Ladybugs the Afterlife and a Dog Blog

I want to tell you a story that I haven’t shared with a lot of people until now.

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.

When Your Time Comes….

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 until mom passed away two weeks after her 86th birthday, four months after her diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer.

She refused chemotherapy treatments when she was diagnosed as the cancer had already spread throughout her body. Naturally, she quickly deteriorated and our lives become those of caregivers.

I’m not a natural caregiver. I’ve suffered with severe anxiety and depression since I was a little girl, and if anything was going to trigger my brain chemistry, this was it. Of course I cried. But more than that, I got angry. I got tired.

Am I Horrible?

What I just said might be shocking, but I don’t think it makes me a horrible person. I suspect a lot of what I was feeling was related to fear and uncertainty. I have amazing intuition and something in my gut had been telling me (long before mom was diagnosed with cancer) that something BIG was about to change in my life.

I just didn’t know what it was.

I knew it was my mother dying. Don’t get me wrong, that was a big deal. But I knew in my heart that wasn’t it. There was something else. I never carried a sense of foreboding, which was a relief. For that reason, I knew that whatever was about to happen wouldn’t be something terrible. I just knew that whatever it was would break open my world in a new way.

A Snapshot in Time

My mother lived in an old farmhouse that she and my father had bought when they were first married. It was a burned-out shell when they bought it, but my father painstakingly built it back up. He never had a credit card in his life and rebuilt the house as he had enough money to do so. It took years.

Eventually, they raised two daughters in that house and then….sixteen years later….I came along. It was a big house where sections of it could be closed off in the winter to save on heat. Every room had an old wooden door painted white. The doorknobs were glass.

Decor changed over the years but some things never changed, like the Kemac wood stove in the kitchen, the slight slant where the house had settled into its foundation, and the overgrown garden where my father had once nurtured every vegetable imaginable.

The Afterlife?

I wouldn’t allow myself to cry in front of my mother. She may have overheard me one night, but I took care to slip into the kitchen or sit outside when I needed a break.

It was a late summer afternoon when I sat outside on the cement steps, wondering what big thing (besides my mother dying) was about to happen to me. I was filled with a confusing mixture of grief and frustration, impatience and anxiety.

I’m not religious and I don’t believe in prayer. However, I do believe in something. Now, I realize that just because you can’t explain something doesn’t mean you’ve just seen or heard a ghost. But things have happened to me over the years that nobody can explain.

When I was a child I got up to use the bathroom once in the middle of the night. I pulled the old wooden door tightly closed so that it would latch. Suddenly, the doorknob turned and I figured one of my parents had followed me down. I said, “I’m in here!” but the door opened anyway.

There was nobody there.

I was terrified and quickly darted for the staircase, eager to get back into bed. I was almost immediately overcome with a feeling of calm and a sense that whatever had just happened wasn’t going to hurt me. The fear was gone. Now, I’m sure there are a lot of intellectuals out there who could analyze what happened and try to make sense of it for me. I certainly cannot.

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.

My mother’s living room and dining room were, essentially, one big room separated by a large 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, mere meters from her. 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 so as not to bother my mother.

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 remember thinking I’d have to get someone to look at the switch and, tired, got up again to turn it down. My mother stirred awake and asked if everything was okay. I told her yes and apologized for the bright lights. I walked over to the light switch and stopped short, surprised to see yet another ladybug.

My Mother Passed the Next Day

My mother passed away the next day. My sisters were there but I had gone home to rest with my own family. We had already grieved so much and for so long that it wasn’t as earth-shattering as I’d imagined it to be. Of course, we were upset, but we’d developed some resilience.

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.

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.

Ladybugs are Uncommon Here

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.

The recent passing of my mother had left me feeling very spiritual and I had a sense that the ladybugs were more than just a freak of nature.

The Ladybug Spirit Guide

This sudden infiltration of ladybugs had me curious, so I did what everybody does these days…I googled it. Again, I have to say that I simply don’t believe everything I read, but I was intrigued to learn what this “sign” could possibly mean to me. 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 couldn’t believe it. I had to test it out.

Blogging Isn’t Easy

I’ve always been a writer. I began writing short stories in grade 5 and continued writing well into my high school years. I won short story awards and went on to do some freelance writing for magazines. It was never my full-time job though (I would have starved!). But I wrote.

I started blogging about a year after my mother passed away. Blogging was one thing I always wanted to do. The idea of being able to make money from writing a blog seemed ideal. I had no idea how hard it would be or how much work I would need to put into it. Still, I persevered.

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.

Find out more about me and why this photograph means so much
You Might Not Believe This

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.

Seeing that photograph is what prompted me to look up the meaning behind ladybug symbolism. That’s when I read that some people believe ladybugs are a sign from the universe that everything would work itself out in the fullness of time. Whatever doubts, worries, or premonitions I had would all work themself out.

I’ve Had My Days

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.

Was my mother trying to tell me something from the other side?

I don’t know. Yes. Maybe. The point is that it worked. I settled into my premonitions of the future and worked on this blog with renewed force and conviction. And it worked! My blog took on a life of its own from the extra attention I gave it. Whenever anxiety would creep in, I’d remind myself that everything would be okay in the fullness of time.

But…there was one more thing weighing on me. That feeling, that premonition that something huge was about to happen. When I let myself examine the premonition I realized there was no foreboding. Whatever it was would be a bright light in the sky. I realized that not only was something BIG going to happen to me, something EXCITING was going to happen.

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 checked my calendar. NO meeting appointments. Hmmmm….

When I got to the meeting room and opened the door I knew immediately what was about to happen. The union rep, the principal (I work for a college), and the “guy” from head office were waiting for me. It wasn’t anything I had done; rather, the position itself had been cut.

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.

Happy at Last

I am happy.

I gave up my car and commute to work on a ferry and a bus. I love every minute of it. The sights and sounds and opportunities are all around me. I’m in love with the anonymity the city offers. No more small town gossip!

Retirement is Around the Corner

The thing I’m most excited about now is the fact that I can retire in 3 years, 3 months, two days, 1 hour, 30 minutes, 20 seconds…but who’s counting?

I will never retire from blogging though! Time away from full-time work will help me put that much more energy into this thing I love so much.

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.

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

We’re Family Now!

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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