Tag Archives: Easter

The Queenie Instinct, Breakfast on the Beach, and Easter Reflections

We had a much beloved dog named Queenie when my sisters and I were young growing up on the Gondola Point Road, over looking the Kennebecasis River. I never knew a time before Queenie, as she was part of our household before I was born and was close in exact age to one of my sisters, Sharon or Jane but my guess is Jane. Memory does not serve me well with that specific detail. Queenie was part Collie and part Sheep Dog.( If I am incorrect on her exact lineage as she might have been part Collie and part “Police Dog” which was a common term for German Shepherd, my sisters will correct me later. Our brothers were either only babies when she died, or possibly only twinkles in our father’s eyes, as the old saying goes.

Girl&Dog_01She followed us everywhere, went swimming, leaped up whenever one of us strolled up to our grandmother’s house or across the road to the store with the simple invitation of “C’om Queenie “, wiggled and wobbled along with us of her own volition. She loved us unconditionally as dogs tend to do. Dogs slept outside on the porch usually, years ago, in good weather, under the shade of the trees during the dog days of August or in the house, right by the “side door” during storms or winter cold. I do not remember her wandering through the house, “the front room” or the bedrooms, but life, space, a “dog’s place” or habits, in our house, (cats too), were what they were, quite different from our grandmother’s farmhouse which had an abundance of cats, in the barn and the house, and one that was hot to trot and be “man about town” for most of the year, yet came home every Christmas. Nanny named him “Merry Christmas”, fittingly so. I remember being at Nanny’s one day in early or mid December, having heard this famous “Cat Lore ” surrounding Merry Christmas but meeting him only once, when meowing grew louder, not uncommon there. Nanny, who naturally opened the door to anyone or anything, opened the door and Merry Christmas walked right in like a long lost son – or like “Poppa was a rolling stone. Wherever he laid his hat was his home.” So yeah… I saw it for myself.

Back to Queenie: Regardless of where she slept, she was part of our family, our home, our fields, our days while much loved by mom, dad, Sharon, Jane and me, our cousins, our neighbourhood. Although she rarely, if ever, went into mom’s “good room”, parlour or front room, she did make an excursion to church one Sunday.

I remember sitting in the heat of the summer, drizzling away, on a Sunday morning on the wooden pews in the old, original Rothesay United Baptist Church, dressed in a frilly little, dare I say, very short by today’s standards for little girls ( and crinolines), dress. The familiar click clack of soft paw and tight claw pitter patters in the vestibule, as due to the heat the church door was wide open. Queenie’s tracks continued slowly, but curiously to the back of the church and right up the aisle. Mind you, she briefly stopped to check out a few rows, wagging her tail, here and there, but swayed toward the front of the church, towards the alter, towards the pulpit. We were mortified, while holding our nervous laughter back. Then came a few chuckles, laughs and giggles from our friends and a few adults, providing us the opportunity to giggle and to call her name, as she sought us out, wagging her back end while being gently led out. Some appropriate, kind word of humour was spoken by the minister, and a nice moment passed. It served as a good story and innocent joke for awhile. Some later remarked how Queenie ” Went forward” or that ” she wanted to give her heart to the Lord”- perhaps answer the call to the Mission Field…etc., etc. (those of you raised in certain denominational persuasions will understand those terms:)

One late afternoon and into suppertime, none of us could find Queenie. It was rare and very odd for her not to be either with one of us, sleeping on the porch, under a tree or just home. Of course we and others searched everywhere to no avail. Dog poaching was unheard of in our parts then, especially an older family pet, but did she go wandering and albeit, rare but conceivable, could a trap catch her leg or foot ? Our father came home from work and still no Queenie. I am not sure what transpired or how dad knew what to do, but he, one or both of my sisters, a band of friends and cousins, along Dog_01with our Uncle David, perhaps a friend’s father, too, began a sensible search that resulted in finding Queenie laying on the ground within a little wooded alcove far off the higher cow pasture. Although we ceaselessly called her name throughout, even close by to where she lay, she did not whimper, bark or get up to greet us.

The men fashioned a little stretcher or pallet from branches, or whatever else they had, along with the knives or pocket items most carried then and carried the weak, compliant Queenie home. Queenie was thirteen years old, I was reminded, old, tired and not well. This was a blow to my imagination. Was she going to die ? Why can’t we help her or make her better ? Why would she go away just when she must need us the most – when we could love her, comfort her ? Did she have no confidence in our dedication and didn’t she know she was part of the family ? It was a confusing mix of feelings. Maybe we felt momentarily like heroes for finding her, or such a loving crew, which we were, for securely bringing her home where we thought she belonged but Queenie’s eyes were, in their weariness, in my young mind, pleading for something else. She was not elated that we found her or eager. If her tail wagged at all in her weakness, it was barely a movement. I imagined seeing the admiration and sheer love one sees in their old dog’s face, but also sadness and meekness. We humans may be messing up what she knew best.

The adults, a generation ahead of us, knew this. Their love for a dear family dog, too, conflicted them, I imagine in retrospect. Their desire to console and protect the children, to postpone the inevitable, to avoid the kids’ sense of a dog left alone in the woods to die, as a tragedy in young minds, under their roof, brought our dear Queenie home regardless of the natural instincts some animals have. It was that evening or during this spell of time that I learned, or was told by various adults, that family dogs who are very close to their owners want to go off and away from the family to spare them the hard partings. In so many words, it was also conveyed that some animals have an instinct to seclude themselves and go off alone when the time comes to die. It seemed Queenie knew what she was doing. She just could not tell us, but if she could, maybe we would not believe her anyway. Maybe we would still insist she come back and do it our way.

Some of you may know this and experienced it. It may sound far fetched to some but common knowledge to others. Just so that you do not assume this is old time, countrified folky babble, I have researched it as surely Queenie and a few old time dogs’ ancient realities, were not so rare. Certainly, many dogs will cuddle up and seek comfort from Human- their best friend. For those that do not, they have a reason, too. Part of their ancestor, the Wolf’s instincts, not to make the pack more vulnerable with a weak, sick, or dying member, and or themselves easy prey, and as stated, to spare others, or simply an instinct more common to some breeds than others. Even going off to another room in an apartment or house or huddling closely within their body or little corner, can be common. Today, many dogs are so domesticated without opportunity to run free or live more outside than in, has weakened, that drive or pull.

Queenie died at home a week later. In her feeble efforts to stand one day, she fell off the front porch and died. She was buried under the big bill berry tree which then was on the far side of the driveway. The tree is no longer there but for some time it was a fun, shady and special place well suited for her. Two more dogs who later came into our family, Miss Biz and Trooper, the latter my brother Neal’s dog after I left home, are buried in the front garden.

Something like ” The Queenie Effect” or Instinct has hit me from time to time. Perhaps in little ” au natural ways” there is an instinctual bleep in most of us. When faced with a terminal diagnosis or potentially fatal outcome suddenly, many drives, thoughts, desires crash in and may not make sense otherwise to yourself, initially, nor others who care for and love you. To some of my children, to my sisters, to Bruce, I have said, I just want to go to Iceland, in a little lodge by the bitterly cold sea, alone. (Bruce would have to come, poor soul. My care needs would be ongoing but I could not imagine him so far away unable to get to me or me him for months. Besides, it was only a fantasy anyway.) It was the imaginations way to exit me out of this harsher, unwelcomed piece of reality and place me far away in another, so far, yet so devastatingly stunning in natural beauty, location. I would not have to be in my family’s vision, or friends or loved ones’ view, be that ” burden”, as the awful declines of ALS would be out of sight, of Luke, Grace, Saxon and Jesse, but perhaps not out of mind. Too much of that protective oversight on my part, may be simply selfish, or perceived to be.

It is simply the escape – the running away; changing the scene with the hope of altering, somehow, the circumstances knocking at the door of your heart, head and soul. Maybe a human equivalent of” The Queenie Instinct”. As children, many of us were told ” to be seen but not heard”. Lately, I am fine with being heard through some writings or posts. That feels a tad safer. My ability to speak is now gone. A form of seclusion, if unable to run away, or alter the scene, try as one may, feels temporarily, more humane, more comfortable, possibly protective than “being seen” like this, some days. There are dangers inherent in this way of thinking, too, but it surely is a part, a detour, a pit stop on a cow path of coping on the bigger journey.

An acquaintance of mine when told of her cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgery, could not stand to hear a nurse, doctor, medical personnel call her by her name. If going for blood tests associated with her condition and her name was publically called, she would grimace and tighten her lip, roll her eyes and reluctantly rise and go. My thinking was it was simply a protection of her privacy but it went beyond those circumstances. She kept as secluded as she could but did in frustration and confidence say that this is not me. This is happening to some one else – not me- not my name. If only I could change my name for a year and return to me when it’s all over. She recovered, her name intact.

Lastly on “The Queenie Instinct”, deep in my memory bank but floating often to the surface, are the threads and patchwork quilts of my first husband’s walk on his journey of terminal illness with the cancer of Multiple Myeloma. That was the final bulky chapter written somehow for us, by us, or with us. I have shared little on that in my Blog, and am not sure just how much may be shared, as well as sensitivity, or my ability to do any of it justice it deserves. . Here is a simple example of his moment of identity crisis, in crisis.

On a Sunday afternoon in the old Camp Hill Hospital, after Donnie (DJ) was there for two weeks undergoing tests on back, spine, all sorts, due to an error of some pertinent but alarming medical info left on his night stand that we were not supposed to see “there and then”, we agreed that I inquire at the nurses’ station, what this info truly meant for us. This set in motion a flurry of blushes, uncertain looks, and awkward responses, resulting in the Head Residence Doctor being called to meet with us. He explained that the plan was to tell us early in new week but because of new circumstances, he told us then the diagnosis and prognosis. It was bleak. Much occurred internally in the next 24 hrs, tears, dread, prayers, laments, hope but that aside for now, eventually, I had to return home by cab to relieve the baby sitter for Grace not quite two yrs and Luke , just turned eight.

The next day, I got off work a couple hours early to make my way back to that hospital room where I found him just being transported back from the VG Hospital. Donnie had a beard -goatee- from the moment I met him and long before. He never shaved it off. He kept meticulous care of it, trimming, washing, fine tuning it daily. It was part of his look, his trademark, his style. He was propped up in the hospital bed with a look caught between fright and excitement with his face cleanly, thoroughly shaven; not a lick of facial hair – no moustache, no sideburns, no goatee. He could not explain why right then. He didn’t have to. A nurse came in while I was adjusting my view, and said “Yeah, what do you think ? I told him you would be surprised but you’d get used to it because he was determined it had to go ! ” I fell silent. Later, he told me he had to get it off and that he couldn’t have it anymore.

In later days further on in a remission and more illness, he let it grow back but for a time, it was not him, the real him, he felt, who got harnessed with that grueling prognosis.

It gives some of us a ray of hope, understanding and connection when we know that Jesus Himself in The Garden of Gethsemane, while in the deepest of prayers, sweating drops of blood, while even his most reliable disciples could “not wait with him awhile”, could not stay awake, could ask The Father if it possibly be His Will, could that Cup awaiting Him, be removed; but nevertheless, He said, not My will but Thine be done….( warning to those who may be uncomfortable when the lower case “s” for spiritual turns to the Upper Case ” S” for Spiritual, or for some who may feel this is too religious in content.) That is fine, respectfully, but for me, it is part of what I hope to share on my path in this Easter Time Reflection.

There is so much to say, to learn, to delve into with much practical and spiritual lessons, or enrichment from the Gospels on The Passion of Christ. By no means would I begin to make a comparison to our dying experiences as Regular Joes to Christ’s path, mission or Divine Work, but it is there for our reflection. – He is there in plain view, in the Bible lessons for an example or for our example, if we so choose. Although, I may create a gulf or a far fetched, inadequate case for a distance between us, He does not, in the mercy, grace, sacrifice He wants to provide in our weakest hour, our trembling, our identity crisis, even our humiliation, intense pain, suspicion, false statements, mocking and incredible suffering in front of His mother Mary who knew Him on earth like no other, loved Him like no other, along with other faithful, brave female friends, and some disciples. In the tortures of crucifixion, Christ looked down from the cross, to look out for His mother, to secure a place for the remainder of her earthly life, with John. ” When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said to his mother, Woman , behold your son.” Mary, to our minds, never turned away, unless we might picture covering her eyes maybe at a more horrifying act of torment, but she did not run for her own safety. She continued to believed in and for Him through the mists, I would imagine, of many mother-hearten mixed emotions and grief. In the radically different scene a week before which we came to call Palm Sunday, through the fickleness of crowd mentality, from hero to zero in a week, in many folks minds, from being lauded to mocked and killed, she knew who he was and stayed the course while his outward identity altered rapidly.

Christ’s resurrection was not publically viewed. Hundreds of spectators were not lined up awaiting a miracle, outside the tomb, despite some hearing Him foretell what would come to pass and witnessing three years of miracles, and unique, to them at time, teachings – a different world view. Doubt, grief, danger, confusion easily can set in with many of us, despite what we think we know. The rubber hasn’t hit the road really hard yet. Some disciples were huddled in fear or anxiety. Certainly it was first witnessed by women, Mary Magdalene being one who ran and told Peter. Regular women with intense life experiences who followed Him, were his “sisters on this journey”, so to speak , were first to see, to believe something deeper, more comforting was at hand, despite the fresh memory of ugliness, shame and cursedness, seemingly of Golgotha.

I am not a preacher or Bible Scholar, so I will leave my ramblings here. We know much more occurred of great interest and study during the period Christians refer to as Easter Week – specifically Good Friday to Easter Sunday. I get excited and love the stories that occur between the Resurrection and the Ascension, especially. Jesus appeared to His disciples and others, often with a hint of surprise, usually comfort- despite the fact those who had known Him the best, often thought he was a ghost for a bit. He exuded a different, calm, assured vibe, with great warmth. This spelled out yet again, a difference in the outward identity. Inwardly, the various facets of his nature, always there, but perhaps, not always seen, understood or embraced, shone through. There is something about Christ’s incredible lightness of being now, in these appearances, often greeting with or offering “Peace” each time.

In these examples, my favourite is Jesus cooking breakfast on the beach for his disciples who were out toiling again for fish, catching nothing. For those who may not know, this can be found in the Gospel of John, Chapter 21. It is a beautiful read as well as the famous instructions to “feed my sheep” and “feed my lambs” that Jesus needed to impart prior to His Ascension to key disciples, full of flaws, questions and human nature as I am today.

Jesus_01Jesus, having suffered a horrendous death, humiliated, beaten publically, nowhere to hide, if He opted for that, taking on the burden and questions of our sins or misdeeds, man’s inhumanity to man, fulfilling in obedience for a gift we often can barely comprehend or care to recognize, at times, trying to give us a deeper peace or purpose, a relief from our burdens, a strength to carry us through, rose from the dead to little fanfare. Still happily, lovingly, He surprises disciples who tentatively recognize him and are back toiling and stressing over their daily/nightly workload, to no avail, builds a fire, calmly cooks them breakfast. (This is pretty cool to an aging Flower Child who spent a lot of time on the beach, bonfires, deep chats, watching the tide). He gives them a miraculous catch in their nets, on top of it all, after all their night of trying, or struggling, of sweating it out.

Rather than my Iceland escape, I can, if I allow it, envision a strong Jesus, who endured suffering in heavier doses than I can imagine, for much nobler reasons, who, now fresh, finished that task(s), His incredible lightness of being, so apparent, altered in outward identity, but known, recognized – making a little fire, cooking breakfast for me, on the shores of The Kennebecasis, or some beautiful shore, saying little, because now, much is known, smiling , says “Come. Peace! This is for you, Susan.”

Some liberties were taken in my description of a possible end of this earthly existence. I do not know what it will be like, exactly! This picture is one that comforts me. It may be that lovely, or so much more. Such a visual helps to sustain through physical; and internal changes as they hit or sweep over us, over me, shattering outward identity., offering a core of an eternal identity , in return, which becomes stronger bit by bit. It is my belief to grasp onto because of a suffering Christ, a resurrected Christ and an overcoming, merciful, acquainted with grief Christ.

Water_01Admirable words, lofty, hopeful, maybe too much so, because I know the fragile hours, the depression, frustration or despair that wells up. It can temporarily wipe my best attempts, or these reflective hours of peace and assurance off the board as a wind storm tosses what was stable aside. I can be shaken to the core, but the reminders of the peace or hope, ” sunnier days” have the gentler force to pull me back in. So still, I will hold on to that longer, rather than the sense of punishment, doom and shame frequently trying to block my, possibly others’, vision.

Wishing you a gentle spring with hope. For those who celebrate Easter, Happy Easter !

Thank you,

Susan JM