How Do you Say Good Bye to Your Forever Person? by Eric Bowling

https://www.healthcare4ppl.com/physician/oregon/albany/eric-d-bowling-1902196082.html

Meet my dear friend and colleague, Eric D Bowling. His deeply passionate, loving, and elequent piece made me tear up. His expression of love and wisdom will tug your heart and soul….

Steve Sparks

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How do we say; “Goodbye.”

Our ‘forever people’ are, by definition, the ones we’re meant to never say goodbye to.
They’re our ride-or-dies. Our partners in crime. Our come-hell-or-high water. Our lobsters.

They’re the people who feel like home, in a way that even we do not always understand. They take care of us at our worst. They applaud us at our best. They’re the people we picture by our sides in ten, twenty, fifty years, through every challenge and obstacle.

They’re our forever people. The whole point is that they’re not supposed to go anywhere.

But here’s the thing about life: It works in funny and sometimes unfortunate ways.

The people who could have been there forever are sometimes the very ones we have to let go – often for reasons that are entirely outside of our control.

And so what do we do, when we find ourselves confronted with this uncomfortable reality?

How do you say goodbye to the person you thought you’d have at your side for the rest of your life?

How do you let forever go?

Maybe this is how:

You start by not downplaying their significance.

You start by accepting that they mattered, in a way nobody before them ever did, and it’s possible that nobody after them ever will.

You start by accepting that you met your forever person when the timing was wrong or the stars weren’t aligned or in a Universe where the two of you just couldn’t make it to the finish line. You start by letting it sink in that maybe they were ‘The One,’ whether that’s a term that you believe in or not.

Because in some capacity, they were. They were the one person your heart felt capable of loving forever. And that means something.
It’s always going to.

But love isn’t always enough to keep two people together. So when you have to say goodbye to your forever person, be thankful.
Be thankful that you met them. Be thankful that you got the chance to know them. Be thankful that you got to feel the way you felt about them in your lifetime. Because some people never do.

Some people go their whole lives never knowing what it feels like to be with their forever person.

They may fall in love several times. They may even get married. They may live out their ‘forever’ alongside someone whom they figure is the best reasonable fit for them. But they may never have the true connection, the true devotion, the true intimacy that comes from meeting that one person, who you just know is the one you’re supposed to stay with.

Some people never meet their forever people at all. But you met yours.

And if that’s not something to be grateful for, I don’t know what is.

And so when you have to let go of your forever person, do so calmly. Do so with gratitude. Do so with the understanding that we don’t get to keep all the gifts that we are given in life. Some things we’re just lent. And sometimes we have to let that be enough.

Because if you can be a big enough person to appreciate what you have while you have it, and to let it go with gratitude when it’s time to do so, you gain the respect of the one person who you’re never going to have to let go of: yourself.

Because the truth is, you only ever get one guaranteed forever person in life: And that person is you.

You’re the one who’s going to be there through every twist and turn, every bump in the road, every beautiful beginning and painful ending. And when you’re facing the latter, it’s your forever person who’s going to get you through it. It’s you who’s going to figure out how to keep yourself moving forward when everything seems to be crumbling apart.

And so when you have to let the person you wanted to spend forever with go, don’t let the person you are going to spend forever with fall to pieces. Care for that person. Nourish that person. Be there for that person.

And above all else, be proud of that person.
Be proud that you didn’t hold back on the thing that matters most. Be proud that you gave it all you had, when you could have only gone in halfway. Be proud that you risked something as huge and important as your heart, even if it didn’t end up lasting forever.

Be proud that you now know yourself to be someone who is capable of loving someone else forever.

Because you, of all people, know how incredibly and intoxicatingly rare people like that happen to be.

Sadie of Winterwood…the Gentle Soul Part 3, “Dogs Surely Go to Heaven”

Sadie, 1985 Laguna Niguel, Ca
Sadie and 10 babies! 1985 Laguna Niguel, Ca

Sadie 1985

“Sadie, The Gentle Soul” came into our lives shortly after Judy and I were married in April 1984. I knew Judy wanted to start our new family with her favorite furry friend, a lab. I loved labs too.

We lived near Black Diamond, WA, southeast of Seattle. It was country living back in the early 80s. Our first home together was built in a new residential community called Winterwood, Sadie’s name sake. Judy told me she wanted to live there forever. My career said differently, but I didn’t say anything in that beautiful moment of joy and happiness.

We found Sadie’s mom at Covington Kennels near our home. We studied the lineage and signed up for our first new arrival. We didn’t have a preference for gender or color. But we thought of breeding labs.

In the photo above, you can feel how happy Sadie was after we moved to Laguna Niguel, Ca in 1985. She was a young mom and needed lots of strength for 10 babies! More on that later.

The loving feelings of excitement felt much like a new child coming into our lives in that joyous moment when we were first married in 1984. Judy and I couldn’t wait. We kept in daily contact with the kennel with anticipation.

Sadie of Winterwood Spring 1984

I went to the kennel by myself to pick up the little pup. Sadie looked up at me with her loving eyes. She came to me instantly and I held her closely. It was love at first site for both of us. I kept thinking how much fun it would be to get Sadie home to Judy.

With hearts full of joy Sadie and I went on our first car ride home. There would be 100s of happy drives together in the future.

Imagine a whimpering puppy sitting next to me in the front seat. I had to hold her in my lap to keep her calm on the way home. I drove slowly and carefully on the road home, watching Sadie staring at me with a whimper or two, but safe in my lap as we drove home.

Sadie loved to be in the car with us every chance she could. She sat up front in the middle seat right next to us with that great big happy smile on her face and a dripping tongue.

Imagine again, little Sadie, a bundle of love, still unsure what was happening, but excited about the future with her new family. Thoughts of her brothers and sisters and mom still on her mind but soon a distant memory when in the arms of her new parents. We drove home to our new lives as a young family. Sadie didn’t know what was next. She trusted me to keep her safe no matter where we were headed in life.

A gentle soul she was…

Sadie showed us very early her gentle soul. She was a good dog right away, a very good girl. We couldn’t believe how fast she adapted to her new family and home. She was potty trained early, and we were grateful. So quickly, we thought, she would start to go to the front or back door looking back at us, saying, “time to go out.” She never ran away and mis behaved. After doing her business she came running back to our arms, close to all the love and attention.

It made me wonderfully happy to see Judy and Sadie so joyful and loving together. It was a dream come true to have our first furry loved one join our new family.

Sadie grew up fast. She proved her gentle soul and friendly nature to all who came for a visit or met on a walk. Sadie never barked at other dogs or charged them unless she was threatened or if she sensed we were anxious. Then it was a loud bark and a demonstration of her protective nature. Her teeth looked really scary in those rare moments while advising firmly the other more aggressive furry friends to lay off mom and pop and her.

Labs are lovers…

We picked a lab for this very reason. Labs remain our very favorite as we have had 2 labs in our lives together. I have now written about all 3 of our prescious furry loved ones in “Dogs Surely Go to Heaven, Parts 1-3.

Mocha was our second lab, then Skai, our granddog Bluenose pitbull, who crossed the Rainbow Bridge in early 2020. I believe this with all my heart, and so does Judy and so many other human souls on the planet. It’s always love that brings all living things closer.

We moved often during my high tech career in sales. Judy and I have always gone for adventure and romance, while Sadie joined us with her usual enthusiasm. We put her in a safe carry on with her toys and snack, and she flew with us to new homes and adventures across the land.

But before we moved away from Laguna Niguel, Sadie had other plans. She became a mom with 10 babies. We were thrilled once again as we watched the babies grow inside Sadie. We watched her excitement and maturity as the new little ones started to push and tug to come into the world.

Buck, Sadie’s little boy leaves us too early…

It was a tough pregnancy for Sadie and for us. Giving birth to 10 babies was not easy. Judy and I had to work together to help Sadie bring the new babies into the world. It was a miracle. It was also a little scary for me at first to help Sadie push the babies out gently. I even put my hand gently in her womb to pull them out one by one. You can see in the photo above both happiness and exhaustion after the 10 little ones came into the world.

Sadly, two of the pups didn’t make it… We grieved along with Sadie, helping her take care of the little pups with lots of love and caring as a family. We were a team!

The pups were sold quickly. We wanted to keep one of the yellow males to give Sadie a son to help grow up to be a gentle soul just like his mom. We named him Buck.

When Buck was old enough, we started going on longer walks as a family. In 1985 Laguna Niguel still had open fields of grass and walking trails to roam with our furry friends. We let Sadie and Buck run a bit together and play. Sadie taught Buck not to run away and mis- behave. Buck learned early to be a gentle soul by having a loving and attentive mom, a mom who kept him close to her family. Buck was a good dog, a very good dog.

Then, in a few short weeks after we started our long walks with Buck, he suddenly became ill. Sadie kept whimpering and walking back and forth while Buck would lay with his head down with sad eyes looking up at us. Buck wanted to go for a long walk and didn’t feel like it.

Buck got worse in a very short time. Judy, and I became really worried. What could it be?

Once we arrived at the vet’s office with Buck, Sadie was really upset. We took Buck into the clinic while Sadie anxiously stayed behind in the car, letting out a quiet whimper of worry herself. Sadie knew something was wrong with her son and didn’t know what to do.

It was a shocking and sad moment when the vet told us the horrible news After an xray, we were told that Buck had a Fox Tail from the fields around us lodged in his lung. For dog owners, a warning…click here! I looked at the xray with great sadness and empathy for Buck. It didn’t look good. An infection had already taken hold fast. The pain and suffering of any living thing breathing Fox Tail into the lungs makes chills run up and down my spine. Buck was suffering terribly. Judy and I were crushed and knew Sadie would be lost without Buck.

With surgery being risky and recovery so uncertain we had to let Buck go… Judy and I stood there and cried our hearts out while the vet comforted us with kindness and understanding.

We didn’t come back to the car with Buck. Sadie started crying and wimpering louder and longer than we’ve ever experienced with her before. Dogs have a soul just like humans. I could feel the tears from her eyes. I could feel Sadie’s soul. We couldn’t hide the sadness from our eyes and voices. Sadie knew she wouldn’t see her son Buck again.

Moving on with tears of love and hope…

As we all grieved and got back to our lives without little Buck, my next career move was imminent. With Judy’s blessing and Sadie’s gentle approval, I accepted a transfer and promotion with Nortel Networks to the Bay Area in 1986 to take on a new career challenge.

As much as we would have loved living in Winterwood forever, I was too young to retire to a more peaceful life in the country southeast of Seattle, Wa. We were sad but excited to leave our home. But it was our goal to move back to Washington eventually and no doubt return on vacations to this beautiful state where our life began with so much love and hope for the future. Sadie, the Gentle Soul, had no problem watching us pack and get ready, running around with that big happy smile excited about a new adventure.

We purchased a home in Martinez, CA near Concord and Walnut Creek east of San Francisco. What we liked the most was being next to Briones Park. Sadie went wild when we took her into the park the first time, exploring rolling hills, trees and trails to disappear from the hectic days at the office and travel. Judy was looking at new opportunities for her telecom career as well. But what happened next was a miracle, a gift from heaven we didn’t expect.

Sadie’s little sister Sarah arrives…

Sarah was born on November 1, 1987. Many months earlier Judy and I decided to adopt a child. We tried like many parents to have children but it was not possible. We signed up with an open adoption law firm in San Francisco. One day out of the blue we received a phone call with the wonderful news. Sadie didn’t know what was happening. She always felt what we felt, mostly happy but sad sometimes. This time we were dancing and crying with happiness and Sadie joined in running around our home and out the door for a walk in Briones Park.

Briones Park, Sadie’s back yard to run with mom & dad…
Little Sarah, 5 months old, Sadie’s new sister….and always a close pal.

Sarah & Mom, Maui Jan 1988

Atlanta here we come…

My career took off like a rocket during this special time in our new life as a family. We loved living in the Bay Area. Sadie loved it too. Sadie would have to say good bye to Briones Park and ready for another new adventure. She recognized the packing right away from our earliers moves. And once again danced around with that big smile and excitement. “What would be next?” she thought with some sadness but with the same adventurous spirit as mom, dad, and Sarah.

So, once again Sadie was gently and lovingly put into her safe kennel for our long flight to Atlanta, Ga. It was the winter of 1989. Sadie’s favorite blankie, toys and treats made her feel right at home. Sadie never complained but looked up at us with those sad eyes. Her big happy smile was on hold for now while we journied to a far off place. Sadie wondered what was next and felt the force of the plane as it took off. I imagine that she slept comfortably in the lower cabin with the other furry friends close by. She knew it would be okay with her family who loved her dearly.

We purchased what was a huge home by our standards in Duluth, Ga. It was too much home for the four of us. But the big back yard with all the trees was a dream for Sadie. All of us kind of stayed cozy in 1200 sf of our new 5000 sf home. Sarah and Sadie wanted to stay in our bedroom at night with us as well. What would we do with 5 bedrooms? Why did we buy such a big home? Sadie felt lost too, except when she was with us or outside.

I know Sadie missed Briones Park. We took her with us to explore Georgia’s beauty. Sadie loved the small creeks in the mountains especially. Water is a big deal for labs. It was fun to swim with her in shallow pools of water and run in the woods. Sadie liked to run with us too. We were into distance running back then. Atlanta’s heat was a bummer though.

Atlanta was not our cup of tea…

After my first 6 months at Nortel’s corporate offices in Alpharetta, Ga., I hated being my own person in the the regional offices. I missed being closer to my customers and the sales people I felt at home with. Working with staffers and politics just didn’t work for me.

Judy was disappointed but always supportive. She knew I worked hard to reach my career goals. Sadie looked up at us often with those rare droopy sad eyes, as if to say, “I miss Briones Park!” Judy and I certainly missed the cooler weather living on the west coast. Sarah smiled as always with her enthusiasm for adventure. She was 2 years old then. We couldn’t stand it! It was time to move again. But this time, no transfer, no promotion. It was time to leave Dodge for good!

Sparks Family home, Icicle Valley, summer 1990. Sarah, 3 years old, on the deck with pony tails clapping

Icicle Valley Beckons

I left Nortel in early 1990. Walked away at age 45 after 25 years of a chaotic but highly rewarding career. I was truly burned out but very grateful for the opportunities along the way.

The good news is we had planned a place in heaven for just this occasion. A few years earlier we purchased 1.5 acres of property in Icicle Valley near Leavenworth, Wa. Leavenworth is approximately 120 miles east of Seattle over Steven’s Pass. It was God’s plan for our future. We built a log home in the middle of Icicle Valley surrounded by 8000 ft snow peaks, Icicle Creek, Wenatchee River and all the wonders of living in the Cascades of Washington State. Icicle Valley is a spiritual place, a confluence of nature, life, and love, a vortex like no other. Even Sedona doesn’t match the Icicle Valley vortex…

And for Sadie?

Well, you can see the big happy smile back again! Sadie is a good girl, a very good girl…

Sadie of Winterwood with that great big happy smile…

Our family loved each other and grew together during those first 6 years in the beautiful and stunning land. I think all of us found our souls in Icicle Valley. I know Sadie did. Because she told me so…

The Rainbow Bridge

On a hot summer day at home. We had just gotten back from floating on the Icicle. Sadie always came with us. She was starting to move a little slower these days turning 14 soon, a long life for a happy lab. We were grateful.

Sadie would go on her usual stroll through the fields around us. She loved her alone time. I know Sadie loved her life in Icicle Valley. I also know she liked to have some alone time a couple of times a day. Sadie always came home about an hour later. She didn’t make a fuss. We would suddenly see her standing there waiting for the door to open. We loved watching her great big happy smile.

But this time, Sadie did not return. I didn’t say anything at first. I could sense something was terribly wrong. I thought of her great big happy smile. I wanted to see Sadie’s happy face again.

I found my girl, Sadie on our side of the barbed wire fence. She was bleeding and in great pain. Sadie was crying and whimpering. I cried like a baby too… I tried to comfort her and stop the blood. It was too late.

So, with all my strength, I picked Sadie up. She was dead weight. I think Sadie weighed about 70 lbs back then. We both were crying while struggling to make the short trip back home under the tree in the front yard. It was much cooler there.

I called out for Judy and Sarah. They came at once, faces with tears and sadness as they saw me standing over Sadie. Blood covered my hands and body. Sadie was still bleeding and weak by now. She was whimpering with pain and looking up at me for help. I could only comfort her and show my unconditional love. That’s what Sadie would do if I were ever hurt and couldn’t get up.

Our family vet came to our home immediately. As we all talked, I knew Sadie wasn’t going to make it. Without hesitating, I picked up my shovel, walked out back near the big lone pine. This huge old tree had 3 stumps. It used to be a shade tree for cattle and horses. This was Sadie’s pee tree! And my favorite tree as well… Sadie and I did everything together.

I started digging Sadie’s grave site in the backyard she so loved. I became overwhelmed with sadness like no other time since we were married in 1984. Sadie helped comfort us through the recent big fires in our valley. We sat under the shady tree and talked about lots of stuff. Sadie was a good listener and very attentive.

As I continued to dig, I looked back at Judy and Sarah. Both where hugging and comforted by our friend who was a long time family vet. It was time to help Sadie cross the Rainbow Bridge. I walked back to where Sadie lay under the shady tree she loved. I kneeled down with Judy and Sarah. We petted and held Sadie close to us until she went to sleep.

I had help from our friend Kathy, the best veterinarian in the valley. Kathy had lots of experience in helping neighbors over the years with these most sad and grieving moments for furry loved ones.

This spot under the big old pine tree was one of Sadie’s favorite places to hang out during the hot days of summer. None of us were in a hurry. We wrapped Sadie with her snacks and toys. Then gently and lovingly put her in her last kennel for the ride over the Rainbow Bridge.

Sadie was a good dog, a very good dog. We will always miss her gentle soul and great big happy smile… Our family treasures these happy memories of love and kindness forever in Icicle Valley…

Sarah, Judy, and Steve Sparks, Children and Family Advocates…

Author’s note:

This piece will be included in my next memoir, a work in progress. Check out this excerpt, “Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley” click now…