Goodbye Polly, Hello Hope
Last January I wrote a blog that said goodbye to my beloved Peggy, being the daughter of my older dog, Polly, I wasn't expecting it to happen that way round. I had always had two dogs but it din't seem fair to get a younger dog as Polly was 15 years old at that time and I was convinced she was invincible! Unfortunately, on November 24th 2022 I had to say goodbye to Polly at the age of 16years and two weeks. It has taken this long to write about it because we had been through so much together and now my house and life seem so empty without her.
We got Polly in January 2007, we already had Cassie who had always been a quite sickly dog and whose mother had died the previous year. We weren't to know that less than a month later my husband would not survive his fourth heart operation and no longer be with us. The last thing I wanted was a puppy to train, although on reflection it probably focused me more, but I am not sure I was terribly kind to either my dogs during that period. This is why this has been difficult to write, Polly had seen every tear shed, every tantrum thrown, every rejection and yet she still loved me unconditionally. When Cassie died and Polly had her own puppies soon we were going off in my 1973 VW Camper with her and Peggy. It was then that I discovered my love for walking in hills and mountains and I soon found a kindred spirit for this in Polly. She would always be ahead, plotting the route, while Peggy lagged behind as if to say "you must be joking!". If ever I was doubtful on how to get back to the camper I would totally trust in Polly to lead the way. The few times I didn't ended in catastrophe! Numerous attempts to sleep the dogs in a tent outside or attached to the van always failed miserably and we would always end up three in a bed! If ever I went to open the van door when at home Polly was instantly in there as if to say, "where are we going next?"
For those of you who have never had dogs you may not understand this but both dogs were such a comfort in different ways. I have told the story of Peggy and the sheep and I think she could definitely connect with humans and other animals in an empathetic way. Polly, however, was like me. After my husband died a flight mechanism kicked in and although part of me knew I had to be the adult and be strong for everyone else, (I was also having to deal with the probate and house sale of my father in law who had died the year before), the other part of me just wanted to run away. Of course neither of these were the right reaction, if there is such a thing. Peggy was the one saying, "be still, weep, grieve", Polly was saying, "there's a mountain out there to climb!" I chose the mountain.
Over the years I have climbed many mountains, realistically and metaphorically, but Polly had been the one constant through out. I know towards the end she was struggling to pull herself up to go out for a walk but she always would, she somehow knew that it was her walking me really, giving me the incentive to get out of bed in the morning.
So a few weeks ago I took my self off to a 8 day silent retreat in Wales. It was tough, never having done anything like that before. At first I tried to pray "religiously" which, of course, didn't work. Once I resorted to walking and talking to Father in His creation, as I have always done, things became much easier. I wanted to be away from all distractions and to "switch" my brain off and I was surprised how quickly that happened. I had been advised not only not to take any computers, I-pads etc but also no books! There was a beautiful art studio where I allowed myself time to sit and paint, something I had never done at home.
In 2013 I was given the scripture Hosea 2:14 by three separate people, two who didn't know me, " Therefore I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came out of Egypt" It has been a long journey; too long to tell, but what this meant for me on my journey I didn't know, despite visiting several deserts and try to find the Valley of Achor in Israel! I took the scripture with me to ponder on. On the second day of the retreat when I was trying so hard to be still and pray, but my mind was wandering, I rebuked myself and said, "you are hopeless, you can't even pray". It was then I realised just how often I say that to myself, or that I am "useless", because those words have so often been spoken over me in the past. I then realised that the one word in that scripture I needed to hone in on was "HOPE" because, with God, that is the one thing there always is. And if I believe in hope then I cannot ever be hope-less! This led me to Romans 5;1-5 which says, "And we rejoice in the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us".
I went to Wales fully expecting Father to help me deal with my grief, fully anticipating and expecting His consuming fire to burn away any dross which was preventing me from receiving the healing needed to mend my broken heart. By the 7th day I was a crumbling mess on the floor but His consuming fire looked far more like love than a surgeon's knife. I had persevered the silence and the suffering of revisiting old wounds but had come out of it more alive than ever. More in love with my Father and Creator, who had spoken to me me through the babbling brook, the new shoots on the trees, the wind and rain and finally, on the last day the most beautiful rainbow as I looked back where I had been staying for the last 8 days. He was there in my suffering and in my joy and He told me I was His pearl of great price. Never will I see myself as hope-less again, only as a beloved daughter of the God of all HOPE.
I will finish on something that was printed in Psychology Today! "Hope lies dormant until it's amazing strength is beckoned, supplying a sheer belief that you will overcome, you will persevere and you will endure everything that comes your way" Amen!