Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant? – Henry David Thoreau
It is the eve of the one-year anniversary of the publication of Hope Has a Cold Nose. Veteran’s Day 2020; three years, five months, and ten days after meeting two individuals who had a destiny to not only change each other’s lives for the best. They had a destiny to meet me at a juncture of my life path that I would choose to begin walking a road that is and I am certain will continue to be a best route of my life.
In the dark of this eve morning, Ginger, Kutana and I went for a run. I with my headlamp, Ginger only with her jingling collar, and Kutana with her jingling collar and what I affectionately refer to as her “girlie” pink coat with reflective stripes. Though the weather is changing, and we now run across frosty grasses, the coat is not so much for Kutana’s warmth, for she is a very warm-blooded gal. The coat is so that I can see her in the dark. Her very dark brown coat amid the morning darkness equals Kutana, I can’t see you. Where are you? Unlike her sister Ginger who shines like a beacon with her natural white and tan fur coat, Kutana becomes invisible.
As I ran this morning, I thought a lot about darkness and light. I thought about how both are needed, and how both are part of the cycles of life. I thought about how both engage in us in that dance between opposites. I thought about a message from my mom yesterday letting me know about a stepbrother’s loss of a friend. Suicide. I don’t believe the individual was a veteran; he is, though, one of a growing statistic in humanity of those who reach a point in which the light of hope is no longer visible, and the dark of hopelessness is the only thing that can be seen.
I thought about a beautiful reflection I read last night from a special friend based on the experiences when we climbed Mount Adams as a team in July As I read what he wrote, once again I was back on that mountain witnessing one veteran assisting another veteran, a literal witness of one holding on to the other’s back as I heard within me the co-authors of Hope Has a Cold Nose sharing how their service dogs have their six. The words I had been given the sacred honor to hear and retell in HHCN were being lived out loud in front of me on that mountain, a mountain in which I was climbing because of the twenty-three extraordinary and inspirational stories in HHCN.
And I was on top of Mount Adams because of the stories that were not in Hope Has a Cold Nose.
I was on top of Mount Adams shortly after sunrise looking at the most brilliant blue skies as far as I could see, and even farther than my mind could fathom the miracle of being on top of one mountain peak so majestic, grand, and certain as I looked at three additional splendid mountains in the horizon. As I drank in the beauty and awe, I sat down thinking about the keepsake I had in my backpack that had made it to the summit with me. We had been encouraged not to forget to bring a special memento to the peak. In my backpack along with my owl was a copy of Hope Has a Cold Nose.
This is for you my dear twenty-three co-authors, my inner voice started to speak. From somewhere deeper in a reserve that is not typically one I draw from for I am not one to cry, at least outwardly, tears began to run down my cheeks. Tears of gratitude. Tears of respect and dignity. Tears of compassion and tears of promise. For those who were not heard and those who wish to be heard. Tears of hope.
This is for each of you, twenty-two lives per day who ask each of us to make it matter that your extraordinary story reached the last chapter in the way that it did. This is for you dear soul who was the reason Dr. Popa called me to suggest this climb. You, dear soul, part of the twenty-two who wrote a last chapter before we may have been ready for the story to end.
This is for all of you whose stories I have yet to hear. And write.
The tears slowed down enough I could then find rocks to build the letters to spell HOPE. On top of a mountain 12,000 feet tall, built with steepness and formed with rough edges, I could think of no better tribute for all who have faced their hardest climbs of life then to leave HOPE at the top.
Hope is like a bird that senses the dawn and carefully starts to sing while it is still dark. -Author Unknown
As I ran this morning, I thought about a speaker I listened to two nights ago – Anthony Ray Hinton. Anthony is the author of The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row. Anthony had been wrongfully accused, living on death row for thirty-years until his innocence was proven. In the speaking engagement, Anthony shared a very moving story about a gentleman he became friends with while they both served time on death row. Using the wisdom his mother had taught him, Anthony followed the principle to be compassionate no matter what someone has done. People deserve to be loved. Anthony became friends with a gentleman who had been a member of the Klu Klux Klan; for his friend, Anthony initially represented everything – or I should say everyone – his friend had learned to hate. Through a course of fifteen years, Anthony was the one to help his friend leave death row by means of lethal injection with his friend finding the grace of forgiveness and the feeling of what it meant to be unconditionally loved.
My mind went back to the person my mom messaged me about. My mind went to the darkness associated with suicide. My mind went to Anthony’s story and his message of compassion. In the dance between the darkness of hopelessness and the light of hope what if we are being asked to learn not only how to listen to breaking hearts in such a way that they won’t feel engulfed in darkness with no way out? What if we are being asked to keep the brightness of compassion and dignity for those who decided to end the story of their life on their own?
What if our lesson plans we are being given by life are to include not only holding safe space to unconditionally listen to those who feel their stories aren’t worthy of being heard, because after all, as noted in “dear reader” of Hope Has a Cold Nose, people start to heal the moment they feel heard. What if our lesson plans are also meant to look past how we think the story should go, or should not have ended, for someone else and instead look at the light their lives represent for what we can carry forward to be the change the world needs?
I don’t know the answer to what I ponder. I only know that what we focus on acts as a magnet, and I can’t help feeling that maybe the overwhelming darkness of hopelessness is hindering our ability to see differently. Are there other ways we can increase the light of hope? How can we use compassion as one of the lenses through which we see?
As I write on the eve of Veteran’s Day and the one-year anniversary of the publication of Hope Has a Cold Nose, I am in gratitude for the incredible year it has been sharing about HHCN and learning how the stories in his book are inspiring others. I am in gratitude for the doorways that continue to open to share the powerful messages held in each story-tellers narration, such as translation of the book into Hebrew and use of the book as a proactive teaching tool about PTSD. I am in gratitude for one among many of the biggest gifts each of the story tellers gave me in how they served selflessly once again to start me on a path of inspiring hope, compassion, emotional healing, unconditional listening, and awareness of the holistic healing power of canines. Because they continued to serve of themselves, they are helping the world find light and freedom out of the darkness of pain, trauma, sorrow, despair, and grief.
You take the high road
And I’ll take the low road
And give me something to believe in
And give me something to believe in
Yeah sometimes I wish I didn’t know now
The things I didn’t know then, yeah
And give me something to believe in, yeah, yeah – Lyrics from Poison’s Song “Something to Believe In”
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