Reflections: Looking Back and Moving Ahead

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Last week another year passed, and I turned 53. I recall being told antiques are things that are 50+ years old, so I guess I’m now an official antique!

I took a few moments on my birthday to reflect upon my life. Some memories weren’t the best: hurt from past relationships, including work-related associations, death of beloved friends and family … but other memories were wonderful: camping and fishing trips with my parents, walking the stage to receive my bachelor’s degree, visiting the ocean for the first time, listening to elk bugle on a September night in Yellowstone Park with geysers flaring toward a starry sky, sharing food and fodder with girlfriends, my wedding day with Greg… Then of course, there are the publications: articles in newspapers and magazines, stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul, and the books and booksignings as well as the school visits with Sage. Memories, good and not-so-good, can roll in like a tidal wave.

School Kids_Mary
Gayle and Mary at school.

My “special day” can be a bummer because Sage died the day before my birthday, two years ago. In fact, I remember feeling overwhelmingly sad last year, but this year, though I could have traveled down that same sad trail, I found myself in a classroom of kindergarteners with Mary, the springer spaniel Greg and I adopted last year. I talked with the kids about taking care of pets, about Mary and her story of losing her special person, and of Sage’s passing – then I read my book Sage Learns to Share. We talked about how special our pets are and how they help us. Even with Sage’s passing, she still impacts kids with lessons of friendship, courage, perseverance, and acceptance of differences … and I smile despite the fact I still miss her greatly. Having Mary helps, and I’m thankful she’s as good with kids as Sage was – the kids can learn from both dogs simultaneously, and I get to be part of that – what an amazing journey!

Friendship was evident in my human relationships as well last week, as many friends sent me wonderful greetings, and my colleagues at the office gave me roses and wrote encouraging words on a lovely card. True friendship is an amazing gift!

BDayRoses 2014My husband, too, gave me a beautiful card and made me a special dinner, and we watched my favorite TV show together with the dogs between us. My cup-of-life truly overflowed!

I called my parents and did something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: I thanked them for being such supportive, loving parents, for setting my feet on a good path, and for always being there to cheer me on and to catch me when I fall. The three of us were choked up as I hung up the phone. I give my husband credit for this part – he wrote his parents a wonderful, loving letter last fall to thank them for raising him (and his siblings) as they did. His words touched their hearts … and mine, and prompted me to do something similar. I thought a phone call on my birthday was appropriate – and I guess it was.

As we get older, we have more things to look back on – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. Hopefully, we won’t dwell so much on the bad and the ugly, but instead will cherish the good and the beautiful. We can’t change the past, and we don’t always have control of the future, but we do have the present – opportunity to relish the blessings we experience, and when we do reflect, we can focus on those beautiful, good things in our lives.

Grandma Mardy2
Grandma Mardy at 91 years old.

My maternal grandmother’s birthday was exactly a week after mine; April 1 will mark 115 years since her birth. Grandma Mardy, a stout German woman, died at age 91. Like Sage, she lived a persevering life, surviving the Depression, running a store and then a farm, and living nearly 24 years longer than her husband. She took her first plane ride when she was 80 and her third, and final one, at age 85. She possessed a strong faith and a fierce love for her only child (my mother) and her only grandchild (me). We shared many dinners at home and in our Iowa town, and when she came west to visit, I was able to share Yellowstone with her. Wonderful memories of a great lady … and great times together! She didn’t get to see me walk across that stage to receive my bachelor’s degree in communication, she never saw one of my newspaper articles or books, nor did she ever meet Sage or Mary, but she helped me with school expenses and encouraged my passion for pets – and because of my Grandma Mardy I finished my degree and eventually became an author of dog books and stories.

My latest birthday is now in my rear view mirror, but my freelance career is just beyond the windshield … and I have many people, and circumstances, to thank – the good and beautiful as well as the bad and the ugly … I wouldn’t be where I am today without them all.

Gayle and Mary at KnowledgeNook

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Sage Learns to Share, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, to articles in Creation Illustrated and Our Town Casper magazines as well as the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers. Her future plans include creating newsletter and brochure content for businesses, writing more magazine articles, and authoring additional books. Learn more at

SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small  Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Walking_FrontCover_small


14 thoughts on “Reflections: Looking Back and Moving Ahead

    1. Thank you, Nancy, for your kind words. My family was/is not perfect, but they are good people, and my Grandma was a very incredible woman. Like many of Doris’ western doctor ladies, I see great strength in both my grandmother and my mother, and I am thankful for their “testimony.” Hugs to you and all the best in your writing endeavors — you are a source of great encouragement to me and to many others!


  1. It is so wonderful when we can take the time and truly look back without blinders to see what a gift we have been given. All that happened makes what we are and who we take into the future. A beautiful and moving post. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us, and may it continue to be a blessing to everyone that gits the chance to be a part of it. Doris


      1. I “got” that, Doris! HA!! Thank you for your lovely comments and encouragement. Even through the various struggles, I’ve been blessed, and when I find myself on the rabbit trail of life, weaving webs of discouragement and disappointment, I will re-read my own words above and remember to be thankful for the good and beautiful things and set aside the ugly and bad, knowing the trail has led me to here and now and will continue into the future. Can’t wait to get together again sometime this year!


  2. Lovely post, Gayle. Belated happy birthday. What a wonderful way to honor your parents. Thanks for sharing your story of some of the people and pets that have touched you and whom you have touched in turn.


  3. This is such an inspirational post Gayle. When we take time to appreciate how much we are blessed everything else is unimportant. I’ve had plenty to deal with in my past and would often think how I could have avoided some of it. I realized the more I thought about it the more I got depressed. So I created a mental picture of a huge wooden door locked with chains and locks. Every time I think about one of those events I picture that door, kick the memory inside and lock it up good! Sounds silly I guess, but it works for me. Each day is a new day and we are very fortunate. Your mother and grandmother sound like such inspired women that you couldn’t help but have that rub off on you. I am in awe of your sweet spirt, taking your dogs to share love with children, and striving for things you really want in your life. You deserve all the best life has to offer.


    1. Linda, you are SO VERY KIND! I am humbled by your words. I admire you so much for your persevering spirit and your amazing outlook on life as well as the wonderful writings you produce. I do hope to meet you one of these years when I again visit Wisconsin! Blessings to you!


  4. The age of 53 – ah yes, a time for reflection and muddling through the good and the bad of our lives and trying to make sense of it all. I remember feeling the best in my fifties. I didn’t yet feel old, but knew I wasn’t young, either. From my pov, you’re still a kid. Great place to be in your life. Great post, Gayle.


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