Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cheyenne - Live Life and Count Your Blessings

This email was forwarded to me by my father-in-law.  I usually enjoy spending 5-10 minutes a day reading the numerous emails (often chain-mail or jokes) that he sends, but this one went unread for a while.  Then, just after speaking with a coworker who spent his holidays with his family waiting for his mother to pass away, I found it again.  It's a touching, probably made up, feel-good story, but the moral still rings true.  (BTW - coworkers mother is getting better every day and may be heading home in the next few days!)

Cheyenne "Watch  out! You nearly broad-sided that car!" My father yelled at me. "Can't you do  anything right?"

Those words hurt worse than blows. I turned my head  toward the elderly man in the seat beside me, daring me to challenge him. A lump  rose in my throat as I averted my eyes. I wasn't prepared for another  battle.

"I saw the car, Dad. Please don't yell at me when I'm  driving."

My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I  really felt.

Dad glared at me, then turned away and settled back. At home  I left Dad in front of the television and went outside to collect my  thoughts.... dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of rain. The  rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner turmoil. What could I do about  him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon . He had enjoyed  being outdoors and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces of  nature. He had entered grueling lumberjack competitions, and had placed often.  The shelves in his house were filled with trophies that attested to his  prowess.

The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he couldn't  lift a heavy log, he joked about it; but later that same day I saw him outside  alone, straining to lift it. He became irritable whenever anyone teased him  about his advancing age, or when he couldn't do something he had done as a  younger man.

Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart  attack. An ambulance sped him to the hospital while a paramedic administered CPR  to keep blood and oxygen flowing.

At the hospital, Dad was rushed into an  operating room. He was lucky; he survived But something inside Dad died.. His  zest for life was gone. He obstinately refused to follow doctor's orders.  Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults. The  number of visitors thinned, then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left  alone.

My husband, Dick, and I asked Dad to come live with us on our  small farm. We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would help him  adjust.

Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation. It  seemed nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I became  frustrated and moody. Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on Dick. We began  to bicker and argue.

Alarmed, Dick sought out our pastor and explained  the situation. The clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments for us. At  the close of each session he prayed, asking God to soothe Dad's troubled  mind.

But the months wore on and God was silent. Something had to be done  and it was up to me to do it.

The next day I sat down with the phone book  and methodically called each of the mental health clinics listed in the Yellow  Pages. I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered in  vain.
Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed,  "I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the  article....."

I listened as she read. The article described a remarkable  study done at a nursing home. All of the patients were under treatment for  chronic depression. Yet their attitudes had improved dramatically when they were  given responsibility for a dog.

I drove to the animal shelter that  afternoon. After I filled out a questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the  kennels. The odor of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of  pens. Each contained five to seven dogs Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs,  black dogs, spotted dogs all jumped up, trying to reach me.

I studied  each one but rejected one after the other for various reasons: too big, too  small, too much hair. As I neared the last pen a dog in the shadows of the far  corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the run and sat down. It  was a pointer, one of the dog world's aristocrats. But this was a caricature of  the breed.

Years had etched his face and muzzle with shades of gray. His  hip bones jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught and  held my attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

I pointed  to the dog. "Can you tell me about him?" The officer looked, then shook his head  in puzzlement. "He's a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of  the gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be right down to claim him.  That was two weeks ago and we've heard nothing. His time is up tomorrow." He  gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in I turned to the man in horror.  "You mean you're going to kill him?"

"Ma'am," he said gently, "that's our  policy. We don't have room for every unclaimed dog."

I looked at the  pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my decision. "I'll take him," I said.  I drove home with the dog on the front seat beside me. When I reached the house  I honked the horn twice. I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad shuffled  onto the front porch. "Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad!" I said  excitedly.

Dad looked, then wrinkled his face in disgust. "If I had  wanted a dog I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better  specimen than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don't want it" Dad waved his arm  scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me. It  squeezed together my throat muscles and pounded into my temples. "You'd better  get used to him, Dad. He's staying!"

Dad ignored me. "Did you hear me,  Dad?" I screamed. At those words Dad whirled angrily, his hands clenched at his  sides, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate. We stood glaring at each other  like duelists, when suddenly the pointer pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled  toward my dad and sat down in front of him. Then slowly, carefully, he raised  his paw....

Dad's lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw.  Confusion replaced the anger in his eyes. The pointer waited patiently. Then  suddenly Dad was on his knees hugging the animal.

It was the beginning of  a warm and intimate friendship. Dad named the pointer Cheyenne.... Together he  and Cheyenne explored the community. They spent long hours walking down dusty  lanes. They spent reflective moments on the banks of streams, angling for tasty  trout. They even started to attend Sunday services together, Dad sitting in a  pew and Cheyenne lying quietly at is feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were  inseparable throughout the next three years. Dad 's bitterness faded, and he and  Cheyenne made many friends.. Then late one night I was startled to feel Cheyenne  's cold nose burrowing through our bed covers. He had never before come into our  bedroom at night. I woke Dick, put on my robe, and ran into my father's room.  Dad lay in his bed, his face serene. But his spirit had left quietly sometime  during the night.

Two days later my shock and grief deepened when I  discovered Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad's bed. I wrapped his still form in the  rag rug he had slept on. As Dick and I buried him near a favorite fishing hole,  I silently thanked the dog for the help he had given me in restoring Dad's peace  of mind.

The morning of Dad's funeral dawned overcast and dreary. This  day looks like the way I feel, I thought, as I walked down the aisle to the pews  reserved for family. I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and Cheyenne  had made filling the church. The pastor began his eulogy. It was a tribute to  both Dad and the dog who had changed his life.

And then the pastor turned  to Hebrews 13:2. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this  some have entertained angels without knowing it."

"I've often thanked God  for sending that angel," he said.

For me, the past dropped into place,  completing a puzzle that I had not seen before: the sympathetic voice that had  just read the right article... Cheyenne's unexpected appearance at the animal  shelter.... his calm acceptance and complete devotion to my father.... and the  proximity of their deaths. And suddenly I understood. I knew that God had  answered my prayers after all.

Life is too short for drama or petty  things, so laugh hard, love truly and forgive quickly. Live while you are alive.  Forgive now those who made you cry. You might not get a second  chance.

And if you don't send this to anyone -- no one will know. But do  share this with someone. Lost time can never be found.

And  remember....
God answers our prayers in His time... not ours...