A Loss To Start The Year

I’ve never really thought of myself as a dog-person but for the past 12 years I’ve definitely been an Ellie-person.

Ellie was our 12-year-old dog. She passed away last week.

12 years ago, when Wendy suggested we get a dog for the family, I quickly disagreed.

She presented her case.

I presented mine.

So… we got a dog.

(I guess you can see who wins the arguments in our family.)

There’s a car commercial where a Dad reluctantly agrees with his family to get a dog. The relationship between the Dad and dog is awkward at first but eventually things change. In the end, the Dad and his dog are wearing matching outfits.

Ellie and I never wore matching outfits but when I saw that commercial, I thought, “I could see that happening.”

Ellie was a part of our lives for 12 years.

She lived in three different houses as we moved a couple of times.

She saw the launch of a church, two actually.

She saw worship nights in our home.

She saw two kids grow up to be amazing adults.

She sat next to me as I wrote two books.

She even experienced a high school graduation in our home due to Covid.

For the non-pet folks out there, I completely understand if you think this is rather melodramatic. I get it. In fact, thanks for making it this far into the email.

One of the reasons I share this about Ellie is because of my word for the year —> Be.

Last week, I heard from so many of you about your word for 2023. Thank you for sharing that with me. It means a lot.

Little did I know that my word would be leveraged in a hard way to begin 2023.

The initial inclination is to try and shrug off the grief of losing a pet. Move on quickly, right?

I’m writing this in a hotel room because I have a speaking engagement tomorrow morning, and then one in the afternoon back home. I could get caught up in the busyness of this week and try to ignore the grief. But then there’s that word —> Be.

Be present.

Be real.


And so, I’m trying not to rationalize a loss like this. I’m trying not to shrug it off. I want to be present in the moment.

It’s not easy when you do this, but a loss can teach you a lot.

A loss reminds you of how much you gained.

A loss reminds you of memories you had somehow taken for granted.

A loss reminds you to appreciate the little things.

The other night we had some friends over to watch Georgia win the National Championship. The door bell rang and it was completely silent. And I broke down.

For 12 years, the sound of the doorbell was a sign to Ellie to both protect our house and greet the visitors. For a little dog she had quite the bark.

12 years of the doorbell triggering barking can be a little annoying, but what I wouldn’t give to hear that one more time.

Today, when someone or something annoys you, let this remind you not to take the person or the moment for granted. There might come a day when you wish you could be annoyed again.

That’s what the loss of Ellie is teaching me in 2023. Be present in grief when it arrives. Let it wash over us and refine us.

In doing go, the gratitude for what you had can help you experience greater gratitude for what you have.

FOR You,
Jeff Henderson


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