As I circled behind my desk and sat down, an uncertain sadness replaced my customary sense of wellbeing. I heaved a heavy sigh, and rested my head on the palms of my hands. As my glance circled my office, the space appeared unusually gloomy. I felt that the stress of saying goodbye to another resident was beginning to deflate me; I counted almost 30 goodbyes in the last two weeks. Sadly, as each mounted the steps to the bus displaying our name and address, I felt as if I had lost another member of my immediate family.
The community was changing direction, heading toward independent living, and I was responsible for closing our assisted living. In the last two weeks I had been challenged to find new homes for over 50 residents. Today, I said good-bye to four more, and one of them was my friend Millie.
My miniature schnauzer, Raleigh, and I had lived on the sixth floor of my assisted living building for almost two months while I moved our belongings from South Florida. During that time, we made friends with many of the residents. They were all charmed by my little gray dog. She practiced no age discrimination, and greeted each person with the same happy enthusiasm. Every morning the residents called her name as they stretched their arms over their walkers and wheel chairs hoping to get close enough to pet her. Each had a childhood dog story, their tales often sparked by the wag of my little dog’s tail. “I grew up with a beagle,” Joe would say, “he was with me all through high school. What kind did you say yours was?”
And Millie? She was our neighbor on the sixth floor; we frequently stopped by her apartment on the way to ours. Raleigh knew the drill. In anticipation of a treat, she bounced and danced, laying her paws on Millie’s hands beneath the arms of the walker, and shared a mutual joy.
Once we moved into our own townhome, Raleigh remained high on everyone’s list of favorites. She often visited residents in our community, and as always, they greeted her with loving hands and open hearts.
Today, as I soothed and calmed Millie before her trip, who was most likely going to her last home, I was concerned for her well being. Her breath was labored as she feigned self-confidence, yet her anxiety was obvious to those of us who knew her.
Finally, after a long arduous day, it was time for her to leave. As the driver beckoned her toward the bus, she gave me a hug and trudged forward, her walker wobbling across the creviced concrete. She grabbed the rail and pulled herself forward, but before taking her first step, she turned to look at me. With a broad smile on her face, her voice melodic without a waiver and as strong as if she were about to embark on a trip to Wal-Mart, she sang loudly, “Say Good-bye to Raaaallllleigh.” Then she turned back to finish the trek up the stairs to begin another phase of her almost finished life. I struggled to hold back the tears that were threatening to cascade in rivers of remorse down my cheeks.
So now, back in my office, as the phone rang and the icon signaling another email sailed across the screen, I found myself lost within my own space. “It’s time,” I thought to myself. “It’s time to quit procrastinating and to initiate the blog I had begun but never finished—full of stories I want and need to share. And thanks to Millie, I knew at once what the first posting would be.