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Sacred Paths

Christmas 1997...it was suppose to be the grandest celebration of my life. After 7 grueling years, I had achieved my dreams! I was the second person in the history of my family to achieve a high school diploma, and the only one to graduate with 3 consecutive college degrees. Quite a feat for a 37-year-old wife and mother. During the long and difficult years, I was shadowed by my wolf, Pepper, and cheered on by my father. I had every intention of celebrating with all of my loved ones close at hand, never imagining that my wolf and my dad would die just 8 weeks apart—right after graduation and before the holidays. A chapter in my life had come to an inexplicable close—without my permission, without my desire, and without my will.
How does one face the rest of life without one's shadow and father? I didn't have a clue, despite my brand new education as a psychologist. My education failed me: I could not problem-solve a solution to their deaths. I learned that grief must be embraced and the loss accepted. And I learned a most enduring lesson: that to the degree you love the one that died, to THAT degree you will suffer at his death.
When Pepper died, I felt like I had been knocked to my knees. When my father died, I fell headlong into despair. The irony of life can be immensely cruel. Lacking the courage or desire, I canceled the long-awaited celebration. I was so angry with God. And I realized that NEVER would have been a good time to say good-bye.
Late one night, just prior to Christmas, I stood in the doorway talking with my daughter. I felt a firm tug on my ponytail and a soft brush against the back of my calves. I waited a second then swung around in an effort to catch my son in his games.
Startled, my daughter exclaimed, "What on earth are you doing?!?"
I explained that I was trying to catch her little brother playing tricks on me.
She responded, "No Mom, he isn't even in the room."
In life, my dad was a prankster; he used to tug on pigtails and ponytails, all the while exclaiming, "It wasn't me." And Pepper would position himself behind my legs whenever I was hurt, afraid, or he sensed danger. It was a protective stance he took; hence his description as my shadow.
Throughout my grieving process, Dad and Pepper visited me in my awake and dream states. In the very last dream, I wanted to accompany my father on his journey. He turned to me and said, "You can't come with me, I must travel this path alone." Thus began a new chapter in my life; my path continues here on earth, while they reside in the Sky-Vault known as Heaven.
In my father's honor, I sign this memory with my Cherokee name—

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