This blog is a small tribute to my friend Ellen who crossed over to the other life about a year ago. The photo above is of myself and her beautiful black lab Lulu, which taught me to overcome my fear of dogs – a fear which I overcame out of my great love for Ellen so that I could spend time with her without putting her/her family through the anxiety of protecting me from Lulu when I visited. When I first got to know Lulu, she growled at me every time I visited and I felt like pelting out of the room because I was so afraid it would bite me. But as I committed to releasing the fear, Lulu and I started to develop a relationship. Lulu moved from growling to wagging it’s tail and bringing me gifts when I came through the door. I started stroking her and much to my amazement, I really enjoyed touching her beautiful black fur. She would eventually settle at my feet and it was a great pleasure to feel her unwavering, protective affection and to see her complete loyalty to Ellen. I never even knew it was possible to enjoy stroking a dog and even more importantly communicating so effectively with one. I could tell how Ellen was doing, based on Lulu’s communication with me.
Ellen left us much too soon. She was like a big sister to me – the girl who knew all the right things to say to make life better for everyone around her and loved so unconditionally yet with a firm touch. I have very fond memories of the first day I met her about six years ago when my family had just moved into the neighbourhood and she was picking up her son from daycare. We chatted very briefly and was excited to learn that I was from St.Lucia because she and her family had visited St.Lucia many years ago and had a fabulous time there.
“You can come over anytime!” she said. She gave me her address and as if knowing that I may be reluctant to drop in, she reassured me again and again to just stop by anytime. Most people don’t just open up their homes to someone they meet for the first time, but she did and I will always hold this generosity of her spirit very close to my heart.
I had no idea that she was battling with cancer and our time together would be so short-lived. When I found out, I was devastated because I could not imagine her not being around her two beautiful young kids and her loving husband. She was extra protective of me – always curious about my life; always asking about my children; always on the lookout for what I needed to know about health care, taxes, finance, family, immigration, romance …. she had a PhD in Chemistry/Science and her inquisitive mind questioned things around her. Sometimes, we had coffee together in the early hours of the morning when I went walking at 6:00a.m – by the time I got to her house, she would be looking out for me from her big glass windows. I miss this little routine every morning now when I go for a walk. I miss the way she called me “Gorgeous” when she waited with me at the bus stop and always had something beautiful to say about how I was dressed. Even in her illness, she would show up at my doorstep with something like a huge lasagna and say “I was making some, so why not make enough for both of us!” She even taught my son Science after school – Jelan passed Science that year with flying colours and told me how great of a teacher she was.
She challenged the doctors and medical system as she went through chemo and treatments because she paid attention to how she felt and never stopped researching the latest scientific information. She paid attention to the present and continued planning activities and holidays to spend time with her family, knowing that she would not have this time forever. Regardless of what she went through, she (and her husband too) ensured that her children lived normal lives and were not consumed by her illness. Every year she organized a Run For the Cure Race and raised thousands of dollars towards cancer research. I have her last T Shirt she run with.
When I think of her life, I have only admiration for her – for the courage she lived life with and for deliberately reaching out to others even in her deepest pain. I remember one conversation with her towards the end of her life when she found out the cancer had spread. Instead of thinking of herself and feeling sorry for herself, her words were, “Can you imagine what this is doing to my poor husband? How much more of it can he go through?” How much more love could come from her heart.
A week before she crossed over, I dreamt that Lulu came looking for me at my house and carried Ellen’s pants to me in its mouth. After I took the pants from Lulu, it signaled me to follow it and led me to a small cottage. At the door, it showed me a silver key on the ground and signaled for me to take the key and open the door. When I woke up, I knew intuitively that my friend would cross over and she did a few days later. She crossed over while I was writing my last letter to her to let her know that I was thinking of her.
I think that it was a special thing that Lulu came to me in a dream to alert me about Ellen’s crossing over. It’s spirit knew that way ahead of time and it was preparing me for this difficult moment but I think that it also spoke about the connection which Lulu and I had developed. Animals have very powerful instincts.
Watching it from the outside, I don’t know how a family really prepares for the inevitable. I wonder what I would do if I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. What would you do?
How much time do we really have? When I hear of the so many sudden deaths around me, I cannot help but keep on encouraging myself to live in the present and to be fully engaged in noticing, loving and responding to what really matters.
So, thanks to Lulu and Ellen, I no longer walk around with this huge fear in me for dogs. As a matter of fact, I now visit friends who have dogs and even chat with people in my neighbourhood about their dogs as I pet them spontaneously. As soon as I put that fear to rest, the dogs simply stopped bothering me! I have come to respect dogs (and other animals too) much more now and can clearly see the unbreakable loyalty, friendship and love that they have for us humans.
One of those is my new neighbourhood pal – Harley, who belongs to my friend Catherine. Catherine had no idea that I was so afraid of dogs and brought me for a walk in the dog park – this really tested my fear level again! I thought I was going to faint walking among the many dogs (some really huge ones too!) but it was a relief to actually enjoy the walk and to come to the conclusion that the dogs did not even notice me!
To top it all up, Catherine invited me to do a small video for an advertisement which will be aired next year on television. Guess who is on the set with me – Harley!!! I will never stop being surprised at how things show up in my life and how my internal world really and truly reflects my outer world.
TuneIn to some of the things that really nag at your spirit. Ask yourself “What can I do to release this feeling?” You will be surprised that as you release one fear at a time, you suddenly create more space in your life to do more things which truly matter. StepUp and face your fears… face life… have the courage to release all that does not serve you anymore and replace it with all that is good, loving and pure.