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It’s been more than 6 months since Lincoln died. Many, in fact most of you don’t even know his story. Most of you don’t know me. I’ve been away since then; unable to participate. I’m writing now for selfish reasons; to confess, I suppose. To admit my hubris and apologize for not having the courage to stick around. I always did say I wanted to be more like Lincoln. I’m still trying.

I’ve kept a log, as silly or sick as that is. Always knowing how many days have passed since his luminescent spirit flew away from us, swirling and twisting into the ether. Since that day I’ve felt that I cracked in half, and that part of me went with him so neither of us would be alone.

I feel like I have to justify my feelings, although on this site it’s probably not necessary. I have lost other dogs. Many. Including my very first golden who lived to the ripe old age of fifteen. He was a wonder dog, and saying goodbye to him after having him my entire adult life was beyond difficult. He was my link to the past; things now gone, and I felt lost. Lost but not cheated. I now know the difference. I said goodbye to Cuervo knowing he had lived a great and long life. I said goodbye to Lincoln feeling adrift and desperate and treacherous.

After everything he went through at my hand, my judgement, I couldn’t bear that that was how it was going to end. Everything I did to him I did with the truest belief that he would survive. Death was supposed to be afraid of him.

I wish I could say I’ve gained perspective about those choices, but I’ll take a rain check on that. Maybe someday. Today, I’m still missing him, with guilt as the chaser.

After living more than 6 months without Lincoln, I can now admit that I truly didn’t believe he would die of cancer. I thought he was my miracle dog. I believed in something for the first time since my brother was killed over 20 years ago. I want to believe, and perhaps with time I will, that Lincoln paved the way for me to lead a truer life. I want to believe that some of his strength and courage seeped into my marrow and I’ll be a better person. I want to believe that he chipped away at the barrier around my heart and started me down the path of a life without armor.

I want to believe those things, but I’m not quite there. Maybe someday. Maybe even soon. Just not quite yet. Believe it or not, that’s promising. The fact that I can embrace “someday” is only because of Lincoln.

To recapture that feeling, I read Lincoln’s blog, post after post. It’s an attempt to remind myself what it was like to live that way. Each time it brings me to tears, but not so quickly that the sting can overpower the strength and sweetness of my memory. My ghosts walk among me, welcome and warm.

I thought that I was learning from all of the people who went before me. I believed I empathized with their losses. I felt as if I understood. Empathy and understanding are the ugly bookends of arrogance, however, and once it happened to me, I became a member of a club I hadn’t intended to join. I was woefully unprepared despite my pretentious, yet sincere claims that I was learning from those before me. I spouted poetic, but my treacherous heart was in complete control. It convinced my methodical and logical head that it was in charge. My heart whispered, often and convincingly, that Lincoln would be the miracle, and I trusted it. So I offered sympathy that was genuine and heartfelt, but hope had taken over inside of me, and I never truly believed I would be on the receiving end of the same sentiments.

Was that foolish? Probably. But it was nice to live that way, even though it was temporary. I have Lincoln to thank for that reprieve. I have a feeling he knows the importance of that gift. I have a feeling we were brought together because the universe knew I needed it.

Foolish? Probably. But it’s what I choose to embrace.

I tend not to believe in much, but I believe in Lincoln. It may not seem like I’m being positive, but I really am. The fact is this – because of Lincoln, I can say, however briefly, the roots of hope began to grow inside of me. Because of Lincoln, just for a while, I lived life differently. He forced me into it, kicking and screaming, but who could ever resist a golden retriever with such strength and exuberance and courage? Certainly not me.

For now, I still miss him. For now, I still cry when I think about him. For now.  He did his job; it’s up to me to do mine.

But that seed is planted. Maybe someday it will grow.

That is his truest gift to me…the prospect of hope.

“Hope is a waking dream.” – Aristotle

Lincoln

  1. Leslie’s avatar

    I think your Lincoln and his amazing story are known, and remembered often, by more people than you can imagine. Lincoln was one incredible dog. And you, one incredible love in his life. I hope your guilt fades. All the wonder of Lincoln’s life was because of you. We all know that. And more importantly, he knows that too.

    Leslie

  2. Kathy L’s avatar

    I read your post last night and came back now to read it again. Lincoln was the first blog I read and read over and over again. It was inspirational to me and reading Lincoln’s story and all you did gave me courage and hope. I might be wrong, but I think some of what you feel is the way we often feel when an aged parent dies — you know they could go any day, yet you think they will live forever. Lincoln overcame so much why would you ever think about him not being there — I think he did teach you to be more like him. Your writings captured him so well that I felt I knew him, and I will never forget him.

  3. jerry’s avatar

    Rhonda, I read this and the tears won’t stop falling.

    Please know, you are not arrogant, or foolish, or whatever you think you are for the continuous feeling of grief in your heart….you are HUMAN. That’s OK. And you are correct; we ALL understand that deep sense of loss here. Please don’t ever feel guilty about not visiting Tripawds, OK? We all know what it’s like to need emotional space.

    I know you will reach a point where you won’t cry when you think of him. It will happen in time, those gifts will sparkle once again and you will unwrap each one with laughter and a smile. Lincoln came into your life, and ours, and touched so many people out there in the world, to show us that disease and physical challenges don’t have to bring us down. He showed us to Never Give Up. And we will never, ever forget that.

    We think of you and Lincoln often, and send lots of hugs your way. He will always be a hero to Tripawds everywhere.

  4. jack crowder’s avatar

    Cindi and I are still in awe of both you and Lincoln, and will be for a long, long time.

    We are Christians. We believe that God has put “the” dog in our lives to teach us what we needed to learn.

    I can go back 30 years to my Old English, Willie, and see how perfectly His lessons were shared.

    Willie taught me patience.

    Lucy taught me to not stay set in my ways.

    Buster taught me if you love something, do it! He loved to roll in horse manure!

    Apollo taught me how to let go.

    Mindy taught me that sometimes you have to leave your family and the only home you ever knew because you are the only one that could teach me what I needed to learn.

    Penny, our Border Collie, has taught me how to give. She is the dog that started our Pet Assisted Therapy work. She’s also teaching me to be gracious when passing on knowledge to a young upstart, and, how to not be so concerned with growing old.

    Shelby is teaching me so much. She’s teaching me to come out of “my” shell and be concerned with what others are facing. She teaching me, daily, that when you get knocked down, get up, smile and continue what you’re doing. She has taught me to take what the Lord gives and do the very best you can.

    Willie and Buster left in 1990. I still tear up when I see a Old English. Lucy left us in 1999. Apollo left us in 2002. Mindy left us in 2004.

    Penny and Shelby are still here. They still have lessons to teach me. When they are finished, they will move on to the bridge and before too long they will be chosen to share what they have to give with another fortunate human.

    I thank God every day for putting those dogs in my life. People couldn’t teach me what I needed to learn, only a dog could could do that.

    I miss them so much, how could you not miss a dog that has shared their lives with you and touched your very soul?

    the chauffeur.

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