I had intended to post earlier but it’s hard to put my mind to the reality of spending my first Thanksgiving in 12 years without my dearest love, Mina.

Mina was still a baby living with her biological mother and siblings on Thanksgiving Day in 1996. We spent that Christmas together at Mike’s, and then Mina and I spent every holiday together for the rest of her life (even though I was with family in Tennessee in 2000, we still had a tree and presents at home before I left).

We’ve spent every Thanksgiving since 2002 at Auntie Sue and Uncle Robin’s, where Mina and I are adopted members of their family. This year, I didn’t cook because I haven’t been able to use the kitchen since Mina died for anything more than heating soup in the microwave or getting a glass of water. I hope to discuss that this afternoon during the aplb.org chat for people like me who’ve lost their non-human animal loves.

Mina's table shrine

The coffee table shrine to Mina - photo, urn, and box with her hair inside

On Thursday morning I drove out to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, where I volunteer, to help out with chores because the regular staff has the day off. You can read about our day on Deb’s blog and hear me talking and sniffling a lot because I was standing too close to Deb when she took the vid. Please visit the sanctuary’s Web site and donate in Mina’s memory to help all the animals living there in peace and happiness.

After chores, we had some pumpkin cheesecake that Terry made for us, then I drove home to wash off the mud and drive out to Delaplane. I was doing OK on the drive until I turned off I-66 and onto Route 55. That’s where I always slowed down enough to roll down my window so Mina could lean her head over my shoulder and sniff the air. The only time I didn’t roll down that window was during rain. Mina never minded cold air rushing past her, even though I often complained about the cold. She loved sniffing the air as we drove the final four miles to our destination.

That’s also where I started crying. Really crying. I thought I might have to pull over but the roads are very narrow and slow so I drove on. Once up the steep driveway, Sue met me at my car and gave me a big hug. When I made it inside, Harald and Cecilia, Robin’s family, met me and also gave me enormous hugs. They knew Mina, too, and were fond of seeing her whenever we all visited at the same time. Even Robin’s granddaughter, whom I’d never met, greeted me with a hug.

This is so hard. I don’t like all these new memories that don’t include my sweet girl. Living without Mina doesn’t seem to work very well as I’m just going through the motions trying to get through every hour. Sitting here in our apartment, alone, is more difficult than you can imagine. It hurts, it just hurts to be in this world without Mina.

Anyway, we had a nice dinner and some wine and I stayed the night because my vision is still messed up. I took along Mina’s urn, the heart-shaped pewter box with her hair inside, and a photo take of us when Mina was just a baby. I plan to always take these items whenever I’m away from home overnight. In the morning, I had leftovers and tea with Sue and then drove home.

I don’t remember what I did all day on Friday. I know I took an hour-long walk, visited the leasing office to pay rent, talked to a friend for a couple of hours who called to keep me occupied (she’s really good at it, too), and scanned some photos of Mina for the lasted slideshow featuring a few pics from 2000. That’s how it is right now, hours go by and later on I can’t remember what I did to fill the time.

Mina's wall shrine

The wall shrine to Mina - favorite photos, poem, and Rainbow Bridge paw print

But, I managed to get together for mailing all the scanned photos, three of Mina’s collars, two old brass collar tags, a ribbon from a Christmas present from Auntie Sherrie to Mina, and a copy of the Rainbow Bridge with her paw print. I took it all to UPS and paid to send it off to my friends in Atlanta who will make Mina’s official scrapbook. I still need to organize some digital photos and get them off to Snapfish for copies and then send those to Atlanta as well. My goal for that task is Tuesday morning.

On Friday evening, I attended the aplb.org chat for the entire two hours. At the end of the chat we were encouraged by the counselors to write about our favorite memories of being with our beloveds. I wrote about traveling with Mina and how much we enjoyed long drives, and quite a few others in attendance wrote similar stories. I am blessed to have loved a soul who enjoys riding around the countryside as much as I do. Next to taking walks, going for drives is Mina’s favorite thing to do.

Yesterday, I went to the sanctuary in the morning for chores on a cold and windy day. When I left before 12:30 p.m. I was covered in mud and really stinky. Again, I cleaned up and headed out to Delaplane, this time to spend a few hours with some of my favorite people – Josh and Sarah and their dad. They’re the same niece and nephew mentioned in Auntie Sue’s post from the other day.

Those two are so much fun to be around. I wish every time I see them that we had more time together. This time we watched my newly purchased copies of “Star Trek” and “The Dark Knight,” interrupted only by tasty leftovers for dinner and a dessert break between films. They lost their beloved Butch in September, so there was a lot of understanding from two people who are just 16 and 15. They truly lightened my spirit and made me smile and laugh more than I’ve done in quite some time.

Today, I’m off to church and then meeting a friend for lunch. If I make it back in time for some of today’s chat, that’ll be great. I also plan to walk for an hour or so. That leaves me with a long evening to fill, the most difficult part of every day without my sweet, beautiful Mina. At some point down the road, I’ll figure out how to live the rest of my life to honor her life, but for now I am beyond sad and so lost without Mina. Whenever I try to talk to her, as I did all the time when she was here with me, I start to cry and can’t go on.

Sweet Mina Bean, you own my heart and you always will