I’m not surprised to feel let down after planning and executing Mina’s event this past Sunday. I expected to feel somewhat deflated after all the activity and then find myself alone again. However, I didn’t expect to feel so down that I’m not sleeping again, have a constant headache, and I’m crying more often. I know from reading and listening to those wiser than myself that grief is an up and down, in and out sort of process, but I thought I’d feel somehow … lighter.

Really, the fund raising for the sanctuary since Mina died has been pretty successful. I’d like to squeeze more funds out of everyone, though, so please give if you haven’t already! I’m pleased we raised as much as we did at the winery on a crappy weather day. I’m happy that so many people showed up who loved Mina and wanted to talk about her.

Still … I’m very sad and I miss Mina more than ever. I’m teary this morning after a fairly sleepless night during which I felt unsafe.

See, when I got home yesterday evening and looked up at our living room window, always hoping to see Mina’s happy face looking down at me, the apartment was dark. I never leave the lights off unless Mina and I are going to be gone for several days. The kitchen light stays on, except during the brightest part of summer, so that Mina is never home alone in the dark. Frankly, I don’t enjoy walking into a dark apartment, either.

I rushed up the stairs, unlocked the door and turned on the entry light to look around. I turned on the kitchen light and looked in every closet, behind the shower curtain, and every corner to make sure no one was around. Yes, I did this armed. Daddy didn’t raise no stupid girls. What I found was a note on the counter that Joe had been in to look at the stove and I guess he politely turned off the light. I’m sure he never imagined it would create such a panic in me.

The weird part is that after I went to bed and slept for a couple of hours, I woke up feeling very uneasy and couldn’t get back to sleep. I was listening for whatever it is I listen for now, so I didn’t doze off again until about 30 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. After I got up and got ready to leave for work, I realized my keys weren’t on the counter as usual, weren’t in my coat pocket, nor in my purse. That’s when I realized where I’d left them – in the lock. Our door was unlocked and my keys were dangling outside in the lock. Some part of my crippled brain must’ve known this and kept me alert all night. Guess we live in a pretty decent neighborhood, eh?

I will admit that since Mina died there’s a general feeling of insecurity in me, especially at night. During her illness this year, Mina wasn’t the always-alert sentinel that she’d been for so many years, but I was deeply comforted knowing she was out in the living room where I could get up and check on her at any time. I could hear her breathing over the AC or heater, fans, trains, anything. I listened for it all night, on some level. I desperately miss hearing her breathing at night and I miss her more with every day that passes.

Mina, Mina, Mina …

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I sleep about four hours per night.

My temper is short and sometimes my vision is a little blurred.

I eat enough to keep “body and soul together,” as one of my aunts used to say, but I don’t eat dinner because I can’t stand to be in the kitchen. I just cleaned out the fridge at 3:30 a.m., but I can’t throw away the peanut butter that Mina loved so much and that I used to coat her pills and supplements.

I cry a lot. When I’m here, alone, I cry loudly and tell Mina that all I want in this world is to have her here with me.

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2008 Pet of the Month winner and her prizes Photo: Auntie Lolo

Yesterday, after about four hours of sleep, I got up and went to a cafe for a bagel and some herbal tea, talked to my Dad, then drove around. I ended up in Warrenton and found an organic grocery. They didn’t have the vegan doughnuts I wanted, but I got some other stupid stuff that I don’t need right now. Then I drove up 211 and when I passed Ecow, where Mina and I used to go last summer to buy Chow Now Pet Food, I burst into tears. I should’ve pulled over but I didn’t, wasn’t minding my speed (even though I was using cruise control), and was pulled over by a state trooper. By the time I rolled down my window I was sobbing hard. The trooper was polite and asked me to sit in my car for a few minutes and calm down before continuing on my way. Like some people lately, he couldn’t wait to get away from me.

Then I drove into Washington, Virginia, a quaint little wide spot in the road known mostly for one very expensive restaurant.

Continuing on towards Shenandoah National Park the weather turned drizzly and very foggy. I chose not to drive up Skyline Drive because of the heavy fog, and continued on towards Luray, a small town known for its caverns. I didn’t stop anywhere because I just wanted to look at scenery.

From Luray I drove over 340 to Front Royal and then on 55 to Delaplane. I found a couple of small farm roads I didn’t know about, and thought how much Mina would’ve enjoyed these slower-speed roads with lots of animal smells. I cried some more.

When I got to BOW it was around 12:30 p.m. I spoke to Brian about a fund raiser for Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary (if you haven’t donated yet in Mina’s honor, please do so!) and they’re very happy to accommodate the idea, but I need to talk to Terry and Dave about what they’d like.

Sue and Robin arrived and we stayed inside for quite a while until the 20-somethings from the tour bus began to turn a nice local winery into a frat party. We moved outside and sat near one of the braziers and got warm and finished our sangria.

While driving to Sue and Robin’s I got a call from our neighbors who moved out on November 7, Max’s parents. We cried as I explained Mina’s condition last Sunday night/Monday morning, and they assured me I made the right decision. This is something I’ve been second-guessing myself about since Monday morning, even though I know that Dr. Smith would never have proceeded if he weren’t also certain of my decision.

I came home after some snacks in front of the fire with Sue and Robin and Pearl the cat. It’s so empty here. It’s like a warehouse now. I don’t want it to be that way. I want to feel Mina’s presence here and I want to feel safe where we lived so happily for three and a half years, but I don’t. I feel lost and without purpose and I can’t figure out what to do.

My Dad has been incredible all during Mina’s chemotherapy and when her cancer returned and now he’s my chief counselor. Dad suffered a terrible loss nearly 10 years ago when my stepmom, June, died of cancer. He understands the chemotherapy roller coaster and gave me support and advice all during those 20 weeks. Dad has also helped me financially because treating Mina’s cancer and providing her with the palliative care she needed since September came at a high price. Now he’s helping me get through the worst loss I’ve ever experienced and I can’t thank him enough. My Dad is the greatest. THE greatest.

s.