Tag Archive: #health


blossom1There’s an old, familiar face lurking in the shadows of my heart, and it doesn’t look as though he’s going away any time soon. Grief. He started out as disappointment and sadness, when the first of our babies passed very early in my womb, leaving What Could Have Been to linger where Hope and Promise and Joy used to be. He stayed a while, but Optimism shushed him, till the second miscarriage happened, then the third, and finally the fourth where he rose up in my heart and flailed and screamed and cursed the earth and the sky and everything in between for all that was promised and stolen from us. His rage would come and go like the wind, rolling dark clouds upon my horizon before the crashing storm of of his despair consumed my every breath. Then he would leave again, and I would wrap my  empty, motherless arms around myself, waiting for the pain to stop and life to move on. Eventually it did. Until that one day when it didn’t.

On April 19th, 2017, my beautiful boy dog, my Hooch, passed from cancer and made his journey across the rainbow bridge. Though we had a few months to prepare ourselves while we gave him medicine and love, fighting against the losing battle of the cancer attacking his lymph nodes, we weren’t ready. I don’t think there would have been any sufficient amount of time to be ready, to be honest. I was blessed with a period of being home, a fortunate place to be for it meant I could lie with him on the floor, wrap him in blankets and spoil him completely, and whisper all the promises of peace which awaited him on the other side of the bridge. Though I couldn’t bear the thought of saying this goodbye, I held onto this one, simple truth – he wouldn’t be alone for he would have our beautiful children to play with while we waited for the day we would all be together again. When he passed in our arms, my heart shattered so completely I thought there would never be a day again where I would breathe without crying.blossom2

How it all began

Hooch came into our lives in 2008, at the approximate age of two years old.

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One of the first pictures of Hooch

I told hubs that if he wanted a dog, he had to go to the shelter and meet the dogs, then pick the dog he wanted me to meet, and I would meet that dog. I warned him – perfectly seriously – that if he introduced me to three dogs and asked me to choose, we would be leaving the shelter with three dogs.

He chose Hooch.

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Hooch after we took him home

Hooch was a skinny, nervous nellie and had been gifted the name Spruce because he was found in December and he didn’t have a name that they knew. We don’t know his origin story, but we fell in love with him immediately. When he bounded over to us with his huge, goofy grin, there was an unmistakable Turner & Hooch moment. And so his name became Hooch.

He was a gentle soul and – if not for his nervous disposition – he would have made a wonderful therapy dog. He could sense when you needed a hug, and he would worm his way onto your lap wherein he would roll over and beg for belly scratches. Whatever you were feeling before melted away into a peace and love. All thanks to this goofy, big chicken, rescue of a dog.

Two years later, we got him a little sister…

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Sonny Valentine

…and they became inseparable.

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Sonny & Hooch

There was much joy and laughter in our lives but, just like everyone’s story, they were punctuated with events which left us wrecked and asking what we could have done differently. Through the housing crash that saw us lose our home – and the little room we longed to turn into our child’s nursery – Hooch was there for us. It was as though he knew what we needed, and in his furry, in-the-moment innocent and loving way, he would gift it to us. He was our grounding when it felt as though nothing else was going the way we wanted.

It’s hard not to rage at God when you are facing unending infertility. Eight years, four losses, and no baby in our arms, the unfairness seemed destined to swallow us whole. Intercut that with our beloved friends effortlessly growing their families with beautiful little humans, and it wasn’t hard to find yourself questioning what you could have done to be punished so mercilessly.

blossom3Yet Hooch continued to gently love on us, even in those darkest moments when we couldn’t love ourselves.

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Bathroom buddy

He would sit by the bathroom sink on “Trash Truck Tuesday” because – though he feared the bathroom for reasons we couldn’t fathom – he feared the monstrous rumbling of the garbage truck more. He saw us as his protectors, as much as he was ours, and we loved him all the more for it.

When he started to get sick, we did everything we could for him. It was hard because we needed to be fair to him even as it meant overriding our heartache that our time as his family was being cut short. The decisions needed to benefit him the most, not prolong his journey through selfishly trying to squeeze out more from him just because we weren’t ready to let him go.

The day my heart shattered

When my beautiful boy finally crossed over the rainbow bridge into the loving arms of our children, my world crashed around me. That old friend, Grief, tore through my heart with such ferocity there were too many nights where the physical act of breathing was too much to bear.

Who could have imagined that the loss of my beautiful boy would unleash the pent-up rage and devastation I’d long thought silenced into submission. Losing him was like losing each of our children all over again, only this time I’d got to hold him and love him, and fill my heart and my memories with the very essence of who he was. There were no ultrasounds of our babies, no handprints or footprints to say they had been there inside my womb. There were no photographs or sounds of laughter to fill my dreams. There was only that old, familiar darkness of Grief pouring through my heart as he teased of What Might Have Been. And now he had Hooch.

Grief is brutal. And he is merciless.

I try and take solace in the fact our children get to know our love for them through the love we have for Hooch, and I try and draw comfort in the knowledge that we will all be together again some day, across that rainbow bridge.blossom4

Meanwhile I have their memories etched upon my skin in beautiful tribute tattoos: four blossoms for the four babies who bloomed all too briefly, and Hooch’s paw print forever upon my shoulder.

Though the shadows of grief have blackened much of this last year I look to this anniversary as a defining moment. My heart aches for my beautiful boy, my goofy peacemaker who could skin a tennis ball in the blink of an eye, and whose idea of a kiss was to come right up to your face, then sneeze. He was a darling of a dog, and despite all the heartache we went through trying and failing to grow the human half of our family, he really did know how to soothe the hurting until it became something you merely carried in your pocket. We had eight and a half years where we had the honor of being his family, and I like to think we did him proud.

I miss him every day. And I still find myself crying because the pain of not having him here is insufferably loud.

But I do him a great disservice when I weep for him to be here with us. He only ever wanted us to be happy. He only ever offered comfort and patience, even if we didn’t feel we deserved it. As I said, he would have been a great therapy dog if he weren’t so ridiculously afraid of random things.

So I will try and do better. I will hold onto the memories and the photographs, and the beautiful moments he gave us. I will endeavor to live my life in a way that would make him know his love wasn’t wasted on me.

And when the time comes that I walk across the bridge and see him and our little ones all fully grown and wrapped in the light of Jesus, I know everything that hurt will melt away, the grief will be silenced once and for all, and there will be only Joy.

It will be a beautiful day.

I love you, Hooch. I will always love you.

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My beautiful boy.

💙

 

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It’s finally stopped raining here in Southern California and today’s blue sky is a welcome sight. This week, as I’ve tried to shake off whatever this under-the-weather thing that has afflicted me and a number of my friends, I’m taking a long look at last year, and breathing in this fresh new one along with all the promises it brings.

Nelson Mandela Courage QuoteI realize that much of last year was spent creating new goals for myself, not least when I picked up archery once again, having enjoyed it back in my high school days. The feel of the bow in my hand and hearing the thuck of my arrow hitting the target was all kinds of wonderful. Of course, a tiny part of my rekindling the archery romance might be my love for Hawkeye and having spent last year binge-reading my way through Marvel’s Hawkeye comics, I still tell myself it was mostly nostalgia. Mostly.

Annie Bergin Archery

And then there’s Hapkido. In 2014 I had extensive knee surgery which led to a year of intensive therapy to get the mobility back. Last year I started taking Hapkido and working with Master Sayed at the American Hapkido Karate Academy to build up its strength, with the added bonus of learning a martial art in the process. In May I achieved my first belt (Orange) and was very excited. After a few knee setbacks which saw me return to class in the fall, I ended the year with my much-anticipated second belt, Yellow.


I finished the year with new headshots by the fantastically talented Mark Atteberry and his eye for detail is incredible, as verified by his amazing Instagram (so it’s not just me being biased). The next few months will include marketing them to casting directors in the hopes of unlocking many new auditions for me.

Quite a few people see 2016 as the year that hated us, bringing with it losses like the wonderful Alan Rickman, Nancy Reagan, David Bowie, Victoria Wood, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds to name but a few. Though it’s hard not to attribute human emotions onto the passage of time, 2016 has certainly dealt an unfair share of punches and I, for one, am glad the year is behind us.

One of the most emotional blog contributions I’ve submitted to this blog site was written last summer. In it I spoke of how the events of my past were once the core of my existence and how I let it shape and define every part of my life but that I was now choosing to no longer allow My Story to be my defining. I called the blog, “Live in the lower case“.

The fallout from this blog was unexpected. While the majority of those who read it were deeply moved by my honesty, this reaction wasn’t universal. I learned that while I was choosing to move forward with confidence, there were a few I once wanted to be close to who instead took umbrage at My Story, for they believe such things are meant to be kept in the darkness and not brought into the light. I’m sad to say that their support and understanding was not forthcoming.

I made the difficult decision to draw a line in the sand and walk away from these lifelong connections for the betterment of my soul and my future, and entered into the new year released from the burden of twisting myself into a pretzel of their defining. Though a part of me is pained by the estrangement, there is a sense of liberation within myself that I can now live my life according to my own definitions.

While the earth dries from the storms of the last few weeks, and while we each find our groove as we navigate this new year, I hope each of you pray for the courage to chase new challenges, and the strength to leave behind anything that is detrimental to your story.

Much love and Happy New Year

Annie

xo

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