My husband and I have a Goldendoodle puppy, Nutmeg, who brings boundless energy and exuberance into our daily lives. I take Nutmeg on daily walks along woodland trails, and as she pauses to sniff everything that has an earthy odor, I slow down as well. In these quiet moments, I absorb the sounds of nature surrounding me. I hear the chirping alarm of a scampering chipmunk, the rat-a-tat-tat of the red-bellied woodpecker on the tree limb above, and the croak of frogs in a nearby vernal pond. The natural world reminds me, ever so gently, that life goes on despite what I once thought after Elizabeth’s death.
Moments later, excited by shouts and laughter of children nearby, Nutmeg bolts toward them. I call her back, secure my leash to her collar, and we walk out of the woods and onto the athletic fields of the town’s middle school. Young teenage girls are practicing passing a soccer ball as they run down the field. On an adjacent field, one middle-school team wearing orange-and-black jerseys and skirts battles against their opponents dressed in green-and-white uniforms. Being a competitive athlete since age seven, I eagerly walk forward to get a closer look at the activity. After a few paces, I stop. My heart begins to beat rapidly. The team sporting green and white is the same hometown team that my daughters played on.
Alex, my five-foot-two, quick and agile, first-born child, played right wing. I can vividly remember her swiftly dribbling the soccer ball toward the opposing team’s goal. Elizabeth, my five-foot-nine, svelte and strong child, was the “sweeper,” the last defender positioned in front of the goalie. I close my eyes, and can see her fearlessly charging her opponents, kicking the soccer ball aside, and then swiftly elevating it above their heads.
I pant with short, rapid breaths. Tears well up in my eyes. How I yearn for those happier times. Nutmeg touches my leg; I crouch down, and she licks me under my chin. I scratch her soft, silky puppy fur for a while. I whisper, “I’m going to be okay.”
Moments later, Nutmeg and I turn away from the players and walk on. I silently pray that these teenage girls will be blessed with healthy and happy lives.