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Ladybugs the Afterlife and a Dog Blog

This is the story of my now departed mother, our tricky relationship, my renewed faith, and how it all ties in to the making of this blog.

A Complicated Relationship

I’ve always admired people (daughters, especially) who say they are best friends with their mothers. That was never the case with me. Don’t get me wrong, my mother was a lovely person. She had tons of friends and did amazing things for people.

But we didn’t get along. I mean, we really didn’t get along.

She had me later in life, 16 years after she thought she couldn’t conceive again. Surprise! I have two sisters who are 16 and 18 years older than I am, but I didn’t grow up with them.

My sisters were around when I was born, but by the time I was old enough to interact with them they had already moved out of the house. In a sense I was raised as an only child.

Yes, that means I was spoiled rotten. I admit it.

We Fought About Everything

If my mother said white, I said black. We butted heads on pretty much everything. I regret the way I was with her but you can’t go back in time. Honestly, she wanted me to fit into a mold that I didn’t belong in.

Keep in mind that my mother was of the 1950 era where ladies wore makeup for their husbands and had dinner on the table. She wanted me to “smile more” and to “be happy”. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize I had depression/anxiety as a child (and even now as an adult).

I don’t blame my parents for that. They didn’t know. Depression made me grouchy and I certainly didn’t want to smile much. When I did try to act “happy” my mother accused me of being too silly. I couldn’t win.

I was pretty much the opposite of everyone else in my family. I loved to read. I loved school. I was a loner most of the time although I always had one good friend kicking around.

I was an artist, took ballet, wrote short stories, and fought both of my parents on why I had to go to church!

Lisa Theriault and mom

Mom vs The Church

This story is about my mother and me, but my father was in the picture as well. He was very quiet and suffered from anxiety demons of his own. He was spiritual and loved gardening. He had a dog (a chihuahua named Queenie) that he loved and trained.

I just wanted you to know that my dad was around at the time. He worked nights from 3pm – 11 pm which means I didn’t see him a whole lot.

ANYWAY, both of my parents were strict Catholics. They went to church once a week. More on holidays like Easter. And they forced me to go too. Yes, forced. There was no way I was getting out of it. So I went. I did not love it.

Thinking back, I’m pretty sure it was my anxiety that made it so bad. I had to sit still and be very quiet for a full 60 minutes. Instead, I fidgeted and looked behind me (mom hated when I turned around to look at the other people in the pews!).

During prayers my mother would strike her breast while giving me side-eye to make sure I was praying as well. Most of the time I wasn’t.

The whole thing made me a nervous wreck. But I went every week, recited the prayers until they were burned into my memory bank, and – as they say – drank the Kool-Aid.

It Wasn’t For Me

I was a full 35 years old before I realized that I could stop going to church. Can you believe it? My parents had me convinced that it was a necessity in life. And then one day I just stopped going. My mother was beside herself with anger and grief.

How could I do this to her? They RAISED ME as a good Catholic!

It was hard for me to do, but also the best thing I’ve ever done. For a while, I called myself an atheist. But I’m not. I believe there’s something more beyond this world. None of can say for sure what that is. All I know is that I don’t need to go to mass to believe in God or the Universe or the Source…whatever you want to call “it”.

DAD AND LISA
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!

She Wouldn’t Give It Up!

I’m pretty sure my mother blamed all of my stupid mistakes in life on the fact that I stopped going to church. Of course, that’s not true. I made stupid mistakes because that’s who I am (or was). I’ve been married a few times (to my mother’s absolute mortification). I’ve not always been my best and I’ve done things I regret.

So Many Regrets

The one thing that has stayed with me from my church-going years is the guilt. And that’s no joke! I feel terrible for the way I treated my mother sometimes. I wasn’t always a great mother (I have one son – now an adult). I did the best I could at the time, but I always wish I could have been….better.

I really regret not believing my mother when she said she heard the voice of god tell her to check her breast. She said she was just waking up one morning when she heard a disembodied male voice say, “Check your breast!”

I laughed at her.

How could that be? I told her must have been dreaming. The weird thing is that I have had similar experiences in the past and yet I refused to believe her. I was so stubborn!

Anyway, she said her hand went right to the spot where she found the lump. It was cancer. That was the first time she was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors couldn’t believe that she had found the tiny lump herself.

She caught it early thanks to the warning from above.

I Refused to Believe Her

This “voice” came to my mother long after my father had passed away. She was living alone. She had her own house, a farmhouse out in rural Nova Scotia. It’s not like she was in an apartment where she could have overheard another person speaking.

She swore up and down that she heard a voice that told her to check her breast. I believe her now, but it’s too late to tell her. Another regret of mine.

Luckily, she did catch it early and they were able to get rid of it through surgery and radiation. She went on for another 10 years I think before the cancer came back.

Unfortunately, this one went unchecked and spread through her body.

When The Cancer Came Back

Mom was 85 years old when she found out the cancer was back and had spread everywhere in her body.

She was stoic when the doctor told her. He even asked her why she wasn’t crying! Of course, she grieved later, after the shock wore off. We all did.

She refused chemotherapy. Instead, she wanted to ride it out to the end. The doctor gave her 6 – 8 weeks, but she blew through that and went on to live 16 more weeks instead.

Meanwhile…

I had been contemplating starting a dog blog right around the time she was diagnosed but I couldn’t tell her.

WHY?

I’ve learned through the years that my mother didn’t understand me. Trying to explain a blog to her would have been exhausting and painful. Here are a few things she would have said to me:

“A what?”

“What’s a blog?”

“What’s it for?”

“Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“How much does it cost?”

And the list goes on.

Instead, I kept my mouth shut.

I didn’t share my hopes and dreams with my mother because she didn’t understand them. Telling her I wanted to write a blog would have sent her into a tailspin of confusion. I kept it quiet more for me than for her.

To be honest, my mother was hyper-critical of everything I did. She questioned everything I wore, everything I said, and everything I did. It was too much to handle so I stopped telling her things.

That’s why we weren’t “friends”. Some daughters are able to confide in their mothers. I was never able to do that for fear of being ridiculed, mocked, and worst….misunderstood.

Looking After Mom

In the early stages, mom was still able to live on her own without help. Remarkably, she had no pain at all. For weeks she was able to go about her life as she always had. Soon, however, she found she couldn’t eat. The weight began to fall from her bones and she was soon to weak to stand for long.

One day, a friend of hers called me to say she wasn’t making sense. Mom was speaking gibberish and appeared to be hallucinating.

That was the day my sisters and I made a plan. We would each share the responsibility of caring for mom. In fact, we decided to each take turns. One of us was always with her for 3 nights before handing off the responsibility to the other sister.

Mom was surprisingly easy to care for. Something about her vulnerability softened me. We weren’t fighting anymore. I felt tenderness with her and helped her as best I could.

But I still didn’t tell her about the blog. At that point, it was too late. Her mind was going and she didn’t have the energy to deal with my interests. This was her time.

Invisible Visitors

The most interesting part of the dying process was watching my mother engage with people I couldn’t see. She talked to old (departed) friends as if they were sitting next to her. She laughed and reminisced as if she’d invited them over for tea and a snack.

One night, while my sister was in the kitchen washing up dishes, my mother found the energy to get up. She walked into the kitchen and shouted, “Where is she?”

She scared the crap out of my sister!

“Where’s who?” my sister asked.

“Lillian!” my mother said. “Lillian was just here and now she’s gone. Where did she go?”

Of course, Lillian was an old friend of mom’s who had passed away years before. My sister lied and told mom she had left but mom didn’t believe her.

Yes, mom had hallucinations while her body prepared for death. And yet….there were times when it was so real to her that I have to wonder if she really was being visited from beyond.

My embarrassing picture below.

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?”

Grief, Worry, and The Universe

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 not knowing what to expect.

I had to know.

At this time I had just started this blog, Your Dog’s Health Matters. I desperately wanted it to grow into something I could be proud of. Yet there was something nagging at me. Mom was about to pass on and I needed her reassurance.

Sadly, I would never ask her or tell her about my worries. Until she died.

I Need You Mom

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.

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.

More Ladybugs!

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 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 But She DID

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. My experience with the ladybugs following my mother’s death was what brought me to my knees. It couldn’t be a coincidence. It was just too on the nose for that.

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.

I believe it was my mother reaching out to me in a way she could never do when she was alive. More importantly, it seemed as if the bridge between us had finally been closed.

I Love This Blog and This Thing Called Blogging

I have never been happier in my life. For months later, anytime I asked my mother for a sign, a ladybug would appear within 24 hours. I honestly don’t think that’s a coincidence.

I don’t feel my mother’s presence as strongly anymore, but I know she’s there. Maybe she believes in me now.

My mother when she was 18.

And here she is again in her 70’s. I can tell she was sad in this picture, but I never asked her about it. I can see it in her eyes and in the way she was “smiling”. Poor mom. I should have asked her about it.

Sarah Marie Theriault

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. I take great pride in it and want to serve you, my readers, with the best content you can find.

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