The last couple of years have been hard for a lot of people. We’ve dealt with a pandemic, social injustices, and global tensions. Those are just the universal griefs of living today. Many have had personal struggles: unemployment, sickness, and death. During these last two years, I have dealt with all three.
March 2020, I lost my job with no severance pay. June 2020, my sister and I got covid. Beginning of 2021, I dealt with a bunch of medical issues and surgeries for Meshach, my olde English bulldogge. My grandmother’s health began to decline as well despite being strong for 97 years. October 2021, Meshach was diagnosed with oral cancer. November 2021, my dad and I drove three hours to see a specialist for Meshach, who was honest and gave Meshach one to two months to live.
For the rest of 2021, I spent time visiting my grandmother on Saturdays and making Meshach as comfort as possible (lots of meds covered in peanut butter for him). December 7, 2021, I spent some of my evening with Grandma, watching TV together. She passed that next morning. Her funeral was the 16th. On the 17th, I said goodbye to Meshach.
To say these last couple of years have sucked would be a major understatement. It’s been a challenge to stay engaged mentally with life and my depression has reared its ugly head from time to time. However, the good memories I have of both Grandma and Meshach have kept the worst of it at bay.
From left to right: My brother, my sister, Grandma, and me. We were visiting my aunt in Florida as Grandma's last vacation. It was cool seeing all my cousins again after several years.
My grandmother was the mother of eight children, one daughter and seven sons in that order. My dad was her last child and she had him at the grand age of 45. Strong, caring, and giving are just a few words to describe her. She wasn’t the loudest or the most affectionate. But you knew you were loved by her because of what she gave and did.
The day of her wake, I desperately wanted to share something but I am terrible with emotions and speaking off the cuff. I needed something prepared ahead of time. The words eventually came to me.
Consistency of a sippy cup full of chocolate milk on the edge of a tiny TV stand
Requests of cookies, juice, and hot dogs never denied and answered with a gruff “Fine!”
Placating nods at one of Poppa’s numerous tales or our childish ramblings
Watchful eyes from behind the screens of her porch
Cautious barks of “Watch out! Your Poppa’s coming down.”
Discussions on the antics of Sonny, Jason, and the rest of General Hospital
Excitement over her evening 6:30 show: “Wheel—of—Fortune!”
Eye rolls at the repetitiveness of professional wrestling
Giggles at our family’s sporadic conversations or even to herself
Memories I will cherish until the day I make more with Grandma as a woman I never got to meet: full of youthful energy, in pristine health, living on a paradise earth. For “I have hope toward God...that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15)
I spent a bunch of my childhood at her house. Begging for cookies, learning how to boil hot dogs, fighting over the heat from the vents, riding our bikes under her watchful eyes. Just visiting her house now brings those good memories flooding back. Knowing that she’s no longer in pain and that I’ll get to see her again young and healthy aids tremendously in dealing with the pain of her loss.
One of the last pictures I have of me and Meshach together, taken a week before he passed away. We both were tired. Despite his illness, he was always happy to see his favorite humans.
Meshach, the old English bulldogge, was the first dog I purchased myself. He was named after one of the three Hebrews who refused to worship the golden statue King Nebuchadnezzar made (Daniel chapter 3). I remember doing a lot of research on what sort of dog I wanted. I knew that I was going to be living in an apartment, so I needed one that was low-energy and didn’t mind not having a whole bunch of space. Bulldogs are pretty spot on for that.
However, the more I dug into English bulldogs, the more I realized that they have great temperaments but horrible health. Due to their squishy face and stout stature, they have trouble breathing and bad leg joints, hip dysplasia being common among them. The cool thing is that I also found Meshach’s breed, a revival of the original English bulldog to fix all the health issues that resulted from irresponsible breeding. With that all figured out, I knew exactly what kind of dog I wanted.
Actually getting Meshach, though, was a little more complicated. The breed wasn’t very popular in Omaha and so it was tricky to find a breeder. Eventually, I did find this dude off Craig’s List (yes, yes I know) and I met him at some gas station and he showed me Meshach. I put down half and then went on vacation (again, I know). He called me sometime later and said that he had showed me the wrong dog. I was supposed to see this tan one. But I told him that I loved Meshach’s brindle coloring, which was great since the other family liked how big the tan puppy was. Thankfully, things all worked out and once I got back from vacation, I met the dude at a Walmart and finally got my dog. It’s hilarious now, but I’m just happy I didn’t get scammed in the end.
Meshach has always had a fun personality. For the most part, he was very lazy and slept most of the day away. However, he would get the zoomies, just random bursts of energy (often times after a good poop), and would just fly all around my apartment/house.
He loved humans but wasn’t the biggest fan of other dogs. I would take him to a dog park and he would run around, greet a bunch of the humans, and then get irritated after about 30 minutes with all the other dogs trying to play with him. It was the same at doggy daycare as well. Just more of a people dog than a dogs dog.
Meshach had humans friends just about everywhere he went. Most were attracted to either his face or his coloring. I usually got two distinct responses to Meshach’s appearance: “Aww!” or “Ugh!” Very rarely did I have a neutral response. Despite that, he was always friendly—sometimes a little too friendly (i.e. frisky)—and they loved him at the vet and daycare.
He would eat anything he could get into his mouth: dog food, treats, peanut butter (an absolute favorite), carrots, celery (another favorite), watermelon (he became addicted, just ask my sister. She gave him a piece one day and then he continued to bother her anytime she had some. ), whatever fell off my plate, underwear (male, female, clean, dirty, didn’t matter), socks, grass. There is one memory that my sister loves to laugh at now. She was staying at my house and suddenly, she heard this distressed gagging sound. She was a bit frantic, wondering what was going on. I, nonchalantly, said, “Oh Meshach got a sock.” To her shock and maybe horror, I reached in his throat and yanked out the sock. He just looked at me with a tilted head, sad that I got the sock before he could eat it. It was at that moment she learned CPR and the Heimlich maneuver for dogs.
Yet, there is one core memory that I have with Meshach that clearly demonstrates the kind of dog he was. 2016 was one of the most difficult years in my life. I kinda lost who I was and needed to find myself again. My mental health was up and down for all that year and at one point, it reached a level where I wanted to take my own life. While I have dealt with suicidal thoughts in the past, this time was a bit more serious. I had a plan. I remember going through the motions of taking Meshach out, feeding him, getting in the shower, and getting dressed for work. After that, I just sat on my couch, my mind focusing on my plan. Meshach knew something was wrong. He put his big, fat head on my lap and refused to move. He would nudge me to pet him and kept doing so, making sure that I did not stop. I have no idea how long I sat there petting him, but it was long enough for my dad to call me.
My dad didn’t want anything major, just letting me know that he and my mom were going out of town. But he heard the shaking of my voice and asked what was wrong. Thankfully, I was honest and told him. My parents came and sat with me for awhile after that.
Meshach was always there for me, even in my darkest hour. He saved my life. So, I made sure to be there for him at the end of his life, doing what I could for his comfort.
Yes, these last couple of years have sucked. And yes, some days are harder to get through than others. But holding fast to good memories and making new ones with friends and family have kept me going. What has helped you to keep going? Or are you still trying to find that spark of motivation? Let me know. Until next time.