January 14, 2015 6:00 pm
“Beven, I’m coming to get y’all. Get ready.”
“What’s wrong? What happened?”
“Nothing … Just be ready when I get there.”
The usually short ride to LSU was painstakingly long as I relived 15 years’ worth of memories as I anxiously waited for the opportunity to hold my best friend. I know the specialist talked for a while as I held his weak body against mine. However, as tears streamed down my cheeks, the only words that resonated were “He has less than 24 hours.”
I thought we would have a few more months, but the brain tumor had progressed more rapidly. In his little Shih Tzu ear, I whispered “I Love You” over and over. Everything happened so fast around me, but I stood still and retreated to the safety of my thoughts.
“He is wrong. Who is this specialist? I don’t know him. He doesn’t know Haven. He does not know we are always there for each other. No, Haven can get better.” I thought silently to myself, but my broken heart knew he wasn’t wrong.
As I walked to the vehicle in the steady rain, I realized the most excruciatingly painful part was yet to come. Just on the other side of that car door were our four children, who waited patiently for the return of their pup. I knew a conversation had to take place, which we were not prepared. They had never experienced loss, let alone family and without question Haven was our family. There was no script to tell us what to say to them. The only thing we knew was it was going to be gut wrenching and we were still trying to process the situation.
As Rob drove, I began the uncomfortable discussion.
Breaking the News to the Kids
“We have something to tell y’all …” Suddenly, my throat betrayed me as I felt a lump swallow my words and the familiar waterworks began to reemerge.
Rob pulled over.
“Guys, Haven is very sick and he is in a lot of pain. The doctors do not have the right tools, so tomorrow Haven needs to go live with Baby Jesus.”
Though my voice was cracked, I was able to compose myself enough to speak again. “We will still love him and will miss him every day, but we want Haven get better.”
A confused Cooper finally broke the silence.
“Are y’all joking?” “No, baby, we’re not joking.” Rob answered.
Then Carter started to talk, and I immediately started to pray for strength as the fear engulfed me. Carter is my inquisitive child and I did not know if I could withstand this interrogation.
“How is he going to get there? Who is going to feed him, tuck him in at night, give him a bath and play with him? Will he come back when he’s better? Who will sleep with me, he my best friend? When will I SEE HIM AGAIN?”
Now Rob was crying and I thought “Great! Leave me to answer all the hard questions.”
“You’re his best friend, too!! Baby Jesus is going to love him just like us. Haven will be on the Heaven Star with him. The Heaven Star is a magical place, it has many puppy treats, and every toy ever made. Haven will also be able to see you from the Heaven Star and you can look up at it every night. Haven has to go tomorrow because Baby Jesus has a special Rocket Ship that flies to the Heaven Star that leaves tomorrow.”
“Will we get to see him tomorrow before school?” Carter inquired.
Before, I could reply, Cooper asked, “Can we watch a movie with him before bed?”
“Of course!” The rest of the car ride, I snuggled with Haven.
One Last Celebration
Just before we got home, Cooper shouted, “Wait he isn’t going to get his cupcake for his birthday next month,” as he broke into tears.
“We can make him cupcakes tonight.”
“No we won’t it is going to be too late and we have to go to bed for school,” he said with a mixture of anger, hurt, sadness, and disbelief that I had never heard from him.
“You can stay up with Haven all night. No work or school for us tomorrow.” Rob proclaimed.
“Mom, is that true?” Carter asked.
“Yes, Daddy is right. We are going to celebrate Haven tonight and spend every minute with him before he leaves tomorrow. We are going to have his birthday party, draw him pictures, sing Christmas Carols and watch movies. We can hold him and love him and let him know how much we will miss him. We will pack him a suitcase to make sure he has everything that he needs.”
That night was painful because we knew it would be our last with him, but it was also amazing and beautiful. We wanted Haven’s last moments with us to be filled with happiness. Haven exuded love, compassion, and strength beyond his size every day.
Haven was an important member of our family. We crammed every holiday into that Ray Family party and filled his suitcase with pictures and toys.
Around 3 am, everyone began to lose steam and fell asleep. The family time was unforgettable, but I was grateful, selfishly I would be able to steal some time to myself with him. I walked to his puppy bed where he laid still. His lack of movement broke my heart, but I was determined to make him feel loved, comfortable, and celebrating his amazing life.
The next morning, everyone had their individual moment with Haven and we started to load the vehicle for one last adventure. Artistico Express was awaiting our arrival to make a family plate with Haven.
As I entered the house to get Haven for the last time, I stumbled into the most tender moment, which will be forever etched into my memory. Carter sat cradling Haven in his arms and I heard him softly singing “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifia.
“It’s been a long day without you, my friend,
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again,
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again…”
Beven Adair Budden Ray is a proud native of Southern Louisiana. She was raised in Lafayette, and craves boiled crawfish daily. Beven moved to Baton Rouge for college. Being a dancer, she enrolled in a modern dance course at LSU where she met her future husband, Rob Ray. Beven is a full time mom and resides in Dutchtown, which is the perfect community to raise her “C-Crew” Cooper (8), Carter (6), Caylee (2) and Carleigh (1). She is having the time of her life. She and her “C-Crew” dance and sing through the day as if it were a Broadway Musical, which always includes color coordinated wardrobe and BIG bows on little girls. She makes no secret that she believes from the food and music to the rich culture and cypress swamps, there is no place on Earth like South Louisiana. She is thrilled to be raising her Cajun Cuties in a place so beautifully unique that even the Target greeter speaks.