The house seems so empty. I still yell out “Hershey, we’re home!” when I come in from the garage. I still do a double-take when I walk through the kitchen and see her empty dish, thinking I’d let Hershey run out of water. My morning routine of yoga on the living room floor still has me watching down the hall for her to come out and sit by me. The last piece of toast always belonged to Hershey – I still look for her at my feet before reluctantly putting it in my mouth.
After Hershey was cremated I knew I would spread her ashes in places that meant something to us – under the Bucky Tree in our yard, at Lake Minnetonka along the shore where she ran, and on the path around Staring Lake where we walked together almost everyday when I started losing weight. At first I wasn’t ready to let go of her ashes – they remained on the mantel in the box and velvet bag, by the photo-book I had made at Shutterfly of her life with us, and a snip of her fur that I cut off just before the vet arrived. A shrine of sorts, I suppose. A place I could still feel the connection while trying to let her go. The weeks after Hershey left us were an emotional roller coaster for all of us as we found our own ways to grieve.
I was sitting at the small table on the front porch. Spring had turned to summer and I noticed that even the brown spot in the yard where Hershey did her business was starting to fill in with new green grass. My mind drifted back to “Rainbows and Butterflies” as I thought about how in the midst of my deepest sadness something surprising cuts through the gloom to let me know everything will be ok. I thought of Hershey and wondered what might happen. Nothing came to me.
Years ago I put a Hummingbird feeder in our yard. It became a family joke because as hard as I tried the Hummingbirds never came. Even the red plastic had faded with the passage of time. One year I didn’t even put it out. I had pretty much given up. This year we cleaned up the garden in front of our house, spread mulch, added new plants, and hung flower baskets. The bird bath is in place and I decided to try the Hummingbird feeder again. I cleaned it, filled it with properly mixed nectar, and hung it on the Shepherd’s Hook in a sunny spot in the garden. Then I watched. Nothing.
In the first days after Hershey was gone I’d sit on the front porch. At one point I remember saying “Hershey, bring me a Hummingbird. If I see a Hummingbird I’ll know you’re ok.” And then I told Veloice and the kids what I had asked Hershey to do.
For a couple of weeks I watched expectantly, cleaned and refilled the feeder regularly, but no feathered friends paid a visit to my obviously jinxed feeder. I knew it was a long shot – and Hershey never did listen to me, or let me know that she even cared. She usually turned her back to me whenever I talked to her. But I thought if a dog crossed the Rainbow Bridge, maybe they could put some serendipity into play for those who were left behind.
After spreading Hershey’s ashes under the Bucky Tree, and at Lake Minnetonka with Kayla last week, I had a small amount left to spread during my daily walk at Staring Lake today. I parked the car and walked the short distance to the pier where I sat on the bench and thanked Hershey while I sprinkled some of her ashes into the water. I walked the 2-1/4 miles around Staring in silence and sprinkled the remaining ashes at different places along the path where I remembered being with her. Then I drove home.
The box on the mantel is now empty and I guess I felt like today I let her go. I walked into the kitchen to get my keys and looked out the kitchen window – a Hummingbird was flitting around the feeder. And I’ve been watching it all afternoon while I write this.
There is nothing miraculous about a Hummingbird finding a feeder, but today? After years of hanging the feeder, trying and giving up, only to try again, unsuccessfully? Really? After I told Veloice that Hershey would send me a Hummingbird? It shows up an hour after I get home from spreading the last of her ashes at Staring Lake? Seriously? I asked Hershey to bring me a Hummingbird so I’d know she was ok. It happened. You can call it a coincidence, but I know better.
For weeks my tears fell at the very thought of Hershey being gone. I clung to her ashes. Today I let her go and my heart is full of joy. I know Hershey is free and I know she will always be close to my heart. Upon seeing the Hummingbird today, I felt reassured that one day I will cross that Rainbow Bridge and see Hershey racing toward me, yelping with glee.