Happy Messy Love

Copy: Serena Faber Nelson

Photography: Petal Photography

Three months ago I said goodbye to my Nan for the last time. At almost 95 years old, she had lived an amazing life. She lived through two world wars, the depression, a changing world landscape and a burgeoning family tree. But three months ago that life came to an end.

I wish I could tell you the final moments I spent with my Nan were as heartfelt as a Hollywood movie, but unfortunately they weren’t. We didn’t discuss our deepest, darkest fears or the meaning of life. I actually believe my final words to her were, “Soda says hi. It’s lucky dogs aren’t allowed in hospitals, she would have caused a ruckus, probably knocking over all these monitors and jumping on patient’s beds.” Hardly Oscar nomination worthy. But you know what? The memory of those final words make me smile today. Not just at the thought of Soda bringing destruction to the wards of Wodonga Hospital, but in the fact that both my Nan and I knew in that very moment that that’s what life is about. The small things. The good stuff. The things that make us smile.

The funny thing about grief is you can go for so long forgetting it even exists. But when it comes knocking you begin to see it everywhere. Not long after the loss of my Nan, I came to learn of others losing grandparents, siblings, parents and friends. I learned of other bloggers having to say goodbye to their dogs after years of faithful companionship. With each piece of news the waves of grief hit me again, and I would find myself crying for their loss and the piece of themselves they were saying goodbye to.

But as the weeks progressed another feeling soon began to emerge. It started small – like a shining, little ball of light in the depths of my torso. A light that began to shake off the feeling of helplessness… A light that began to remind me of all the love and happiness that precedes loss. Like I said – the small things, the good stuff.

You see for too many of us we get caught up in the big stuff. Mortgages, careers, travel…We find ourselves saying no to that drink with friends because we have to work late. Or we forget to call our mother because we got caught up in a meeting. Now life is life and we can’t be perfect. We have to earn a living, we have to have somewhere to live, but what I’m saying today is we can’t forget the small things that make our lives special. Because they are the essence of life. They’re what it’s all about. And you don’t want to realise this when it’s too late.

For pet owners, especially those of us caring for dogs in their twilight years, we’re almost too acutely aware of the short, sweet nature of life. It seems the bonds we develop only strengthen dramatically, the closer we come to saying goodbye. But rather than fearing the end, we should use that feeling to love more deeply, more often. Because life is short, and when it comes time to say goodbye, you want to know you’ve given it all you’ve got. One of my most favourite photographers, Kira DeDecker, actually sums this up best for me:

You love them. Embrace it. Life is so much sweeter when you get to share it with the ones you love.

Because there will be a day when you won’t be woken by their slobbery wet kisses and excited paws.

Your house will be quiet and you won’t be greeted by their barks.

You’ll have more money in your back account but fewer dirty paw prints on the floor.

Our lives pass so quickly and moments like this make up the most of it. I want you to remember the gorgeous happy messy love that it is.

So this week I want you to embrace happiness. To embrace love. Stop letting fear, shyness or pride get in the way of things. Smile. Cuddle. Reach out to others. Let people know that you’re here to love and be loved.

Live your life like you had to say goodbye tomorrow. You don’t need those Oscar worthy speeches, you just need that light inside. And when it comes time to say goodbye… you’ll know within your heart that you’ve lived.

{Dedicated to Alynne F Nelson}

Copy: Serena Faber Nelson

Photography: Petal Photography

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Comments (27)

27 responses to “Happy Messy Love”

  1. Beth says:

    I am sorry for your loss and glad you are feeling better. Thanks for taking time to remind the rest of us to appreciate the small things.

  2. So beautifully, beautifully said. I’m sorry for your loss.

  3. Beautiful post Serena and such a great reminder to appreciate the small things in life. I’m definitely guilty of this so this is very well-timed! I’m sorry for your loss of your grandmother, but glad that you have so many happy memories to look back on xx

    • Thanks Rachel. I, too, can get caught up in the big stuff too often. The first time I read Kira’s lovely words above I was stressed about a deadline, but regardless I dropped everything I was doing and took Soda for a walk. Best thing I could have done!

  4. Karyn says:

    Just beautiful…..I think the majority of us get caught up in trying to get somewhere, be somewhere, have things and we forget to be ‘in the moment’ as it were……even when with friends, family and loved ones we are sometimes ‘elsewhere’ in our minds – thinking about work, the washing at home that needs to be done, dog to be washed etc etc!!! A lovely reminder for the start of a new year to find the happiness and appreciation for all the small things in our lives 🙂
    So in the spirit of your lovely post today Rene, I can say that I am very happy for the suggestion of a nice hour long walk this afternoon by and with a great friend by the ocean……I need little reminders of doing that kind of thing at the moment and not worrying about the washing, ironing, cleaning of my messy apartment in between work and being with my Mum.
    Wonderful post!!! xo

  5. Wow Serena, what a beautiful post – one I wholeheartedly agree with and can relate to. “Smile, cuddle, reach out to others.” The simplest things that have the hugest impact. Thanks for the reminder lovely xx

  6. Lindsay says:

    Hi Serena! Just wanted to let you know I put up a link to this post on my blog! It really touches home for me today and I thought you got the words out beautifully and much better than I’m able to right now. I’m so sorry for your loss…thank you for helping me see it in this light.

  7. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my grandfather shy of his 91st birthday (I was a hospice care provider in my old life) so this post really hit a chord with me.

    If you ever need to talk (or need anything) you know where to find me.

    • I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your grandfather Kira. Thanks for such a beautiful comment. And thank you again for your amazing philosophy. I seriously think of it often – it keeps me focused on the great things in life and makes me appreciate everything I have that little bit more xo

  8. Serena, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I too lost my grandfather a couple of months ago, and this post was so touching. You have a great outlook on life and such positive posts, and I’m sure all of your other readers appreciate it as much as I do! Sending love your way.

    • Thanks so much Sarah. I’m sorry that you, too had to say goodbye to your grandfather. Loss is so hard, but one thing it does remind you is all the wonderful things you do have. Sending that love back atcha! x

  9. […] few days ago, Serena wrote a beautiful post on Pretty Fluffy. I hope you all take a moment to read it, feel it, and embrace […]

  10. Maggie says:

    This post was really beautiful. The sad thing is, you are really lucky to have all this grief. My parents never knew their grandparents because they were killed in WW2, and I don’t have any deep memories with my grandparents as they lived on other continents and passed away when I was young, before I was conscious of their importance. Only my grandma is alive and she is suffering from Alzheimers. My mother moved to be with her, leaving my dad and myself feeling rather neglected the past years – it was hard for me to understand why she had to leave everything behind to be with someone I can now hardly relate to cause of her disease. My mom said, because in our family no one had the chance to care for the old because they were killed, she feels she has to give everything to care the best she can, to care as she would have for her grandparents.
    Thank you Serena, your post made me rethink these past few years with perspective, and helped me remember to make the best of the time I have with my grandma, and not let Alzheimers win over love.

    • Thanks so much Maggie. Your comment was so lovely and your story so touching. I can imagine how hard it would have been for you and your family with such a heartbreaking situation. I’m so glad in even a tiny way this post helped. As I said Kira’s words always give me a reminder to embrace life in the present for what it is, as someday we may look back and miss it.
      Thanks again for your beautiful comment and sharing – sending lots of love to you and your family xxxx

  11. […] with your dog. 25. Buy yourself some fresh flowers and display them in your home. 26. Tell someone you love them. (Your dog counts!) 27. Drink more water. 28. Fill a treat ball for your dog and watch them enjoy […]

  12. Erica says:

    Thanks Serena for such a lovely sentiment. We lost our one year old puppy after a sudden illness. He was a champion destroyer of everything in his day from dvds to plants to sat navs. He dug up lawns wherever he went and once attacked an 18 pack toilet roll with maximum enthusiasm. I’ve known many dogs over the years and I have never met one who embraced life with such excitement, vigour and passion. His passing reminded us all that we would take the chaos and the now empty flower beds you just planted an hour ago any day of the week if it meant he was still here jumping on us and slobbering everywhere.

    • You’re more than welcome Erica. I’m so sorry for your loss. At just one year old it must have been quite heart breaking to say goodbye to your puppy. He certainly sounded like a wonderful companion who really was a perfect example of how to embrace life. I’m so glad you can look back on the happy times you had with him and it’s a good reminder for us all to give our loved ones an extra hug today x

  13. Serena, such a wonderful special post. I already had dried tears on my cheeks as I opened up this post. I have just watched a movie about a musician who falls in love with a deaf girl. He dies of illness and I was sobbing. I knew I shoudln’t have watched it. But you know what struck me at the end? She had cochlear implants and started walking through New York, hearing all the small details and smiling at them – the subway rumble, the busker drumming, girls giggling. It struck a chord with me and reminded me of how I’ve come to appreciate the small things the most. When I was diagnosed as legally blind 11 years ago I asked myself many important questions about life. I still do. What came out was the total joy that can come from those small things every single day. I’m so truly sorry for your loss, but also happy for your gain – your memories, your priorities and your celebration of her. I haven’t yet lost a grandparent and I know that day is going to be so very very hard. Sending you hugs. And now I’m going to hug my dog. And husband when he gets home. x

    • Thanks so much for your lovely comment. Isn’t it funny that often only when we lose something that we start to see all the wonderful things we do have. It’s a bittersweet silver lining. But the best thing is when without loss we are able to look around and be thankful and happy with what we do have – which as you can attest to – results in lots of hugs! xx

  14. […] my work was featured on Hair of the Dog and Pretty Fluffy gave a heartfelt nod to the KDP philosphy. But most of all, what made it a great year was having a chance to photograph amazing people and […]

  15. […] love, love, LOVE Serena, the editor of Pretty Fluffy. She has been a long time supporter of Kira DeDecker Photography since I first started in 2011. In fact, I was one among some of the […]

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