What Greater Gift Than Love? Grief and Honoring

What Greater Gift Than Love? Grief and Honoring

Orange tiger cat draped over man's legs (sleeping on a couch). Tape pieces in the corners like a photo album.  Centered: Title Text: What greater Gift Than Love Grief and Honoring

I’m so sad. More than I ever expected. I have never professed to be the animal lover of our family. But I have gotten especially close to Scout, our tiger kitty, in the past several years. He’s been my cuddler and nudger out of bed. Today, we had to have him put down. He was 16 years old and was the best companion our family could have asked for. He was dropped off at the end of our driveway shortly after his birth with a very bad eye infection. We got him healthy and he’s been that up until a couple of years ago. You are going to be so missed, Scouty. Thank you for loving us so much.

A close up of , Scout, a cuddled-up orange tiger cat. Tape in the corners as if a photo album. Under is a quote in black text "What greater gift than the love of a cat?" Charles Dickens

As it’s been the past two blog posts writing responses to the five prompts from A Chronic Voice’s Linkup Party for People with Chronic Illnesses, July 2020 has found me completely changing what I was going to write about because something else is heavy on my heart.

The past couple of weeks have been ones of loss for my family. First, my Uncle Bill who was a surrogate father and now our Scout, our silly tiger kitty for the last 16 years. Today, I write from grief that comes from deep within.

Scout, orange tabby cat, laying belly up nesseled in the corner, legs up the wall. Tape in the corner of then image like a photo album.  Under in off-white frame is quote by Jim Davis, "Way down, we all have the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them."


Every morning as if he could tell time, Scout would hesitantly (at first) nudge his wet nose into my ear, purring like a little motor. The morning routine was started. I then, rolled over, pulling the covers closer to covering my face, but often leaving one arm out above my head, hand dangling. He’d get a bit more persistent, butting my hand over and over with the top of his head. 

As of late, that isn’t enough to get me fully awake. I roll over again. So now, he knew he had to get tough. Scout would leave my head and walk over to my nightstand, knocking one item off at a time. First, he would paw my little statue of the Eiffel Tower I had actually bought on Kel and my 25th anniversary trip to Paris. I would hear the metal slide, slide, slide until it plunked to the carpeted floor below. He would then come back to my head, purring into my ear to see if I was going to get up. I had begun to ignore this first attempt, so he would go back to bat the next item to the floor. 

Kelley and I feigned being bothered by this morning wake-up, but really it was nice knowing we were needed and not forgotten.

Willow, black longhair cat, lays next to Scout, orange tabby nestled in blankets.  Both have their paws crossed infront of them. Tape in the corner of the image as if in a photo album.  Under in the off-white frame is  a quote by Anon, "A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out."
My husband and son brought home Willow,
a black long hair kitty, a few weeks after we
found Scout. The two have been together ever
since. Willow is going to need a lot of extra
loving with his cuddle buddy gone.


It was my 40th birthday, and the kids were outside playing with the balloons from my party. There was a tiny little orange dot at the end of the driveway. The cars zoomed down our street not even noticing that a kitten lay helpless in the gravel. Andrew and Chelsea, 15 and 13, were outside with the neighbor kids when they heard a tiny mew demanding to be heard. They walked nearer to the end of the drive, with the feeling that there was something that needed their help. When they reached the orange fuzzball, they found Scout, eye glued shut from infection.

He can’t be more than two weeks old, my husband said as Chelsea cuddled the shivering kitten in her arms.

Can we keep him? Andrew asked, the longing in his blue eyes. He knew that we traveled too much to have a dog, but he was hoping that we’d allow them to keep the kitten. Kelley looked over at me with a Well,-what-do-ya-think?-look, and I shrugged. I guess, but you guys are going to have to take care of him.

Orange tabby looking into the camera, lying upside down, paws reaching towards the viewer, wrapped in blankets.


As Scout grew, he became more and more a person. His wacky personality was a favorite of conversation. He got a bit chubby, loving to eat like he did. However, he was also very energetic and athletic. A few times a day, he’d stampede through the house like an orange streak, zipping up the stairs then back, skidding across the kitchen floor. He’d chase his own wily tail is the snakelike thing eluded his every move.

One of his most incredible feats is when jump to the highest banister in the house, defying death as he hefted his belly up onto the balance beam. Our three-story home had an open banister from the top bedroom level to the living room. Scout made like a drunken, clown on that high wire beam above. It was amazing that he never fell!

In addition, Scout nourished each of my children’s hearts. He gave love to each of them. Scout made sure to sleep with each kid equally during the night. He’d cuddle one and then leave to cuddle the next. Chelsea and Andrew each felt that he loved them best of all.

Orange tabby cate, standing up, staring into the camera, begging. Under is a quote by William S. Burrough, "Like all pure creatures, cats are practical."


As Scout grew, he became more and more a person. His wacky personality was a favorite of conversation. He got a bit chubby, loving to eat like he did. However, he was also very energetic and athletic. A few times a day, he’d stampede through the house like an orange streak, zipping up the stairs then back, skidding across the kitchen floor. He’d chase his own wily tale as is the snake-like thing eluded his every move.

One of his most incredible feats is when jump to the highest banister in the house, defying death as he hefted his belly up onto the balance beam. Our three-story home had an open banister from the top bedroom level to the living room. Scout made like a drunken, clown on that highwire beam above. It was amazing that he never fell!

In addition, Scout nourished each of my children’s hearts. He gave love to each of them. Scout made sure to sleep with each kid equally during the night. He’d cuddle one and then leave to cuddle the next. Chelsea and Andrew each felt that he loved them best of all

Scout, orange tabby, curled up on a chair sleeping with Willow, black long hair, lying next to him his head turned as if looking at Scout.  Under is a quote by Rod McKuen, "Cats have it all: admiration, an endless sleep, and company only when they want it."


I’ve never been a pet person. My little sister loved animals much better than humans, she still does. Me, while I may appreciate them now and again, an animal just isn’t going to win my heart. So, for me, having an extra being to care for was just one more responsibility in this full-time working mom’s life. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Scout, it was more that I saw him as a chore on my to-do list. And so, for many years, I was just tolerating the extra work of scooping out his litter box, cleaning up the hairballs, or filling his food and water dish. I didn’t really consider myself one of his companions or he mine.

The years went by; Andrew and Chelsea got busy with their adult lives. Little Scout wasn’t on their minds as they moved out to college and the lives beyond our home. Kelley and I filled the food and water dishes. Kelley changed the kitty litter. Scout began to lay on Kelley’s legs every night as he sat watching the TV. 

Little by little that lovey fella became my buddy, too. When I was down and out, laying in bed and feeling lonely due to a Fibro Flare, Scout was always nearby. His warmth often eased the pain in my gut as this was a favorite place for him to lay. 

In the past year, as I began to get stronger, pour Scout was getting thinner and thinner. We tried special food and medicine, feeding him both morning and night. But, after we got back from our four-day trip this past week, we knew he couldn’t keep going on as he had been.

My aunt and uncle had just come home to Michigan from quarantining in Arizona, so I made this video for him of me playing Take Me Home, Country Roads.


The last time I saw my Uncle Bill was two days before he passed. He was lying in a hospital bed in a facility that cares for the elderly. His mind and body were giving away to dementia. He had stopped eating. He kept his eyes closed.

I arranged a Skype call with the activities director. She brought in her iPad. Seeing his drawn features and closed eyes, I knew it would be my last time to see him. I had practiced most of the quarantine on the old wooden ukulele my aunt had given me. It had been his. He told us, kids, the story of when he would go and play the old tunes for his mom and the other residents. Even when his mom didn’t know him anymore, he said she recognized the songs. And so, I played Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver. It was hard for me to make it through without crying. Uncle Bill never looked at me, but he did grab at the iPad and pulled it closer to him. All I can imagine is that he wanted to let me know he heard. I told him I loved him. And then I asked the nurse to make sure to play some upbeat music. He loved music.

Uncle Bill, circa 1967, wearing a white short sleave button dress shirt, tie, and slacks. Smiling as he holds hands with young children, 3-4 years of age, playing ring-around the rosey. Under a quote by A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh, "If there ever comes a day where we can't be together, keep me in your heart. I'll stay there forever."

Grieving and Honoring

And so I grieve. But, I do know that I loved both my uncle and my Scouty well. And, I know that they loved me. This is what it means to live FULLY. So, I will allow myself to feel the pain of losing them both during these last weeks. I honor our connection through my memories. I will continue to practice the ukulele; it sits in the corner of my living room. Uncle Bill, his smile, and music will remain a big piece of my life. I will think of Scout every time I begin to wake, honoring him by living each day with uncompromising love and honesty.

Those of us who live with chronic illness know what it means to mourn loss. Those of us who have dared to love, know what the ache when we lose those we’ve let into our lives.“We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in all the world–the company of those who have known suffering.

Helen Keller
close up of an orange tabby cat licking; tape on the corners of the photo.  Under in the off-white frame is a quote by Lloyd Alexandar, Time Cat, "The only thing a cat worries about is what's happening right ow.  As we tell the kittens, you can only wash one paw at a time."


When we face loss, I find it helps to respond by being present in our grief. Stay in what is happening right now. Breathe. Remember. Laugh. Cry. Continue to love fully both those we’ve lost and those who remain. It’s all a part of a FULL life.

The format for this post is thanks to A Chronic Voice linkup. This month the topics were Searching, Hoping, Traumatizing, Honoring, and Responding. Each writer takes the given topics and gives them their own spin. Check out these wonderful writers at July 2020 Linkup (scroll past the prompts to find the linked up posts).

Fall poplar and pine trees, lining a dirt road covered by yellow poplar leaves.

Giving Thanks: One Year After Diagnosis

Image of fall poplar and pine trees  lining a dirt road covered in yellow poplar leaves with orange tint coming through transparency of the photo. The text is in white with a quote on gratitude by Melody Beattie

One year ago, I was really a mess.  I had just been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia after my general practitioner had exhausted all the tests to see if there was any other explanation for the ongoing, roving pain, extreme exhaustion, and mud-thick, brain fog that had taken my ability to function anywhere close to my normal.

I have been reading through my blogs, taking the time to really relish in where I am now.  I am now off of Cymbalta and many of the frantic supplements I started right away and have slowly worked on weaning to find out if indeed an improvement came from them.  I feel that I’m honing my personal daily protocols that work for me.

In the past few months, I am seeing more of my “normal” show up again for longer and longer periods.  Most days, I’m waking in the morning with the ability to get up right away, clear-headed, and excited about the day.  I’ve been able to make plans more and more with fewer and fewer times of having to through in the cancel-towel. I have returned to the classroom (planned ahead substitute teaching) that has energized me rather than depleted. I have been able to write, thinking through a complicated plot for a fantasy novel I’ve been wanting to write for years.  I’m able to play with my granddaughter and have fun with my family.  I am reclaiming my sense of humor, gratitude, and joy more and more.  These things were not in me last year at this time.

A group of women, dressed in winter gear, walking on a in a row through a leaf covered forest floor.
I’ve connected with a wonderful group of women
who get outdoors together a couple of times a month.

To get here, I have done constant work on figuring out what it was I needed to get back to me. First, thanks to my school district allowing me to use all my saved up sick-days from 26 years of teaching, I went onto long-term leave from 12/7/18 until I retired in June 2019. While this was actually really devastating for me personally and professionally, it was what I needed. With the gift of time, I was able to work on taking care of myself. While I will explain where I’m at right now with my daily protocols, I will let you go to my blog No Stone Left Unturned to see most of what I’ve tried during this past year.

Me taking a selfing in front of a math poster in a classroom that I'm substitute teaching in.
Loved getting back into the classroom
even though high school math isn’t my forte.

One thing, though, I have also learned, is that this is a journey I had to do. There is/was no one who could give me exactly what would work for me just as I can’t give you what will work for you. Thus, thorough research, reliable sources of information, and then the trial and error method seem to me to be the only way to find out what is needed for each individual. Unfortunately, there is no one cure, or it seems even one cause or type of Fibromyalgia.

A pile of fall oak leaves burning and smoking in a bricked fire pit.
Raked leaves for a few hours last week; however,
I may have been pushing it too far.
It felt great doing it, but I was pretty down and out the following two days.

What seems to be working for me and am currently implementing/using:


Prescription Medicine

  • Estradiol 0.1MG vaginal cream (2x per week) I’m officially in menopause.
  • Vyvanse 30mg (1X per morning) I was diagnosed with moderate/high ADD 5/2017 and have been taking this ever since. I do go without some days but I do find my thinking to be more scattered.
  • Fluticasone 50MCG/ACT nasal spray 2 puffs per morning (I have a few of the mention MCAD issues listed in the article linked above; this is one of them. Constant nose gunk w/small nostrils=hard time breathing through my nose.


  • Prelief (for bladder pain) I haven’t taken this much, but I do have it on hand.
  • Bayer Back and Body (2 pills every six hours as needed). I really have cut back on this. Several days none at all with the most at two times per day (like the two days after leaf raking).
  • ZzzQuill (1 pill at night as needed) I really don’t take this much. Now and then, if I really want to attempt a solid night’s sleep I will (1-2 times a month). However, it doesn’t always work. Two tends to make me groggy in the morning. I still am having the on and off again ability or lack thereof for sleeping.
  • Mary’s The Remedy 1:1 (300mg CBD/300mg THC) .25 ml via dropper at bedtime. (I’ve taken this when I’m not doing as well. So far, 5 times total. It does seem to help lift my sadness that I get when I’m foggy and tired and possibly helps lessen pain but not majorly. I do feel a bit “odd” but I can function decently. I am taking the lowest dose recommended thus far.) As explained in my blog, Down The Rabbit Hole: Could Medical Marijuana Help? I have obtained a medical marijuana card. However, after trying edibles and the oil, it’s not a favorite go-to remedy.

Self-Help Apps

  • Pathways-This is a neuroplasticity program that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, meditation, and education to help lessen or even eliminate pain. I’ve been using it for about a month. It’s got some good stuff. You can try it free, enough to figure out what it is. After that, it costs. I did go for the year subscription of $69.00. I’ll write closer to the end of that time what I think of the results.
  • Daylio– This is an easy mood tracker diary. I’m finding it helps me to be more grateful and positive because I can literally see a graph of my ups and downs and really, I’m having way more ups than downs. This time last year, I was so down. However, I wonder if I had this then if I wouldn’t blanket that first few months as complete bed rest and depression because I would see I had some better moments.
  • GaiaYoga routines of all types, focus, levels, and durations. Also, guided meditations and other health and spiritual documentaries, films, series, articles.
  • Calm- I’ve tried this and see it’s benefits; however, I get the same from Pathways and Gaia.
  • The Tapping Solution: In the link provided is a video that can show you specifically what tapping is. The short version is that you literally tap gently on certain areas (mostly on your face), as you speak on what your area of concern is. The app is a guided meditation that helps you work through the issue your focusing on all the while using deep, slow breathing. I use this as a form of “active” meditation, working on a specific area of need. I don’t really know how to explain how/why it works, but it does help me (mostly with the anxiety and brain fog).

Daily Actions

  • Yoga: gentle, yin, restorative
  • Breathwork & Meditation
  • Myofascial release with ball and roller
  • 30 minutes of cardio
  • Resting as needed
  • Mostly vegan meals

Weekly Actions

  • Gentle chiropractic therapy with massage therapy
  • Journaling/writing for reflection
  • Connecting with others

As needed

After Guest Teaching for a full day last Thursday, a 3-mile hike with friends on Friday, and raking for a few hours on Saturday, I found that I was really worn out, brain fog, and higher pain on Sunday and Monday. So, as my body demanded, I rested. This does get me down, but I’m working on being grateful even during that time. Grateful for the days that preceded the low point. And grateful for the time and support from my family and friends when I need to lay low for a while. Come Tuesday, I was back at a full day. (I subbed in the HS math class and had a blast and then came home and worked several hours on writing my novel.)

Taking care of myself takes planning, money, effort, time, and willpower (all of which can slip now and then causing negative consequences). However, I’m beginning to have more energy, clarity, pain-free time that I can now participate in the things that bring me joy. I am so full of gratitude for this life of mine. I’m so grateful for this nervous-system that has worked on overdrive for so long trying to protect me. I’m so grateful for this body that lets me know what it needs (even to the point of causing me cravings for spinach, grapefruit, peanuts, etc.). I’m so grateful for my loved ones who give me the extra I need to let me this is all worth it.

I have found that gratitude, even in the hardest of times, allows me to FULLY live despite pain.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Melody Beattie, author

I wish you a joyous, gratitude-filled THANKSGIVING. I love to hear about your journey, your protocols, your process. Also, what are you grateful for?

teal line drawn waterlily with teal lettering of the title and motto