Issue No. 12 Feb ’04

LIFE AFTER DEATH! It is hard to believe that in March of this year, it will be two years since I first received issue 1 of Departed Friend which you sent to me because you had heard of my work, in Leicestershire, for the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals as well as my work with those bereaved of their pets, through my book – Return to the Fold (see Resources section in this Blog, ed.)

It is also difficult for me to comprehend that it is now over six years since my book first rolled off the press. To date, royalties of over £810 have been shared between some of my favourite animal charities.

It is quite amazing how our pets can and do affect our lives, sometimes even changing the direction of the path we are taking.

Lass, my very first tri-coloured Border Collie did just that; she was just two years old when we saw her advertised – Free – to a good home – in our local newspaper. Little did I know the impact she was to have on my life, which at that time was difficult as I was struggling to come to terms with the death of my dear father, in his mid 50s, some four years before.

The early years we shared were so helpful; our walks took us out into the fields and countryside and we quickly became inseparable. It wasn’t long before I began to pick up the threads of my life and pursue old interests, which included animal welfare, environmental issues, music, writing poetry and singing.

I joined the Leicester Bach choir; quite a change from the folk club where I was often invited to sing, and I also found myself gradually drifting back to my Christian roots, eventually being confirmed into the Anglican Church, having been raised in the non-conformist church, as a child.

In 1987, I wrote my first hymn, or rather new words to an old tune! The hymn competition was advertised in the RSPCA Membership Magazine. That first hymn went on to be included in a book compiled and published by the Rev. James Thompson to promote Christian Animal Welfare Services. This was followed two years later by the inauguration of what has now become an annual service of Thanksgiving and blessing for ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, in Leicestershire, now in its 16th year.

Over the years, three more hymns have been added to the collection and they have been sung in some of the country’s cathedrals and churches at the numerous animal welfare services now regularly held.

On April 8th 2000, one of my hymns was chosen to be sung at the Memorial Service held for Anti-Bullfighting Campaigner – Vicki Moore, in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. I had long admired Vicki’s amazing work and I was truly humbled that my hymn should be sung in her memory.

Lass’s death, in 1995 was to begin a new chapter in my life. Being heavily involved in animal welfare, it wasn’t long before we adopted Meg, a Collie cross Flat Coat Retriever from the local branch of the RSPCA, where I had once been a committee member and home checker. Meg had a wonderful affectionate nature.

Out of my grief for Lass and the desire to honour her memory in some small way, I wrote a small article for the newsletter which I had at one time co-edited. It was well received and it became the catalyst for my book, which was completed and published in December 1997.

I decided to publish the book myself and donate the royalties to animal welfare; however, the fees for printing were rather more than I had first expected. It was obvious to me that I had to find some way of raising the amount required and by chance I noticed an advertisement for a national poetry competition in the local press. The first prize was £500! To cut a long story short, I sat down and wrote a poem called ‘Street Child’, which took about 30 minutes. I posted it and then forgot all about it as the closing date was at least 6 months away.

 In the mean time, an elderly Great Aunt by marriage had died and she was kind enough to have left me a small legacy. She had accompanied me to Leicester Cathedral at Christmas time and had shared Christmas Day with us on numerous occasions, not having any children of her own. She had always been interested in my work and I know that she would have been pleased to know I had used the money towards the publishing costs.

To my utter amazement, I actually won the first prize of £500 for my entry and can vividly recall the day in September 1997 when the telephone rang to inform me of the judges’ decision and to expect a cheque by post!

Since 1982, when we first collected Lass from Melton Mowbray, in Leicestershire, we have been the proud owners of three dogs. Lass died from age related causes just shortly before her 16th birthday. Meg, however, died when she was only 11 years old. We were privileged to have shared almost 6 years of her life. Her death from an incurable blood disorder came as such a shock. Within the space of four days we had lost her.

Tam is our latest acquisition, now around 8 years old. We have experienced some 2½ years of hard work and much determination to try to help him to settle and be a well-adjusted and happy member of our pack. Tam is a Border Collie from what would appear to be a strong working strain. Over five years of previously troubled placements have each taken their toll. We are winning and still see regular improvements in his behaviour.

Three wonderful individuals, each with their own very different characters. Lass was a fun-packed dog and willing to join in all the family games. She fielded for us when we played cricket with our sons and given the chance she would try to take the football from the players on the local playing fields, teasingly putting her paw on the ball and daring them to try to take it from her so that they could continue with the game. She was so adept at fruit picking that when she accompanied me to collect blackberries she would beg a few from my bag, but if they didn’t come quickly enough she would pick her own; always choosing the ripe ones and leaving the red, unripe ones on the hedgerow. She was also known to eat rosehips; again always choosing the red, ripe ones and spitting out the ones which were still an orange colour. She could smell water from a great distance and would quicken her pace, pretending not to hear, long before her hearing became defective, in order to enjoy a swim.

Meggie, by contrast was much more laid back, in fact she became a real couch potato in the latter years. She loved people and was so affectionate. She was so contented with life and in her previous home, didn’t receive the companionship she so obviously craved. She was happy to be wherever we were, always curled up by our side, lying on our feet or lying on her back with all four legs up the side of our chair. She also loved birthdays and Christmas, as this meant presents which required unwrapping – Zuki’s story in DF11 brought back so many happy thoughts of her. It was just like having a child in the family again, as she excitedly tore at the wrapping paper.

One particular Christmas, we bought her a new bed. A soft one in a lovely tartan pattern. I brought it home from the shops and placed it on our bed so that I could have a closer look at it and take off the labels. I turned my back for a second to reach for the scissors to find that Meg had climbed up on to our bed and was curled up snuggly in her new bed, unable to wait to try it for size! I only wish I had had a video camera to hand.

We haven’t quite got to the ‘fun’ side of Tam yet. He has so many layers to peel off before we find the real Tam. He had so many psychological problems when we first adopted him that it was many months before we began to see some of his more endearing qualities. Having gained much of his trust, we are slowly putting his life back together and happily, he is responding.

In the very rawness of bereavement, it is almost impossible to believe that one day, we will laugh, live, love and feel alive again, let alone smile with amusement at all the endearing things our wonderful pets do.

Nine years on, I still find myself grieving – occasionally. I still shed more than the odd, silent tear for those precious souls that I have loved and lost … Dear Meggie and Lass … just as I still weep with sorrow and regret for the loss of my wonderful father, who died so prematurely in 1977 at the age of 57. But knowing that our paths crossed; our lives intertwined, no matter how briefly, I cannot continue to live daily in the dark shadows of unbearable sorrow … Happy memories .. Yes .. but having loved and lost and had the courage to allow myself to love again, my spirit is lifted and who knows what wonderful times are yet to be … in this life or the next?

When the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between me and all living beings on earth. This is the sign of the promise which I am making to all living beings. Genesis 9: v.16-17 (Good News Bible).

Linda J Bodicoat

DF Meg0002

Lass Bodicoat – age 3

_________________________________________

BOOK REVIEW

Cats’ Own Annual 

by Vernon Coleman

 Not strictly speaking a bereavement resource, this book is, nevertheless, essential reading for all ‘besotted and truly committed cat lovers’.  It is highly entertaining and filled with amusing and deadly accurate feline insights into the behaviour of ‘Uprights’ – their human companions. It contains much interesting information, question and answer sections, quotations, and many fascinating   anecdotes, all punctuated with Vernon Coleman’s delightful line drawings: ‘catoons’.  

For instance, did you know that the Prophet Mohammed had a favourite cat called Muezza who once went to sleep on the sleeve of his robe.  When called to prayer, Mohammed cut the sleeve off the coat – thereby allowing Muezza to remain undisturbed.

Amongst the famous Uprights who adored cats are:  Dr Samuel Johnson, Sir Winston Churchill,     Abraham Lincoln, Lord Byron, Dorothy L Sayers and H G Wells.  The following all disliked cats; some of these ‘leaders’ were terrified of them:  Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Hitler, Eisenhower and Mussolini. 

The book ends with:

 Vernon Coleman’s Prayer for Cats

Thank you, God.

Thank you, God, for allowing me to share my life with an Upright who loves and cares for me.  Thank you, God, for giving me a life where I am protected from deliberate cruelty and hardship and thank you, God, for providing me with an Upright who will always ensure that I have enough food to eat and a warm, dry place to sleep.

But please, God, permit me to remind you of the many cats and kittens who are not as fortunate as I; the cats who face each day with fear in their hearts, and who must deal with cruelty and pain without love to sustain them. 

Please, God, remember, care for and love those cats and kittens who live in laboratory cages and who are imprisoned and tortured by Uprights.

Please, God, teach those Uprights the error and pointlessness of their ways.

Please, God, turn my thanks to you for your kindness to me, into love for those poor creatures who are not as fortunate as I am.

Thank you, God.

Written by Vernon Coleman, on behalf of cats everywhere.

© Vernon Coleman 2003

(We are grateful to Vernon Coleman for permission to quote from this wonderful book.  For details of how to get your copy, see the Resources section at the end of this newsletter.  ed.)

 You’ve never seen a smile until you’ve seen the smile of a real cat lover treated to an unexpected view of a passing cat.     Vernon Coleman

____________________________________________________

FAITHFULLY YOURS…!*

     I started the helpline in 1989 and, since then, have received letters from just over 2,000 bereaved pet owners.  I had no idea of the possible success of the venture but, fortunately, from the beginning have kept a careful account of all who wrote.

    Initially I thought I would mainly be writing to elderly people possibly living alone and there have been a number of these but I have also heard from children to whom the loss of a loved pet was their first encounter with death. Also, surprisingly, there have been a number of men who have written.  While they  may not consider it macho to show grief for a loved pet it is possible for them to share their feelings with someone they would never see face to face.

     Although many correspondents have lost loved cats and dogs, there have been others grieving over a variety of birds (including ducks), rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ponies, even pigs and rats. Any pet that can give and receive love leaves a terrible void when it dies.

     Over the years I have collected a number of poems and passages which I have been able to pass on to grieving pet lovers and I hope they have brought them comfort.

I enclose one particular poem, “The Promise” which you might like to include in your newsletter.  I found it years ago in “The Cat”, the Cats Protection League magazine, and have passed it on many times. I have tried, without success, to trace the author, a lady who had lost a loved cat – and I would love to be able to write to her and tell her how much comfort her words have brought to so many people. It is just possible that someone might see the poem in your newsletter and be able to help.

     I would love to receive a regular copy of your newsletter and would be delighted to respond to anyone who cares to write to me.  I always aim to reply to any letter within 2 weeks and will continue writing as long as people wish to do so.

Olwen A. Parker

(For details of Olwen’s ‘Faithfully Yours’ letter writing help service, see the Resources section).

DF Spooky on sofa0001

———————————————————————-

THE PROMISE

 

At half past four in the afternoon

When the sun rides high in the sky

A shaft of light breaks through the trees

On the spot where my love doth lie.

And I’ll be waiting by the door

‘Til its flickering beam moves on

Then take a trip down memory lane

And dream of the days that are gone.

 

For eighteen years you were my joy,

The apple of my eye.

The games we played, the times we shared

They’re with me ‘til I die.

And somewhere in that far beyond

Where all things are made plain,

I’ll join you on your beam of light

And we’ll do it all again.

***********************************

Dear Debby,

     Just a few lines to thank you for forwarding DF11 and to say how moving it was for me to see the picture of Timmy published… I thought it reproduced very well.

    I was also touched by the tribute to Zuki by his “Mum” – I think these entries just underline how identical are the feelings of all those having been bereaved by the loss of a pet.

     … I buried Timmy in my garden, with little headstone, which I visit every day, never spend one day without knowing he is here and close to me, but have found the most darling, beautiful and gentle dog (Flossie) whom I thought I would never find, but whom I already love dearly.

Ella Meah

  Some people feel the need to get another animal straight away, others take time before they can contemplate it – and some decide ‘never again’.  The question of if – or when – to have another will be explored in a future edition of DF.

SPIRIT-PATH

Death of a Pet

Spirit-path is a sensitive and interesting website set up by a young Christian spiritualist who is training to be a medium. There is a wide variety of topics including poetry, inspired writing, a healing list, and sections on the death of a child and the death of a pet respectively.  She dedicates the latter “In memory of Rufus, Simba and all our much-loved animal friends in spirit”. She contrasts the level of support given to people who have lost a human loved one with the seemingly little support for those who have lost a pet. There are several useful links, which include a selection of poetry and thoughts, and help for those who have lost a pet, including advice about explaining the death to a child.

 “Many do not realise that animals pass over in the same way as humans – they wait for us and they are reunited with us when it is our turn to ‘go home’ to spirit.”   http://www.spirit-path.net/petdeath.htm

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