On Birthdays, Grief Days, and Animal Therapy

I’m sitting on a plane, just now departing Birmingham and heading to Tampa for a busy few days of professional responsibilities- a presentation, a recruiting event, and a Board meeting for my international clarinet organization. I grew up in Tampa and spent the beginning of my career there, and I’m excited to see my sister and brother-in-law, some dear old friends, former students, and hopefully some other people special to me. It’s always a walk down memory lane coming to this conference that I’ve attended since I was a junior high All-State clarinetist. Also a reminder- along with my fifty-sixth birthday this past Monday- that time is passing so quickly. So many memories and so much history in the city of Tampa for me.Birthday celebration!

I wasn’t ready for classes to start on Monday nor for this trip to happen so close on the heels of losing our Sophie. I have what I call ‘grief head,’ feeling the symptoms of depression trying to encroach on my typically sunny outlook. I feel like I’m walking in cement shoes and I’m emotional and forgetful, unfocused. Not a good combo with so many important responsibilities on me right now.

I’m not sleeping well, waking up throughout the night feeling the weight of Sophie collapsing on my shoulder as she did early New Year’s Eve. I know that the imprint of that awful morning will fade, but right now the sad memories are too real and raw, the tears always close to the surface. My heart also breaks knowing that Sophie’s last clear-minded action was to stumble to my arms. My girl. As always, losses like this bring up all the other painful memories of other losses.It really can be overwhelming.

Even though I love the idea of travel, I have issues with leaving home for trips on a good day when I’m leaving Dan and the animals, and with the added highly emotional atmosphere of grief, it caused my anxiety to ramp up sky high as this trip approached. I obsessively packed and unpacked, my patient and understanding Dan giving me space and letting me do what I needed to do to prepare myself for all of the different roles I have to play over the next few days.

Music room buds…

The animals sensed it as they always do, Marley and Shiva following me closely and settling in whatever room I was working in at the time. Animals are such true angels, lending their calming presence when they sense aching hearts- they are the best therapists in the world. I so wish I could have brought Marley with me on this trip.

Today was crazy as I did my best to finish up preparations for my trip, help students with advising issues as they settle into the new semester, teach lessons, and practice, all while feeling anxious and a bit frantic. My last duty at school was to play through the challenging solo piece that I’m performing twice with our Wind Symphony next week right before Dan picked me up at school to head to the airport; ‘Black Dog’ by Scott McAllister, and I will play my heart out and dedicate my performances to my sweet back dog, Sophie.

I began this flight to Tampa with tears streaming down my face overwhelmed with sadness and worry. Just a bit ago, the Captain came on to tell us they were doing a toast to the Southwest founder, Herb Kelleher, who had recently passed away, inviting us to join in. They gave us a small glass of his favorite Wild Turkey and ginger ale, had us turn on our call buttons to light the cabin, and we all toasted Herb. I hope he felt the gesture and heard the applause for him that followed.

It all reminded me that it’s okay to be sad right now, to honor my grief and feel what I need to feel, to be grateful that I am still here to feel. I will do the best I can with everything I have ahead of me and vow to remember to be grateful for life- my own and all of those many people and animals I know and love. Life goes on, it begins, it ends, bringing amazing lessons of love at every turn.


6 thoughts on “On Birthdays, Grief Days, and Animal Therapy

  1. It is sad to loss a faithful friend such as Sophie. Black dog reminds me of a term for depression. It is okay to value your feelings, let it out otherwise we get the real black dog. I kept the image of the sheet music and see if there is one for brass instrument.

  2. Sophie was loved and loved in return. There is nothing to regret. I believe that love transcends space and time and even bridges the divide of death. She will know and feel the love when you play that rhapsody for her. Hugs. I hope your trip is productive and successful!

    1. I really appreciate your kind words, and I believe everything you said. I have no regrets about Sophie- I only miss her sweet and gentle presence. Such s great dog, so much love. I do hope she can feel the love coming from me when I play for her. She sat at my feet as I learned the piece.
      Thank you again. ❤️

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