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  • Writer's pictureHope Stuart

Hershey's HOPE

I have been struggling lately to find HOPE. Yes, this is excruciating for me to admit because… I am all about the HOPE… but it’s true. This year has been a roller coaster ride of HOPE ups and HOPE downs. At the onset of the pandemic, I went through a period of “hotmessness” for about two weeks. I lost sleep trying to solve the world’s problems because, you know, I have ALL the answers… uhhhh… NO! So after trying to solve all the world’s problems at the expense of sleep, I decided to take another approach. By April, I chose to surrender it ALL to God; knowing this pandemic was outside of my circle of influence. I was proud of myself for going into surrender mode, which is NOT normal HOPE mode. I dove into my “to do” list: painting our porch, arbor and lattice; expanding our garden; building a barn door and organizing our garage. I even started this blog which has been a dream of mine for a few years. I finally turned my “to do” list into a TAH DAH list! I was so proud of myself for surrendering and… TAH DAHing!

Then, the unthinkable happened. We lost our beloved puppy dog, Hershey, suddenly and quite dramatically. To minimize the details (it’s still painful to relive it), Hershey experienced bloat, which caused his stomach to turn. Within 6 hours of having symptoms, Hershey let out three loud cries while having a heart attack and took his last breath on our kitchen floor while my husband performed CPR. I was strong for our son and husband… for about 12 hours. Then, I experienced tremendous grief. I have never cried (SOBBED) so hard in my life. My husband found me the following morning sitting on our kitchen floor crying ugly… I mean UGLY… tears. I felt guilt along with my grief. The “should haves” and “what ifs” entered my mind like enormous tidal waves. I just could not contain my emotions.

I look for Hershey everywhere… inside and outside our house, on the couch or his favorite chair, and even in the basement where he would settle into an extra dog bed we keep there. I keep expecting to hear his bark as I return home. So many places in our home remind me of our beautiful chocolate poodle puppy. I see him sitting by the refrigerator, begging for a snack. I feel him lying next to me on the couch. I hear him crunching his food from the cabinet I designed specifically for him when renovating our kitchen. I. MISS. HIM.

As I search for Hershey everywhere, I find myself asking why. Why, God, why? Why did you take our baby boy from us? Why did he have to die before his time? Why didn’t we take him to the vet or hospital? How can this happen to a family member you gave us who was full of life? If all things work together for good, what good can come from his passing? Needless to say, I struggled with my faith, struggled with my HOPE, struggled with God. NOT a good place to be.

In desperate need for HOPE, I opened my journal where I have been writing ten things I am grateful for each day. I focus on the little things, not big things because, to me, it’s in the little things where we find God the most. If we can focus on the little things, we can find God in ALL things. And… when we find God in ALL things, we find HOPE in ALL things.

I flipped the pages until I landed on the one that chronicled the day of and day after Hershey died. I reread what made me grateful for Hershey and… I began to find some peace… to find HOPE. I started thanking God for sharing Hershey with us, even if it was a shorter timeframe than expected. I began to see life lessons learned from Hershey’s time with us. Seeing life from his precious eyes, I saw what Hershey saw. I looked at life with a Hershey perspective. I realized Hershey left us a legacy of love and… HOPE… through an array of life lessons:

· Love unconditionally… like Jesus

· Love everyone deeply, yet uniquely

· Greet everyone you see like he/she is the most important person on earth

· Be friendly and playful with everyone, no matter what race, gender, creed, or… species

· See the good in people

· Kiss and hug like there is no tomorrow

· Cuddle up to those you adore

· Bask in the sunshine

· Don’t shy away from the light… embrace it

· Take time to smell the flowers

· Appreciate the morning air

· Relish treats of all types

· Delight in the warmth that emanates from a fireplace

· Sink into a comfy chair

· Savor the coolness of grass on your feet (paws)

· Take time to rest

· EnJOY God’s goodness in every circumstance

· Cherish the gifts and treasures you’ve been blessed with

While I will miss his floppy ears, human-like eyes, chocolate hair, wet nose and the way he crossed his front paws, I cling tightly to the life lessons Hershey left behind. Hershey did, indeed, leave us a legacy of love to lean on and learn from. I know I will experience days where I can’t get through without a tear shed, however, I also know those tears will remind me of Hershey’s love. Through the tears is where I will rest in the HOPE that Hershey lived each day to the fullest, forgave our mistakes instantly and loved like Jesus. I am convinced God poured a bit of Himself into our beloved puppy with unconditional love, infinite forgiveness and the ability to see goodness in all things. It is my HOPE that I will take a piece of Hershey wherever I go and share with whoever I see. There is no doubt that Hershey’s legacy is a legacy of love and… HOPE.

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