Ladybugs the Afterlife and a Dog Blog

Something happened to me in 2016 that opened my eyes to possibilities I didn’t know existed.

You’re probably wondering what the afterlife has to do with a dog blog.

There’s a little backstory here that you need to know in order for this to all make sense. Please stay with me; I promise this has everything to do with dogs and blogs.

I apologize for the picture quality. These were taken with old-timey cameras. I had to use my iphone to take a picture and then upload it to the computer.

The photo below is my mother at 39 years old holding me as a baby. This definitely wasn’t the house I grew up in. I’m not sure where this was taken.

Lisa Theriault and mom

It started When My Mother Had Cancer

I was looking after my dying mother in 2016. My two sisters and I shared the responsibility, each of us staying three or four nights before going home to our own families, repeating the routine week after week, month after month.

Palliative care is scary when you don’t know what you’re doing. Thankfully, we had the help of the Red Cross, personal care workers, and the support of family and friends.

My mother was always such a strong person.

She had a strong faith in the church, managed her own house well into her 80’s (long after my father passed away), went above and beyond for anybody in need, and regularly welcomed people into her home for home-baked treats.

She also loved to entertain and to be surrounded by friends and family. She always said, “The more the merrier!”

The thing I remember most about mom was the way she would prepare the dining room table with her finest China dishes, silver serving platters, cloth napkins, and beautiful floral centerpieces from the garden my father cultivated.

Let me tell you about Wednesday nights!

Mom loved to bake. I think she just loved feeding people. It was her way of nurturing.

For whatever reason, she chose Wednesday nights to bake. AND I MEAN BAKE. It was amazing to watch.

She would literally bake apple pie, blueberry pie, donuts (the homemade kind), and chocolate cake with royal icing (my fave) in one night. She’d freeze some and tuck the rest in the refrigerator.

It’s amazing I’m not 1000 pounds.

AGAIN, I apologize for the photo quality. This is a picture of my father, Albert Joseph Theriault, holding me as a baby. Looks like I was into flowers as much as he was. My father was a wonderful gardener. His flowers were so beautiful that tourists would actually stop on the road and ask if they could take pictures!

Here’s the thing..

It’s easy to reminisce about the good times. But truth be told, we didn’t get along very well. Part of it maybe had to do with the age difference. She was nearly 4 when she had me. Plus she grew up during a time when women were expected to be perfect housekeepers, always look their best, etc. etc.

You know what I mean.

Unfortunately, I didn’t fit the mold she wanted. I had a lot of questions that she really hated. Things like:

“Why do you sign your name Mrs. Albert Theriault if your name is Sarah?”


“Why do you stay up so late to cook dad a meal for when he gets home at midnight?”

She worked herself to the bone. It’s a good thing she had a lot of natural energy because she was pretty tired. I often saw her face down at the kitchen table. Asleep. She’d jerk herself awake just to keep going.

I was a brat…

I think I’m being kind actually. I was horrible to her sometimes. She was hyper-critical of me (let’s just say I was the artist of the family – whatever that means). It got to a point that I would purposely argue every point she made.

And we argued a lot.

I may come back at some point and fill you in on all the details but let’s just say I was a disappointment to her in a lot of ways.


I was really smart in school. My older sisters (16 and 18 years older) never finished high school. Eventually they went on to get their GEDs and subsequent careers.

But I was good in school. That was my saving grace. THAT made her very proud of me. At least there was that.

When mom was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at 85, nobody expected anything special from me.

lisa with a doll
This is a picture of me holding a doll – likely a Christmas present. I remember that sofa too. Wow it was very velvety and flowery. But hey, it was 1970-something. What REALLY makes me laugh is the look on my face. A DOLL. I never liked dolls. I’m sure I was thinking, “What do I do with this thing?”

I vaguely recall cutting the doll’s hair and putting an abundance of makeup on her face.

They were wrong…

I was in my late 40’s when she got sick. An adult for heaven sake! I did what had to be done.

That was an interesting time filled with all kinds of crazy emotions. There was this one time at the hospital that I will never forget.

It was actually hilarious.

I was pushing my mother in a wheelchair at that point. She had grown pretty weak. As we went down the hospital corridor we came across a friend of hers. I stopped and let her chat for a few minutes. And then, as if I wasn’t right behind her, she says, “Lisa is a sweetheart!”

I laughed out loud. I would never call myself a sweetheart, but I was really trying to be thoughtful with her.

God. It brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. I wish I would have been kinder to her when I had the chance.

The Cancer…

I thought she would deteriorate rapidly. I expected her energy to drop and braced for the full impact of the diagnosis.

But she fought.

She fought with fierce determination and would not accept her cancer diagnosis. It was inspiring, but also sad because we all knew there was no way out.

The doctor gave her 6 – 8 weeks, but she blew through that and went on to live 16 more weeks instead.

She made it easy to forget she had cancer for a long time. My sisters and I didn’t start sleeping at her house for 24 hour care until the day she began to speak incoherently.

The cancer was entering her brain and, as a result, if she become overtired she would talk gibberish. It was frightening to hear from a woman who otherwise spoke with clear intention.

She used every ounce of strength she had to try and maintain a normal routine. Her big outing was on Friday afternoon when she would visit the salon to style her short hair. She refused chemotherapy so she had no hair loss or other symptoms that go along with chemo.

Visiting the hair salon every Friday was her thing. She’d been doing it for at least 50 years – if not more.

I’m not a big person and my mother, even after losing a lot of weight, was hard for me to hold up on my own. It was especially hard to get her in and out of the car safely on my own. I have to admit that I dreaded bringing her to town on Fridays but when the time came when she really was too weak to go, I was saddened.

The day she looked at me from her bed and said she didn’t want to go to the hair dresser I knew it was over.

She was strong for a long time, but when the cancer took over she really succumbed quickly.

lisa 2nd birthday
Here’s a picture of me on my 2nd birthday. I cannot explain why my parents were so obviously fixated on pink, unless it has to do with the poor camera quality. Pink cupboards? Wow. Even I was dressed in pink.

PS: You’ll notice my mother was obsessed with short hair. She really hated long hair and kept my tresses pretty cropped. As always, I look SUPER IMPRESSED (sarcasm). LOL

I Want You to Go Back to Church

My mother was a staunch Catholic and was devastated when I stopped going to Church. It was hard for her to understand how I could still believe in a higher power but not believe in religion per se.

We all have different beliefs and nobody knows for sure what happens when we die.

After mom died, however, my sister and I experienced amazing events that we believe were orchestrated by the spirit of our deceased mother.

The Afterlife?

it was a late summer afternoon and the sun was low on the horizon. I stepped outside for fresh air and sat on the cement steps, wondering and worrying about my future.

I was 46-years-old at the time. My son was grown up and living his own life. My partner was home, looking after our two big dogs, and I was spending my time caring for my dying mother.

I couldn’t explain it at the time, but I had a deep feeling that something big was about to happen to me. My instincts told me that things were about to change for me and I worried about what that could mean. I had the sense that whatever it was would be wonderful, but it was unsettling now knowing what to expect.

I was working full-time for a local college, just starting a new blog called Your Dog’s Health Matters, and living in a house that desperately needed more repairs and renovations than I could afford.

I Asked the Universe For A Sign

As I sat alone on the cold cement steps watching the sun set I was overcome with heaviness and uncertainty. “Just tell me everything’s going to be okay” I said to the horizon. My mother was alone in the living room, asleep in the hospital bed we had on loan from the Red Cross. I had my two dogs with me for comfort, but on that particular day it wasn’t enough.

I cried into my hands and then pulled myself together. I wiped my eyes and pushed my hair out of my eyes. My dogs pushed their noses into my face, their hot breath on my neck.

As I stood up I noticed a ladybug on my pants. “Weird” I thought, because you just don’t see that many ladybugs where I’m from. I brushed it aside and went back in the house.

More Signs from Beyond

My mother’s living room and dining room were, essentially, one big room separated by white archway in the middle. My mother’s hospital bed was in the living room and I slept on a sofa bed in the dining room. Since it wasn’t designed to be a bedroom, the only light I had was a big crystal chandelier that hung in the center of the room. It had a dimmer switch which I kept on low.

I was reading in bed when the chandelier dimmed completely and then went out. I didn’t think much of it. Lights go out sometimes. I got out of bed and realized that the dimmer had shut itself off completely. So, I turned it up a bit and climbed back into bed to continue reading.

I was into another chapter when the chandelier suddenly lit up the room. I was scared at that point, alone in an old farmhouse with my dying mother. I started wondering if there were ghosts messing with me.

But it was the ladybugs that really got me thinking about angels and spirit guides. I had no idea until much later that the ladybugs were bringing me a message of hope and happiness. To this day, I believe it was my mother sending me a message from beyond the grave. Let me tell you why…

My Mother Passed the Next Day

There was A LOT to take care of after mom passed away. We had to clear out the house, put it up for sale, manage her estate, close accounts, and so on. The most interesting part of the whole thing was clearing out her house. She had piles of hand-written recipes cards shoved tightly into kitchen drawers and more Christmas decorations than anybody could ever use.

Sorting through her things was very intimate. It allowed us to see her as mother than a mother. She had been a wife, a friend to many, a church-goer. Every layer of her life was found in the cupboards and drawers, hidden in the attic, and uncovered from closet shelves.

As we went through her things, I encountered more ladybugs. I found them in boxes, long dead but strangely preserved. She had never once mentioned ladybugs or any sort of infestation. It was all very odd to me. But things were about to get much stranger than that.

In my experience, it’s fairly rare to see a ladybug in my hometown in Nova Scotia. They’re around, but they’re not prolific. You might see one or two in a whole year if you’re lucky. But shortly after my mother passed away, I saw them EVERYWHERE. There was one on my office desk one day and another on my pant leg as I left a store.

Ladybugs were with me for months after my mother died. I saw them almost everyday on the windows, on the patio, in my car. I knew it was more than a coincidence, so I looked up the meaning of Ladybugs as spirit guides.

The Ladybug Spirit Guide

It turns out that the ladybug is a symbol of change, a messenger sent to guide the impatient souls (like myself) to inner strength and happiness.

Essentially, I took it to mean that the universe would reveal things to me in the fullness of time. Remember that gut feeling that something huge was about to change in my life? I felt that the ladybugs were my spirit guide trying to tell me to be patient.

It was a phrase my mother had always said to me when I was a little girl. “You have to be patient.” She tried her best to instill that quality in me with little luck. Were the ladybugs messengers from beyond? Was the universe telling me to be patient? I believe it was.

The Blogging Millionaire

I took a blogging course (thank you Brandon Gaille!) and caught the fever. I was hooked! I learned the ropes, built a webpage, and started writing about dog health care. That was the beginning of Your Dog’s Health Matters.

I made a lot of blogging mistakes in the beginning and it wore on me. Fatigue combined with remnants of grief seeped in. Did I mention I was also writing a book at the time? And I was a runner. Mix that in with a full-time job, two dogs, two cats, and a husband and you’ve got yourself a harsh brew.

By now the ladybugs were gone. I wasn’t seeing them around and barely thought about them. My mind was consumed with dogs and dog research. Meanwhile, I was completely dissatisfied with my webpage and spent a small fortune buying up everything I thought would help me gain success.

The Ultimate Melt-Down

At one point I contemplated giving up the blog, but something stopped me. That instinct in me told me to hang on. I was also still feeling that strange phenomena that something big was about to happen. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. All of these thoughts and activities swirled around my head until one day I completely lost it.

I was angry and depressed. The blog all but came to a halt because I’d worked myself into such a mess. I couldn’t think straight long enough to string a sentence together.

“MOM!” I shouted into the empty air. “Is this blog going to success or am I wasting my time?”

I cried a lot that day until, worn out, I collapsed on the couch with a coffee and my iPad. Hours had passed since I’d pleaded with my (deceased) mother to somehow reach through the cosmos and offer a little insight.

I Didn’t Think She’d Actually Do It

My normal social media routine was to scan through my Twitter account. I’d commiserate with other writers, laugh at the funny dog videos, and gather up new followers if I could. On this particular night, however, my gut told me to open Instagram. I tapped on the app and waited for it to load.

The image below is the first thing I saw on the feed. It takes a lot to shock me, but this certainly did. A dog WITH a ladybug on its nose. Had it just been a picture of a dog, I wouldn’t have given it another thought. But my experience with the ladybugs following my mother’s death was what brought me to my knees.

What to do dogs, blogs and the afterlife have to do with this picture?

Coincidence or Something Else?

How can I possibly believe it was coincidence? I was overcome, shocked and excited. I still feel uneasy writing this story for the world to read, but it’s my experience. This is what happened to me at a time when I needed a little guidance from my mother.

This picture gave me the strength to keep pushing, to keep working this blog as hard as I could. To this day, I only have to look at the picture to remind myself of what’s possible. I’m still human though and there are plenty of times when I question my sanity. WAS it just coincidence or was it my mother reaching out from beyond, reassuring me of my fate.

And Then I Lost My Job

Losing your job is always a bad thing, right? I remember that morning vividly. I went into work like any other day, sat at my desk, and opened my computer. That’s when I was told I had a meeting to attend at 9:30 a.m. A meeting? I had no idea I was about to walk into an office where 3 people sat waiting to tell me my position had been terminated.

I was calm as they gave me my options. As a union member with high seniority I could do one of three things:

  1. Take a payout of $30,000
  2. Sit on a reinstatement list until a job become available
  3. Move 300 km away to Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, to slip into another position within the same organization. I was guaranteed my same salary, I would not lose any seniority, and my vacation and benefits would not change.

I Had to Stop Myself From Smiling

I have no poker face and it was all I could do not to jump for joy. Morale was low where I worked and I was beginning to hate the small town where I’d grown up. I was almost 50 years old and yearning for something else. And here was my chance!

I love the city and all it has to offer. The thought of moving to the city put a fire under me. I drove to my husband’s place of work that day in shock to tell him the news. He supported me right away, even under the realization that he would have to quit his job and attempt to find work in the city.


My World Completely Fell Into Place

Just as the universe had promised, just as my long-time premonition had predicted, everything fell into place. My house sold quickly (it normally takes six months or longer to sell a house in that small town). We got a luxury apartment in the same building as my son. And my husband found a fantastic job within weeks of our move.

I Love This Blog and This Thing Called Blogging

I have never been happier in my life. What a great thing! If I hadn’t taken any stock in the ladybugs or the appearance of that photograph after asking for a sign, I’m sure that everything still would have worked out for the best. The difference is that I was able to relax a little on the journey here. Instead of being in a constant state of angst, I was able to let the universe take over.

I missed my mother a little less, too, because I felt her with me during the upheaval. Don’t get me wrong…it was a pretty stressful time trying to sell my house in the middle of a brutally cold winter, switch jobs, move to a new city, etc. I just knew it would be okay. And it was.

My Mother is Gone Now

I don’t feel my mother’s presence any longer but I’m not saddened by it. There’s a feeling inside me that she did the work she needed to do and I’m going to be okay now.

Here’s an old photograph of my mother. She was very young in this picture…maybe 18 years old. Her name was Sarah Marie Theriault.

And here she is again in her 70’s.

Sarah Marie Theriault

She would KILL me for putting her picture up for the world to see if she were still alive.

Thank you for Reading My Story

Thank you for reading my story. I hope it resonated with you on some level. It wasn’t easy for me to do, but now that’s it written I’m glad I did.

I’ve shared so much that I think we must be family now! I hope you’ll stick around to read the blog. Drop in once in a while to check on things. Make sure I’m keeping the blog in tip-top shape. If I’m not…tell me!

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