[Note: I started this post/letter several months ago and finished it a few weeks ago. But, I never wanted to officially “finish” it and post it because it felt too much like a goodbye and I didn’t want to say goodbye … it just hurt too much. But, cancer eventually did win and our beautiful Harper Jane girl passed away last Friday. I had to let it all settle and spend time in my sadness … but I also wanted to make sure I let the world know what a truly good soul our girl was. And so, this is for her. It’s not goodbye. It’s just … thank you for the wonderful memories and I’ll miss you until I see your happy face again … ]
I’ve written countless letters and articles for my children over the years. Each birthday and even times in between. They grow and change so fast … my heart often gets lost … it simply can’t keep up. Something will catch me off guard, and I’ll be blown away that time has passed and we are here – whole seasons of motherhood already over …
Pen to paper has always been my way. As long as I can remember, I put my feelings on paper. Opened my heart and let it pour out onto the pages before me. During those times, I’d work through things, I’d discover myself, I’d learn to let go and grow. When hurt or broken hearted, I’d write letters. Letters never meant to be sent. Just so I could get it all out of my head, out of my heart …
I realized today, that I don’t write her letters. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because she’s so steady. N & A, they grow and change and I struggle to accept it. But, Harper. She’s my northern star. Tried and true and sure. Never changing. Always reliable. My constant.
Today, I watched her walking slowly around the yard. I watched her move quietly, differently. She did not bring me a ball. She did not ask to play. She moved with caution, stopping often, until she found a spot to lay, lifting her face to the sky and closing her eyes. Enjoying the breeze. The sunlight made her hair glisten. Our golden girl. When she was a pup, we’d laugh when she’d stop and lift her head up into the wind, tossing her hair and savoring the moment. “Farrah Fawcett” we’d call her and giggle. She’s our beautiful girl. Bright and light. I’ve never met a more pure being. God’s gift to us. We realized early on how special she was. She is so good. The most wonderful soul I have ever known.
I’ve always pictured her with us. I never allowed myself to picture a time without her. “She’ll be the first doggie to make it to 50”, we’d joke in a hopeful, half-serious way. I imagined her to be an old lady doggie, her face even whiter than it is now. She should have had many more good, playful years left. She should. But, she doesn’t. She has been a fighter and for the most part – this 10 month battle with Lymphoma has been up and down, but she’s done okay. She’s had more good days. Now, though, it’s all shifted. No more chemo. No more appointments. We wait and let the cancer do what it does.
My heart hurts as I watch her. I grieve her absence already. She is our daughter. Our friend. Our most loyal companion. She sits with R while he works in his office. She rides with me as I take the kids to and from school. She loves our long walks and she’s the happiest in the water. She is Harper Jane. She is LOVE and understanding and unwavering faithfulness.
And, oh, how I want to freeze time and remember her just as she is — But. No. Actually, not here … we’ll rewind a bit and remember her just how she always was BEFORE cancer started stealing pieces of her from us a little at a time …
My snapshot-in-time for my golden baby …
“Oh, dear sweet, Harper Jane — You, my love, are my best girl. I tell you every single day … because it’s true, but also because it’s what you want to hear. It’s what I’ve always said and it’s something we share … just the two of us. We touch our foreheads together gently … you only do this with me (though everyone knows you are a true daddy’s girl). I’ve always felt that you knew and loved it just as much as I did. It was our quiet way to connect in the middle of the crazy, and I’d simply say, “You’re my best girl.” You always leaned in for a hug. You loved those words. You loved hearing it. And, it was true. There is no better than you.
You always loved to sleep on the foot of our bed (spread eagle, with your belly in the air) … though at night you’d prefer your own bed and jump down if we were loving on you too much. You were never a snuggle bug. You needed plenty of personal space. But, sometimes, you’d look at us and we’d know – you wanted a story. You are the smartest. Seriously. It’s eerie at times. We’d just KNOW what you wanted to hear. You can speak so loudly in your silence. So, we’d tell you the story of how you came to be ours. How we picked you out of a picture of 5 or so golden pups. We’d tell how I had already chosen you and when I showed Daddy the photo, he pointed at the same little puppy. You! We’d tell how, later, we’d show Gram that same photo and she’s say, “I think any of them are cute except that one…her eyes are too far apart.” That “one” was you and we still laugh about that 9 years later.
You are a chewer of sticks. You love them. You eat them. I never understood how. You love toys. You play with your Daddy all the time, because he’s more playful, more rough-and-tumble and willing to chase you all around the house. The two of you have plenty of your own games and I love hearing you outside, playing with your tennis balls (the orange ones or the larger squeaky ones are your favorite). But, every evening after dinner, without fail, while I was standing at the sink washing dishes and cleaning up, you’d bring a squeaky toy to me and push it into my legs over and over … “Play with me. Play with me. Play with me.” And, I’d stop and chase you. You love, love presents too. You unwrap them all by yourself, all excited and bouncing around. You love a good bone and always wait while we unpack the groceries to see if there is one in the bag for you. You love ice cream and puppuccinos and really … most any “people food.” You want scrambled eggs for breakfast on the weekend, just like the rest of us.
You love, love, love your walks with us. Especially when you are off-leash (which is most of the time) and free to run ahead. You run a little ways and then you stop to check on us. You make sure we’re still there. You’d never leave us behind. We wave you on and laugh at the way you run. You are a happy runner, but not exactly a graceful or super fast one. Your back leg kicks out to the side and we’ve smiled and giggled about it countless times. You’re more of a herd dog than a retriever. We’ve always thought so. For one thing, you’re kinda lousy at retrieving. You run (or swim) for your ball or a stick, but you rarely bring it back. You herd really well … circling around us … making sure your family sticks close together. What an honor. To be part of your herd.
Swimming is by far your favorite thing in life. The lake is your happy place. If you could do anything, that’s what you’d pick. And, you have your favorite spots. On any given walk, you’ll head in the direction of the lake as quickly as possible. You’ll stop and point. Showing us where you want to go. It fills you up and leaves you content and happy. Happy enough to nap for the rest of the day after a good swim. I’ll always picture you there … swimming in the lake. Or, riding beside me in the car with your head happily out the window …
You have filled our lives with so much love and joy and laughter. You’ve imprinted on our hearts in the most beautiful way. We will love you and miss you as long as we live. Until the day we meet again and you come running, wagging your whole body with joy to see us, crying your sweet “welcome home” cry and jumping straight into your daddies arms…”
In memory of Harper Jane Blair ~ 5/13/09 – 6/8/18
Harper Jane ~ a.k.a Harpie, Harper Lou, Harper Lee, Harper Barker, Harpie Barkie, Harper Barkerson, Harperson Barkerson, Barker Jane, Harper Bear, Harper Bear Blair, Janie Bane, Harper Janer Bane, Doodlebug, Wolfie, Louie, Lou Lou Girl, Golden Girl, Harperson Happy Butt, Happy Day Harper Dog and many more silly names that we’ve lovingly called you over the years.
(Photo Credit for the 1st and last photo and the one of Ryan and I with Harper goes to Shannon Haynie Photography.)