SGLY: The photograph

By Tiffany Chartier
Special to the Anna-Melissa Tribune

We purchased an adult-sized dog bed before we purchased the dog.

Little did we know at the time, Freckles would never grow to fully fill her pillow because she tore it to bits of fuzz soon after her first birthday.

I remember the dog pillow only because of a photograph taken soon after we adopted Freckles. She started as a tiny thing, a mix of German Shorthaired Pointer and hound. Freckles would curl herself into the center of the brown pillow, looking like a little black bean nestled in soil. She took root in our home and grew into a fabulous companion for our family.

I came across the photograph while rummaging through boxes on the top shelf of a closet. We all have “the shelf” that is high enough to store things we know we will forget but do not wish to donate or throw away. Somewhere between then and now, 14 years passed.

There were two family members in the photograph: Freckles and my daughter. At the time, both were noticeably young. My daughter was at the age of learning how to read. She had an active imagination (still does) and would “read” books aloud, making up words along the way, her voice full of expression as she told a tale greater than the one on the page. In the photograph, Freckles was curled tight in the center of her pillow as my daughter sat directly in front of her, legs crossed, with a stack of books beside her and one open upon her lap. My little girl was actively “reading” to Freckles.

The sound of my daughter’s young and bright voice came back to me the instant I held the photograph in my hand. I remember being there. I bore witness to the moment that is now a memory. A memory that was forgotten until I went rummaging.

The timing of things is a funny thing. We realize the fullness of a day, of a year, of a life often in reflection rather than in the moment. In this present moment, Freckles is struggling through her final chapter. Her breathing is labored, her gait is wobbly, and her stamina is nil. We know she will soon leave us. I had forgotten what a full life she had – her time with us has been nothing short of a blessing. A deep-rooted and grateful blessing.

But I cannot help but look at the other family member in the picture: my daughter. She, too, will soon be leaving us as she heads off for college in the fall. She will take her active imagination and tender spirit with her, but the memories she leaves behind have filled more than just her life… they have filled mine as well.

Freckles is resting now beside me in an adult-sized dog bed that her body fully fills. She shakes in her sleep between strained snores. I tell her that I love her even though I know she cannot hear me. A heaviness settles in my throat. I will soon miss her. I know this is the truth. And yet, the thought of her not being in my life seems too foreign to imagine.

The house will not look any different this time next year, but the occupants will have changed. When my daughter leaves for her university studies, she will leave me with more than an empty room. She will leave me with a house full of memories. That thought brings an altogether different sort of emptiness, at times, but it also brings me back to the realization that a day, a year, and a lifetime are comprised of moments.

What we do today, how we love today, who we choose to be today… these decisions become our memories. And eventually, they fill a lifetime – ours and those we do life with. What an opportunity. What a grateful blessing.

Instead of returning the photograph to the box on the shelf, I put it on my desk as a reminder. A reminder of the importance of spending love as much as we spend time; both are investments worth making as they impact us all, moment by moment.

SGLY, dear reader.

(Smile, God Loves You.)

Tiffany Kaye Chartier

Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.