Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This Is Not The Story You Think It Is or Maybe It Is

(Our Bella)

Hi Everyone,

Well, it's been some time since I found my way back here. Mostly life has been full of highs but we had one very, very low that found me wandering off into the woods to lick my wounds privately.

After being a part of our family for almost sixteen years, the time came when we had to put our little doggie, Bella down. As I sit here typing this the tears well up, my heartbeat quickens and I find it difficult to catch my breath.


Our home feels so lopsided without her in it. We were a family of four, two with two legs and two with four. We are down to three now. When The Bird calls on his way home from work and asks his routine question, "Hey, Babe, have you fed the dogs?" He catches himself mid-sentence and with no comment from either of us corrects himself and says, "Did Bianca eat?" I'm sure his heart sinks as low as mine does at his natural slip of the tongue. For so long in our house dogs was plural.

Death is such a mystery. I hate it. The sadness her loss provoked in me felt all too familiar. Emotionally, it took me to a place I forgot I could go. After the death of my Mom, I tried to close the door on that dark, dank hallway that leads only to pockets of pain. While I cradled Bella in my arms on her last day with us, a sense of powerlessness crippled me.

“How can it be that my hysterical ache for her to get up and walk again and be whole, is of no consequence?”

It was the very same feeling I had holding vigil at my Mom's beside seven years ago. Holding my rosary beads, I pleaded with God to bequeath a miracle on our family and restore my mother to perfect health. I begged-I pleaded, I threw myself on His mercy. With no attempt to disguise my attempts at manipulation, I shrieked every scriptural quote I memorized as a child at Him. In essence saying the equivalent of the soldiers who crucified Him, “If you are truly the Son of God, come down off that cross.”


My Mom passed away as we cried, caressed her forehead and kissed her and in the wake of her death wake was a palpable sense of surrender.

Surrender is a complex concept, one I haven’t befriended very graciously. But surrender is not phased by the presence or absence of grace or dignity. Unaffected by my emotional temper tantrums, surrender suggests itself a viable alternative to emotional meltdowns.

While I’m willing to give surrender a nod for the peace it brings when embraced, I’m hardly at a place where I’d consider it the first place I’d turn in the face of a crisis, although I do have it listed in my phone book under "friends."

What helped me get by

Over the last few weeks I stumbled upon a book that kept me up at night and I found a way to interject into just about every conversation I had. It is the best first person account of embracing surrender I’ve come across. It should be required reading periodically throughout our lives. If you haven’t read, “This Is Not The Story You Think It Is,” by Laura Munson yet, close your laptop (or turn off your computer), put down your smart phone, grab your keys, put on your hazard lights and race to your local bookstore. Pick up a copy for yourself and every friend and family member you care about, even the cashier at your grocery store or pharmacist or trash man/woman. It’s that life changing.

With reckless abandon, she exposes the private precincts of her gut-wrenching attempt to adopt an attitude of non-suffering (which doubles in my book as surrender) in the face of a very raw, personal crisis.

Making the horrific decision to put Bella down circled me back to a place where I initially made no room for surrender. Laura’s book, however, reminded me that surrender really is the only friend we can rely on in the face of crisis. Surrender has the potential to liberate us from angst-albeit fleeting at times (I’m speaking for myself).

Hope you guys are all well. Please, make space in your schedules to read Laura’s book. You’ll thank me for the nudge.

Sixteen years is a long time. What are some benchmark moments for you, from the last sixteen years? Me, I buried my Mom and my dog and my husband’s best friend but we’ve also had some write-in-your-journal highlights too. I guess that’s how life is-the bitter with the batter as my Mom used to say.

Reading suggestions on this topic:

The Five Ways We Grieve by Susan Berger

This Is Not The Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson


  1. I'm so sorry Steph. I had to do this several times as we've always had pets. Our Willie was 17 when we had him put down ans it still hurts. That was five years ago. They are such faithful friends, it's hard not to feel that pain! Love Di ♥


    Oh I am so sorry about Bella's passing - I understand the loss so well. Sixteen years is a long time to love and be loved. :-) And oh my, the emotions this stirred in you about your Mom's passing tugged at my heart. My Mom is quite ill, and I ma desperate in my grief and fear - along wiht a recent set back with my MS I am struggling to surrender to the meaning of the "shift" as I labeled it in my latest post. Sometimes God really confuses me.

    Love to you
    peace and hope.....

  3. So sorry to hear about your Bella. One thing that helped me was the reading of a poem a long time ago when a pet passed on. The poem is called The Rainbow Bridge. I've included it below.

    By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,

    Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.

    Where the friends of man and woman do run,

    When their time on earth is over and done.

    For here, between this world and the next,

    Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.

    On this golden land, they wait and they play,

    Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.

    No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,

    For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.

    Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,

    Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.

    They romp through the grass, without even a care,

    Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.

    All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,

    Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.

    For just at that instant, their eyes have met;

    Together again, both person and pet.

    So they run to each other, these friends from long past,

    The time of their parting is over at last.

    The sadness they felt while they were apart,

    Has turned into joy once more in each heart.

    They embrace with a love that will last forever,

    And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.

    © 1998 Steve and Diane Bodofsky. All Rights Reserved.

  4. Hi Stephanie, I found you via La Belette Rouge. I was looking to meet other bloggers writing memoir and she suggested you. In catching up on her posts I came across her amazing post on Laura Munson's book. It is indeed life changing. I fell asleep listening to it the other night on my iPod Touch, at the point when she returns to Italy and I dreamed of Italy. The next morning La Belette Rouge wrote another amazing post on dreams and I shared the dream I had of Italy, of the duomo bells in Florence. I also wrote about it on Laura Munson's blog. She told me there are no accidents. So here is another point of serendipity. LBR pointed me to you, I put you in my RSS reader, then voila, this morning you write about Laura Munson's book.

    It resonates because it is so true. Surrender is our friend.

  5. Hi Diana-I've missed you! Even when I'm "off the grid" so to speak, I think of you and hope you are well. I really appreciate your condolences on the loss of our Bella. It's been gut-wrenching without her...her small little soul left such a big hole in my heart.

    Gail-how wonderful of you to stop over in the middle of so much going on in your own life. Please know your Mom and you are in my prayers. I know the pain of caring for a sick Mom...it leaves you changed forever. xo

    Isn't Life Grand-Thank you for the poem. Someone else mentioned this to me but I haven't had the courage to look at it too closely because of how raw my grief still is. I am so moved by people's support and the time they've taken to offer word of love. In my dark moments, know your comment sheds some light.

    Susan-Hi! So cool to connect here on my blog too! You know I adore Laura's book. So personal and so brave of her to write something I know will help so many. LBR and I are dear friends. It's wonderful when our circle widens. Welcome!

  6. I am so sorry for the loss of your Bella!