiff of her wonderful scent, she always smelt so good…

Aunt LaRue told me one time she wondered how many times I could have my heart broken and still live. She understood the trauma I have been through. I will admit to asking why many times since last week. Why did she have to leave me? I’m not angry at her. I know how sick she was and how bad she hurt and I know she could have taken a little bit better care of herself. I just wonder why…

The only answer I can wrap my head around is this: She knew how much I loved her and she knew I knew how much she love me…and, she knew I was married to a man that would not break my heart…

Bev & Aunt LaRue 1984

Bev & Aunt LaRue – Nov. 1984

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Aunt LaRue, Aunts, Death, Diabetes, Diabetic Coma Symptoms (Ketoacidosis, Family, Grief, Stages of Grief, Tall & Handsome