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.
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!
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.
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 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 www.gaylemirwin.com.