Thursday, October 2, 2014

A friend's last gift

There are some blog entries that are easier to write than others.  Some pour forth onto the screen without thought or pause.  But some come in dribs and drabs – a phrase, an emotion, an image that fills the head and laboriously makes its way to the keyboard, swimming through eyes full of tears.  This is one of the latter kind.  My dear friend Bonnie, mom to Irish Wolfhound Keaghan,  passed away this week. 

October 13, 1950 - September 30, 2014
May we meet again on the other side

I first met Bonnie and Bob and their three beautiful wolfhounds Blue, Mara and Draeanne, on a visit to Crofton about seven or eight years ago.  My friend Else invited me on a dogwalk at Swallowfield with ‘a bunch of dogs and dog people’ and how could I refuse such an invite? It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

Bonnie and Bob
on one of our first hikes together

For the next several years, we all hiked together often.  And during those years, together we grieved the deaths of dogs, friends, and family. Bonnie and Bob lost Blue and Mara.   Together, too,  we celebrated the addition of animals to our circle - of Keaghan to Bonnie and Bob's family in November 2012, and Eddie and Mitzi to mine not long after.

Bonnie's favourite photo of
a young Keaghan and his fur sister Draeanne
Bonnie, Draeanne and Keaghan
hiking Bonnie and Bob's favourite trail

Then, in September 2013, Bob died of a heart attack,  and in December Draeanne passed away.  Bonnie and I, both without human family nearby and with only a small circle of close friends, spent more and more time together. We walked Eddie and Keaghan, sharing a similar love of the outdoors, of hilly trails and valley vistas, talking quietly as we rested, or laughing loudly as pants snagged on fallen logs or boots squelched in unnoticed puddles.

Greeting riders atop Richard's Mountain
Bonnie was a fine horsewoman in the
years before I knew her.
Keaghan and Bonnie
at Swallowfield 
Swallowfield on a cold winter's day
Bonnie and Eddie enjoy a moment together
at Crofton Lake this spring
One of our last hikes together.
Bonnie on her favourite perch,
gazing over the valley below
And then this spring, Bonnie fell ill.  Hiking became harder, breathing labored, and she was diagnosed with pneumonia.  She didn’t get better, grew decidedly worse, and just a month ago that diagnosis changed to one of suspected cancer.  Two weeks ago today, I took her to the hospital in Victoria for more tests, and the results led to her immediately being admitted.  Advanced, aggressive cancer - that killer which all the medical knowledge in the world just can’t seem to beat. 

The end came quickly.  Early Tuesday morning the doctor phoned to let me know she had slipped into a coma.  I left almost immediately, yet by the time I reached the hospital, she had passed away. 

In less than thirteen months, two year old Keaghan lost his whole family – his dad, his fur sister, his mom. And I had lost a very dear friend.

Misty view from 'Bonnie's spot'
on the mountain.
It will always be special to me.
Bonnie gave me many priceless gifts – the gift of friendship, companionship, a listening ear, a favourite hiking spot, a love for a breed I’d never met before. 

But she gave me one other gift during these last few weeks.  She taught me about compassion and caring at the end of life.  A year ago this week, it was my mom who lay dying, and I was not able to be there for her, either physically or emotionally.  It has always bothered me that I did not make that trip, help my family and friends with those last responsibilities, hold mom’s hand those final days.   The guilt, the feeling that I let my mom down, has plagued me for a year. 

With Bonnie, I was able to do those things, to take her to appointments, to sit with her at the hospital, to help her with personal matters, to take care of the ‘business of dying’ just before and even after death. 

This whole past month, I have felt I wasn’t just doing it for Bonnie, I was also doing it for Mom.  And I found a strength I didn’t know I had.  

Thank you, Bonnie, for accepting my help graciously, for trusting me to take care of things for you, for giving me what I could not give myself - the peace that comes with letting go of guilt.  That was the greatest gift of all.  

My friend, my hiking buddy, my sharer-of-wine-and laughter-and-tears, I shall miss you so very, very much.

"The Kiss"
Bonnie and Draeanne, 2013.

Keaghan is currently being fostered by a wonderful couple up island, who have another wolfhound and decades of wolfhound experience.  His future is secure, under the terms of Bonnie's will, and I will update you on him in a later post. He is doing well, and I am sure Bonnie's spirit touched him as it flew towards Bob, Blue, Mara, Draeanne,  and a host of other dogs awaiting her at the Bridge. 


Anonymous said...

Oh Jean, how very sad to hear about Bonnie. Your way with words is phenomenal,and although I had met Bonnie and Keaghan only once, now through your lovely blog I am able to know and appreciate the wonderful bond you both had. You were her dear friend, and provided her with all you could in her last days. The added bonus is being able to free yourself of issues from earlier times. Thank you so much for sharing your feelings with us, not an easy task. Through your writings we can all understand what true friendship really is.

barb,ollie,scooter and clancy

Robin Duke said...

Jean, this brought me to tears. I too have those precious friends and no matter when we lose them, I think that it will always be too soon.
I'm so glad that you were able to spend that precious time with Bonnie and thru helping her, help your Mum.

Black Jack's Carol said...

This left a great big lump in my throat, Jean, because it resonated on both a personal and human level. I am sad for you but as always when a cherished being leaves us, deeply grateful for that you and Bonnie found each other at a time that was meant to be. An absolutely beautiful tribute to your dear friend.

Dom said...

What a beautiful soul. I am so very sorry for your loss...

CarolineA said...

Jean, I'm so sorry to read this post about Bonnie. You and Bonnie took us on so many walks through your words and photos.

I hope that you will feel surrounded with love each time you visit Bonnie's favorite spot.


Marie said...

Jean, My deepest sympathy in the loss of your friend Bonnie.
Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you now at this particularly difficult time.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know Bonnie but I feel such a sense of loss from reading this. It reminds me that we must treat each day as a gift because we don't know what the future holds. We must also hold each friend and loved one tightly, for they are gifts too, as are the animals who share our lives. We must take nothing for granted and enjoy each moment to the fullest.

I'm sure your mom is proud of you for being there for your friend.

Hugs, Deb S & crew

Unknown said...

I'm so sorry Jean about your friend Bonnie, this was a wonderful tribute. Take it easy on yourself, you are in my thoughts and prayers, and so is Bonnie.
Kate D.

Sheryl said...

A very touching tribute to a dear friend.

I am so sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

Jean, this is beautifully written. I'm a friend of Else's and always enjoy the wonderful Swallowfield photos. Thank you for this tribute to Bonnie.

Roberta & Brock, Leo, Mimi and Kahlua

Ellen Nickerson said...

I am so sorry for your loss.It seems lately the world is filled with sadness.Thinking and praying for you and the dogs.

Gayle in Memphis said...

Sending a wish for peace as you say goodbye to Bonnie - I read your blog faithfully as you are so very present - as you walk the path of grief, please know that your readers are walking with you - I am sorry for your loss -

Brigid said...

My heart aches for you, Jean. Lovely pictures, lovely memories (in time) - but bitter-sweet right now, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Thank you