I awoke the morning of April 15th, 2008 to a beautiful, warm, sunny day.Yet still, I awoke with the most overwhelming sense of dread and the deepest sadness I had felt in quite some time.This was going to be the day that we would be helping our Molly to cross the RainbowBridge.My eyes were nearly swollen shut from crying myself to sleep the night before, and I was so overwhelmed with grief that I could hardly peel myself out of bed.But at the same time, I was eager to get over to me parent’s house in order to spend as much time with Molly as I could before our appt. at the vet later that afternoon.Being the former bereavement counselor in the family, I had talked to my parents about the importance of us making sure that we were not keeping Molly around while she was suffering in pain everyday, just so that we could avoid being in emotional pain ourselves by losing her.I felt strongly that we had to do the right thing for her no matter how much it hurt all of us.And my parents agreed.I had worked for over 10 years in Pediatrics with seriously ill and dying children, and I witnessed daily the struggle of parents who could not let go of their dying children even though they were suffering horribly.The pain that those families endured was heartbreaking.And it was amazing how many dying children would manage to somehow keep hanging on until their parents gave them permission to go or they sensed that their parents were finally strong enough to handle their passing.Molly had always been so in tuned with all of us – I just did not want her to be hanging on for us when it seemed like it was now her time to go.I did not want her to make that sacrifice for us – it was our turn to make a painfully difficult sacrifice for her instead.Eventually, we were all on board and made the difficult decision to make a final appt. at the vet’s office (which we scheduled a week in advance).I also suggested to my parents to go in and arrange for and pay for Molly’s cremation days ahead of time, as I knew from experience when I lost my precious Keyshah (my 16 year old tabby cat whom I ironically lost April 15, 2003), that the last thing you want to do is try and comprehend cremation arrangements and pay for things thru tear-filled eyes immediately following the death of your beloved pet. My parents agreed that this would be a good idea, as I think we all knew that none of us would be in very good emotional shape afterward. So... this was to be the day.Molly’s final day with us.I was so very thankful that it was a sunny one – Oh, how Molly loved to sit out in the sunshine.
Before, I got dressed to go over to my parent’s house, I decided to check my emails to see if my Mom had dropped me a line about the day.I have the Webshots screensaver and wallpaper system on my computer, and at the time I had approximately 700 photo images loaded into my system that would interchange on my screen and serve as my screensaver and wallpaper.But, for some reason, that was not the case when I woke up the morning of April 15, 2008.Both my screensaver and my wallpaper were “stuck” on playing only the photo file containing my rainbow images.I went in and reset my Webshots system and double checked that all the other files (and approx. 700 images) were checked and were all supposed to be displaying randomly, but even after doing so, only the rainbow images (and nothing else) would display.I just chalked it up to a random odd glitch in the computer system (and one I did not have time to deal with) -- though the appropriateness of the images did not totally escape me.
A similar bumper sticker, but missing BELIEVE
As I was driving to my parent’s house, I could feel my dread and sadness growing.I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest.As I sat at the final traffic light just before I was to turn down towards my parent’s house, I sobbed.I couldn’t believe I would be losing my best buddy today.How lonely it would feel without her here.How lost I was going to feel without her around, especially at the holidays when she and I had so much fun together.And as I stared straight ahead with my swollen eyes and tear-streaked cheeks at the vehicle stopped ahead of me, something caught my eye.The vehicle in front of me had only one bumper sticker on the back, and I could not help but notice it.It was a brightly-colored rainbow-striped bumper sticker with large capital letters written across the rainbow that read “BELIEVE”.My screensaver and now this?Either someone was trying to tell me something, or this sure was a day for strange occurrences and even stranger coincidences.
Before I drove up my parents’ street, I pulled into a church parking lot, dried off my face, and got myself together so that I could present everyone with an upbeat attitude even though I was totally dying inside – (I am quite good at doing that).I knew this was an equally devastating day for my parents and I didn’t want to make it any worse for them, and I knew Molly could read my emotions (and everyone else's) and I wanted our last hours with her to be as upbeat with her as possible.After all, there was plenty of time for grieving later on.My parents, as it turned out, had the same attitude so all 3 of us tried very hard to hold it together for Molly’s sake and give her as happy a final day as we could.And from the way it seemed, she did have a happy final day with us – she seemed happier than she had in a very long time.
When I entered the house, Molly (who had long since stopped greeting me at the door with the boundless energy that once was so typical of her) was laying very still on the floor behind the couch so that she could see who came in.She continued to lie there, as she had typically done in past weeks, but then her tail began to wag at the sight of me.And then, as though trying to muster the strength of a thousand armies, she slowly struggled to her feet so that she could come to greet me one last time.What a sheer gift of love that was and I will never forget it.
That day, Molly’s mood was the best it had been in weeks, if not months.That sparkle returned to her eyes and I got to see her beautiful smile once again – something that I loved so much but had not seen in so long.Throughout the day, Molly continued to walk around a bit, she did a little sunbathing, and even tried playing with some of her toys (something she had not done in many weeks).It made you wonder if she was trying as hard as we were to keep the day upbeat, or if perhaps she was just so relieved that this day had finally come for her.I knew she knew what day it was – she was very smart and perceptive.Plus, I had had many discussions with her regarding her going to the RainbowBridge soon and who she would see there, and as crazy as it sounds, you never know what an animal might, in fact, understand.Who knows – maybe we are the less intelligent species and just don’t know it! – (I sometimes think that’s true).Her cat sister, Chloe, never left Molly’s side all day and, despite everyone’s upbeat demeanor,Chloe definitely sensed that something was about to happen.Chloe looked distressed, she followed Molly everywhere, and she frequently looked up at me and loudly meowed and meowed (something she didn’t typically do), as though to say, “Oh no, is today the day?”Lilly, Molly’s other cat sister, stayed hidden away in the bedroom sleeping all day.The TV was on in the living room and so I went to shut it off so that we did not have the distraction.And just as I went to click off the television there was a commercial on (advertising detergent with a color-safe bleach alternative I think?) and the man on the television was shouting, “Get the power of the rainbow!”I heard that and thought to myself, “The power of the rainbow?Are you kidding me?Rainbows are cropping up everywhere today!”It was getting harder to just chalk it up to coincidence, especially considering what day it was.
My Dad went and picked us up some lunch, though the truth was that none of us were really hungry – we were just trying to go though the motions.We each sat at our usual places at the breakfast bar, and Molly actually came over and sat beside me like she had done for years during every meal I ate at my parents’ breakfast bar.I already had no appetite, but now I could feel tears welling up in my eyes as I realized this would be the last time Molly would be sitting beside me during a meal, drilling holes into me with her eyes while waiting for me (the big softy) to pass her a “treat” from my plate. But, it was good to see that she at least showed signs of an appetite on her final day, and she sat looking at me with her pleading, begging eyes that I had grown to love so much.At least she got some good roast beef that day, and she seemed to enjoy every bit of it!
What happened next is extremely poignant.But first let me preface it by telling you what was once told to me by a Cherokee Elder (and I believe I have seen a similar belief stated in the book, “The Education of Little Tree”). I live in the crosshairs of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains.Being of Native American heritage, I used to spend a great deal of time on the Qualla Boundary (Cherokee Indian Reservation) near the GreatSmoky Mountains National Park.Years ago, I had many fellow Native American friends, many of whom have since passed on.One Cherokee elder in particular once told me that should I ever go hiking in the woods of the mountains and get lost, and should I happen to perish while in the woods and have no one who knows that I have passed on, that the mourning dove will always mourn for me.He stated that no one ever dies alone or is without a mourner because the mourning dove will always mourn for them.Bearing that in mind, this is what happened next on April 15, 2008 – the day our sweet Molly journeyed to the Beyond. I told my parents that I would take Molly out to go to the bathroom one last time, as it was nearing the time that we had to leave for the vet.A couple of months earlier, my parents had lovingly created a make-shift potty pen for Molly using pretty picket fence sections propped up in the pea gravel driveway just outside the kitchen door. They camouflaged it with some potted shrubbery to make it look more appealing and to give her some additional privacy. Molly could no longer navigate the basement stairs and she was simply too heavy to safely carry up and down the stairs all day long, and the distance to the downstairs potty was now too far for her to walk anyway.The poor baby could barley hold herself up to do her business anymore.When Molly and I walked outside the kitchen door, I prompted her to go into her pen and I stood closeby in case she needed any assistance standing.As she hobbled into her pen, a small mourning dove waddled out through the pickets. It had been sitting in her pen on the gravel – just sitting there, almost waiting.I know birds pretty well and was amazed that it had not immediately flown off in a loud flutter of wings in a skiddish manner the minute Molly and I walked out, as mourning doves typically will do.Instead, this little mourning dove circled around (on foot) and waddled its way to the opening of Molly’s pen, which was wide open.Molly watched the little dove intently, and with her painful, unsteady gait slowly approached the dove, stretching her head slowly towards it.In turn, the little mourning dove stretched its tiny head toward Molly as well.And then I could not believe my eyes – the two of them touched ever so gently, nose to beak, as though to give each other a kiss. A big old dog and a tiny little dove coming together in the most beautiful expression of peace and love. And then, just as calmly and softly and gently, the little mourning dove slowly waddled away to the side of the pen and hopped up on a big white rock (which I had never noticed being there before) and just sat there watching Molly.It was one of the most peaceful and most poignant things I think I have ever witnessed in my life.Even with me standing 2 feet away, the little dove was completely unphased by my presence.When I went to bring Molly back inside, Molly glanced back over at the little dove who, in turn, looked back at her, while still sitting perched on the white rock beside her pen. Clearly, the two of them had made some special connection in the glipse of that moment that only they completely understood. And for weeks following Molly’s passing, that little mourning dove could be seen sitting all alone in Molly’s empty pen or perched on the white rock beside it – as though mourning for her. And since the pen has been taken down, I have noticed that a lone mourning dove can frequently be found at Molly's memorial spot along the Memorial Walk (where we used to board Molly during vacations) and constantly lingering around the memorial garden that I established for her in my yard as well. Clearly, that little mourning dove knew a beautiful, gentle soul when it saw one, and perhaps there is some truth to my Cherokee friend’s story.
And then came the point in the day that we were all dreading.Even Molly’s mood, which had been great all day long, suddenly shifted.It was as though she was as sad to be saying good-bye to us as we were to her.My parents carefully and lovingly loaded Molly into the SUV.As soon as she was being loaded into the car, Lilly suddenly appeared from the bedroom pacing franticly looking for Molly.When she did not find her, she finally ran to the kitchen screen door to see if Molly was outside, as she could hear my parents out at the car.She sat at the screen door and meowed as she watched my parents get Molly situated in the car – it was as though she was saying “Oh no, come back! I missed the whole day!And I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye!”And following Molly’s passing, both cats showed clear signs of depression and of being afraid (as Molly was their protector), but Lilly is the one who seemed to suffer the most by far.For months, she slept all day in Molly’s bed and refused to sleep anywhere else (until my parents finally had no choice but to remove the bed in order to try and snap her out of it), she hid, she suffered hair loss, and overall she just wasn’t herself and still isn’t entirely back to her old self as I write this nearly a year later.It seems that grumpy Miss Lilly the ninja kitty loved Molly very much all along.We all know people like that – the ones who love us deep down, but who have a hard time showing it.That’s Lilly.(But of course, Lilly loves my Mom a lot – just as Molly did – so she does show it to her on occasion).But I am quite certain that Molly always knew that Lilly loved her – she was very smart that way.
As we rode to the vet, I sat in the back with Molly in order to spend some last moments with her and to provide her with some comfort and to prevent her from moving around the vehicle and possibly getting hurt while riding. Molly had always really loved car rides.She loved to go places, especially with my Mom.However, this was the first and only time I had ever seen her act nervous and frightened while riding in the car and it broke my heart.We just couldn’t get there fast enough, at least for me anyway.And just as I was fighting back another round of tears, it happened again.A pick-up truck passed us and pulled in front of us.And what was written on the sides and the back of that truck? –“Rainbow Nursery”.I pointed it out to my parents and they could hardly believe it.Now I knew it could not be just a coincidence.That was at least the fourth rainbow sign that day.
I will not go into all the details our final moments with our sweet girl, as it is simply too painful to relive them.I remember that the doctor was explaining the different options for how we could proceed with the actual procedure, but I was only half listening as my heart felt like it was about shatter and my mind was a million miles away as I stared down at our precious little angel, as my mother cradled her and sang to her.Little did I know that the decision regarding how we should go about doing the procedure that day would be left up to me to decide.To this day, I am still ladened with guilt for making what I feel was the wrong decision on how to preceed with the actual procedure.I didn’t know better– I didn’t fully understand – I did the best I could under the circumstances.I thought I was doing what was best for Molly that day - and for the most part I did do what was best for her (we all did).But at the same time, I still feel that I may have made the wrong choice (only with regards to how the actual procedure was carried out, but not with regards to whether it was time for Molly to be relieved of her pain – that was certainly the right thing to do and it was her time to go). But, the decision I made does haunt me, whether warranted or not. I have thought so many times, "If only I had had been paying better attention when the doctor was explaining the options on how to proceed that final day... if I had only asked more questions and took more time to think it through, then perhaps I would have made a better choice". I will simply have to learn to live with that and move on. And maybe I didn't make the wrong choice at all, and perhaps I am punishing myself for nothing. I know Molly would not want me to spending another day feeling guilty, especially over something that I am powerless to change anyway. Hopefully someday I will be able to let it go. I do know that such feelings of guilt are not uncommon following the loss of a loved one. The doctor did assure us that Molly's passing was painless and peaceful. Oh, our sweet, precious girl... Molly came into our lives and enriched our lives beyond words.But for me, her stay here was far too short.She was with us for less than 12 ½ years, yet it took mere moments for her to leave us.And when she did, a wave of grief hit me like I had never expected.For many months, I had tried to be the strong one while trying to provide emotional support and advice to other family members, even though I myself was hurting inside too.So, when the actual moment came and I realized that my best buddy was gone, it felt like someone had reached into my chest, ripped out my heart, threw it on the floor, and shattered it into a million pieces.I hugged her peaceful little body and wept like I have never wept in my life.It was like months and months of bottled up pain just came flooding out.Of course, we were all crying – even the veterinary staff.Molly was such a gentle soul and a very beloved dog by all who knew her.After awhile, there came a point when I started to pull myself together, and I sat up to compose myself and to use a tissue. By this time, the veterinary staff had kindly left us in order to give us some privacy and some special time alone with Molly.And just as I was feeling as low and as devastated as I possibly could, I looked down at Molly and saw something truly amazing.There our beautiful girl was, lying on a big soft blue fleece cushion, looking like a sleeping angel... and there glowing across her tear-soaked golden fur were 3 small rainbows – as though there was one meant for each of us!I was almost speechless when I saw them, as I thought I must have been imagining it.But I blinked several times, and they were still there!I pointed to them and excitedly said to my parents, “Look! Rainbows!”They could not believe what they were seeing either.We looked up and around the room and could not find anything that could be causing these little prism-like rainbows on her fur.It felt like nothing short of a miracle and is something I will never forget as long as I live.It gave me a sense of peace that our girl had, in fact, made it to the RainbowBridge – and I believe our sweet Molly was sending us a sign to let us know in order to help ease our pain.If ever there was loving soul to do such a thing, it would be Molly.
Similar bumper sticker
What I did after we left the vet is all just a blur.I know I just went home, as the thought of going back to my parents’ home was one that I could not bear, at least not for quite some time.I decided to head home and seek comfort from my little four-legged beast (a cat named Kyleigh) whom I adopted from a rescue group in 2003 after my former cat died.She hates to be separated from me, so I knew she would be ready to give me some much-needed loving when I got home.But, as far as what I did the rest of the day, I couldn’t tell you.I am sure I cried most of the day away.But, I can tell you that there was one more rainbow left in store for me.During my drive back home, I stopped at another traffic light and the car in front of me had a humorous rainbow bumper sticker on the back.It read:“What Happens Over the Rainbow… Stays Over the Rainbow!”It actually gave me a little chuckle. Even though I am sure the actual meaning of the bumper sticker is something quite different, it did conjure up the image of dogs and cats who cross over the Rainbow Bridge getting to do all those fun and naughty things their owners would have forbidden them to do, like digging holes wherever the want, eating treats until their hearts content, scratching on or chewing on anything they please, etc.It actually put a smile on my face – and Molly always knew how just how to make me smile, and she always knew when I needed a good laugh.
So, for those who have doubted the existence of the RainbowBridge, perhaps after reading this you will at least consider that it is possible.Our Molly Girl crossed over to the RainbowBridge surrounded by the people who loved her most.It is my hope and prayer that Molly’s final memory on this earth is of kisses on her sweet face, loving hands softly caressing her, and the sweet sound of my mother singing to her a favorite family song that she had heard many times before – “You Are My Sunshine”…. And a special song that my Mom always reserved only for her – “The Rainbow Connection”.
I’ll see you again someday,
my sweet girl…
Somewhere over the rainbow.
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