Walking our Faith: Being present in goodbyes | SummitDaily.com

Walking our Faith: Being present in goodbyes

Russell the 130-pound Newfoundland dog.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

The sun crested the mountain at 5 a.m., but at 7 a.m., I was still in bed, enjoying the view of the blue sky against the green mountaintop. Until Russell bounded into the room, jumped onto my bed with the enthusiasm of a kid who wants to wake up his mum and tell her it’s time to start the day.

Except Russell is a 130-pound Newfoundland dog. When he landed on me, I gasped, quickly shifted sideways, and allowed him to lay next to me. He put his head on my chest and looked into my eyes and waited for me to rub that spot behind his ears.

I’m going to miss Russell. I have been fostering him for the rescue organization Big Dogs Huge Paws for over a month, and he has become the sweetest, most reliable companion. Like most Newfies, he wants to be exactly where you are at all times. If I’m sitting on the couch, he’s right next to me with his head in my lap, making sure I have at least one hand free to pet him as I read.

If I move to the kitchen, Russell follows me and lays at my feet as I cook. Vacuuming the house would be quite a challenge except Russell doesn’t like the sound of the vacuum. So while he’s always nearby, he gingerly steps out of the way of the oncoming vacuum. It only gets comical when the two of us try to fit into my small bathroom at the same time. Russell insists on waiting dutifully just outside the bathtub as I shower, which I suppose is better than him trying to join me.

But this weekend, Russell’s forever dad is flying in from Portland, Oregon, renting a car in Denver, and driving up to Breckenridge to pick up Russell and drive him to his new home in the Pacific Northwest. Without a doubt, my happiness for Russell’s good fortune will be mixed with missing him because he is such a good dog.

I’ve fostered Newfoundland dogs for seven years, and saying goodbye is always bittersweet. But in order to allow another family to find the love I’ve found with each wonderful dog that has come into my home, I first have to let the dog go.

When I say goodbye to a foster dog, it’s because he’s going on an exciting new adventure. Likewise, we often have to say goodbye to friends and family to allow them to move on to the next stage of their lives. Goodbyes are never easy, but they contain an important lesson in how we can create richer lives for ourselves and those we love.

My mother and I lived together for 25 years after my father passed away. And then one day, Mom walked into the kitchen of our Evergreen home and said she wanted to move back to the condo she’d shared with my father in Florida. As she described it, she’d lived with her mother, then with her husband and then with me. In all those years, she’d never fulfilled the one dream she had of living independently. She reasoned that at age 88, this was her last chance. Now, four years later, she’s thriving in her independence and has created a community of friends around her who help her to maintain her independence.

Ironically, it was more difficult for me to say goodbye to Mom than it was for her to leave. At least, that’s what I think. Mom might argue otherwise. We’ve discussed the matter several times over the years and agree that her move was a blessing for both of us.

Our lives are much different now. We speak on the phone every day, but to be honest, it’s not the same as living together. We have learned to balance missing each other with the gifts we have received from taking our lives in separate directions. She gained her dream of independence, and I learned it was time for me to pull up my big girl pants and move to the mountain community I’d always dreamed of, instead of staring at the distant mountains from our home in the foothills.

Now, I fly to Florida to visit Mom every quarter. I’m getting ready to see her in two weeks. And what I’ve learned is, as Jesus described in a parable, not to worry about tomorrow; today is all we have. But most of all, I have discovered the importance of living in the moment. When I’m with Mom, I savor each moment and make sure she receives my full attention. And when we’re apart, I consider it my duty to live my life to the fullest each day to learn from her example.

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.

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