Dearest Emerson,

 

It’s been five months since I had to let you go and the void is indescribable. My life seems to keep rotating through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) and I never know which will appear. I’m constantly surprised by the severity of my emotions, especially anger. When people suggest I replace you, I get so mad. On one hand, they say, “That was your baby,” and then they say, “Just get another one.” Really? There isn’t another one…there is no other you. 

 

Since you’ve been gone, besides the grief, I also have felt tremendous gratitude.  I do know, without a doubt, we were meant to be together and how lucky I was to have you in my life for 16 years.  That was longer than I lived with any other living being, even Mom, since when I was 15 she sent me away to school. You had the perfect demeanor for me…you were zen when I wasn’t, you were playful so I could be, and you were loving to show be how to be.  

Emerson Ayoub

You stayed with me as long as you could and until you knew I would be okay without you. In 18 years of life, you were never hospitalized except for injuries your athleticism brought on, like torn ACLs.  You almost gave me a heart attack more than once, jumping off high furniture or over fences.  And, like me in my younger years, you were a runner. I was running away from something, but you were running to feel the wind in your fur, the freedom in your heart.  As beautiful as that might have been, I worried every moment your desire for joyful running would result in me losing you and I wouldn’t have been able to bear to lose you the way I found you. 

 

Only you understood how much I worried about you daily or people wouldn’t insist on me putting myself through that again right now.  I worried every time someone left the gate open that you would go on a freedom run; I worried that I would die before you did and we didn’t have the perfect home for you to go to; I worried if someone broke into our house that I wouldn’t be able to protect you; I worried whether I would be able to get you to the neighbor’s house safely if ours caught on fire; I worried you would die when you used to have seizures; and I worried I would be lifeless once you were.  As all worries are, these were useless. I never had to experience these worst-case scenarios and yet I exhausted myself with thoughts of them. I’ve never consciously cared about another living being so deeply on a daily basis, and it was both a curse and a gift—mostly a gift.  

 

I was convinced I had writer’s block because I haven’t written anything—not my newsletter, not a word for my book, not even anything of substance on social media—for months. Then I realized it’s not writer’s block, it’s unexpressed grief and that I needed to express it directly to who matters: you, my sweet boy.  Nothing else seems worth writing.  

 

Do you remember as I held you as you were drifting away from me, I kept chanting repeatedly,  “I’m sorry, thank you, I love you; I’m sorry, thank you, I love you; I’m sorry, thank you, I love you?” 

 

I’m sorry I didn’t walk you more often. I’m sorry I never took you to the beach even though we talked about it for years. I’m sorry I yelled at you that one time when you ate part of my jeans. I’m sorry if there was ever a moment you needed me and I wasn’t there. I’m sorry for any time you were in pain and I didn’t know it immediately. I’m sorry I wasn’t perfect like you were for me.

 

Thank you for picking me at the Animal Foundation.  Thank you for the joy you brought me by simply being you.  Thank you for teaching me what love felt like.  Thank you for letting me believe you were human and understood my every word and desire.  Thank you for proving the doctors wrong by living a long life even though I fed you “people” food.  Thank you for teaching me playing fetch was so much fun.  Thank you for sleeping in bed with me until I feel asleep and then you could get comfy in your own space. Thank you for all the positive attention you brought me when I posted about you on social media.  Thank you for being the magnet that caused people to smile and be drawn to you upon sight.  Thank you for comforting me when nobody else knew I was in pain. Thank you for giving me something to worry about other than myself.  Thank you for the million moments of every positive emotion I experienced because of you. Thank you for looking so peaceful when we parted.  

 

I love you. It’s that simple. It was love at first sight. It’s been love every moment of every day. And it will be love forevermore.  

 

I know you’ve seen me cuddling and playing with other dogs. I really believe you’re amused by that, and I hear you saying, “They can’t compare to me!”  No, they can’t.  Not for me, anyway, but for their owners, those dogs are their Emersons. I will borrow them temporarily because I love dogs and because it feels good. I have no desire to have another dog, so I will help support dogs and their owners in other ways. If others judge me, that’s because they didn’t have the pleasure of having you in their lives. You’re undeniably irreplaceable and I’m okay if others don’t approve or understand that.  Only you and I know exactly why I won’t be getting another dog and that’s all that matters. 

 

I still hear you, my sweet baby boy. I feel you.

 

I’m sorry. Thank you. I love you. 

 

With my deepest gratitude for your years of love,

Amy-Mom

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You’re an experienced speaker or have taken at least one of my classes. You no longer begin your speeches with pleasantries. You incorporate stories into all your communications. You remember to make it about the audience. You are more relaxed when you speak than you were before the course. You remember to breathe deeply 

If you agreed with the above statements, you are ready to go Beyond the Podium!

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Take a deep breath. Now imagine yourself with a small group of 11 others creative souls feeling what you’re feeling. This time it’s going to be different. No excuses. You’re in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. And you’re leaving with the speech (or book or blog) you’ve had in your subconscious for a long time. Out of your head, out of your heart, on paper and on the way to those who need and want to hear it. Finally. We will brainstorm, we’ll listen, we’ll write. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry (I hope because I love the catharsis of it), we’ll bond, and we’ll write. We will be nourished by the food, the space, and the loving support.