Maybe it’s because it was the first Christmas without her that I relate the song by Jewel, Life Uncommon to her. And maybe it is because of her I think of this song because she taught me to start living my life by my own definition.
In July 2005 we said goodbye to our chocolate Lab, Cassie Jo, who died from bone cancer. A cancer typical in the breed, but not typical in where her tumor was located. On her hip, and partially grown into her spine. Nothing we could really do for treatment for her, but try an experimental drug. We brought her home and loved her more deeply than ever for the remaining time we had with her.
There’s a line in the song, “set down your chains.” John related that to Cassie Jo finally being free of the cancer that invaded her body for eight months. The next line, “till only faith remains” would be my test to build my faith that I will see her again one day– that we would always be connected– even when death took her away from me physically.
Each Christmas John and I have a tradition of taking a drive, looking at all the holiday decorations lit up at night. Christmas 2005, our first one without Cassie Jo joining us for the ride.
It would become a tradition to play Jewel’s Christmas CD as we made our way throughout a few small towns near our home.
As the song Life Uncommon came on I felt tears well up in my eyes. My heart ready to crack wide open thinking of, and really missing, Cassie Jo. The ache deep wishing I could hug her once again. I also wanted to know if she was okay.
The moon so bright that night. Tears spilled down my cheeks as I looked out the car window, the Christmas lights on the homes a blur. It was then I saw her.
Galloping like a small pony, ears flying in the wind, a smile on her face. In my head I heard her say, I am happy and free. I’m okay.
For some time after that I questioned whether or not I really saw her. Was it really just my imagination? Did I truly see her or was it just an image I made up?
The more I have lived into my faith and truth, the more I know I did see her. She was there. I believe this. Since then, I’ve had more experiences such as this with animals that have passed. I consider it a great gift to experience visits from the other side. It brings me much comfort.
For quite sometime after Cassie Jo passed and that moment, I felt her guiding me, becoming my spiritual guide. She was the heart dog who started it all for me. She helped me to get out of my own way and start taking steps into who I really wanted to be. She is why I became a writer.
Merry Christmas, my sweet Cassie Jo. Though you rest higher in spirit now, I always think you this time of year. I just wanted you to know. Though I think you already do.