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Inspired By Ethel, The Greatest Love Of My Life

For Ethel Jolene Sassypants

Etel Schemtel's a roly-poly girl
She hops up like a bunny
She jumps down and she twirls.

Etel Schmetel —
Mrs. Puff n' Stuff
She's a walking hair-do
Strut. Strut. Strut.

Etel Schmetel,
She forgets to tee.
Praces up and down the street
But never goes pee pee.

Etel Schmetel,
A poop would be so great!
No way Mommy,
You're gonna have to wait!

Because I'm Etel Schmetel,
A roly-poly girl.
I hop up like a bunny.
I jump and down and I twirl.

Etel Schmetel,
I'm Mrs. Puff n' Stuff.
I'm a walking hair-do.
Strut. Strut. Strut.


Etelah, Little girl
Golden Fur.

Etelah, Come to me.
Mommy Cries
And needs to see…

Etelah, A baby girl
A miracle,
Once in this world.

Etelah, Come here now.
I hold you close
And keep my vow:

To love you first
And love you last.
To cradle you,
The day you pass.

Etelah, You must come back.
Prance and pounce,
Make me laugh.

Etelah, Your head rests here.
Against my heart.
Your breath is near.

Etelah, Your song is gone.
Air is blank.
And days too long.


A movie for anyone who knows the deepest place in an ocean.

It was Thursday morning, like any other. I'd be gone just an hour, with the fur kids safe at home. I never saw Ethel again. Ethel lived with more wonder, grace and love than any being I've known. You Weren't Supposed To End is a movie for her. A baby, unfinished. Thanks to all who take a moment to see Ethel and know that she was here.

"Normal" stopped the day Ethel was killed. I live with her in shadows. And vivid dreams that leave me sleepless. Ethel hydroplaned in leaps and springs over the earth. She never doubted her charm, agility or comedic skill. "Ethel Dogs" are Diva Warriors. But Ethel had never run out a door, ever, until the last day of her life.

I wasn't home when a speeding car hit her at the edge of our yard. Where is Ethel? Where is Ethel? Where is Ethel? I screamed when I got back. But I could not hear my own voice. I felt strangled and do not recall how my legs held me up.

My family told me Ethel was dead. I gave CPR breaths and compressions anyway, while racing to the animal emergency hospital. "Do whatever it takes to save her," I begged. And they did. For 15-20 minutes. But Ethel had already been dead for 45 minutes before anyone phoned me at work.

Thursdays are different now. Each one takes Ethel. Violently. Abruptly. Without reason. Each Thursday I fall to my knees…but still cannot tell her good-bye.
  • 2birthday-poem

Today the sky weeps ash-colored rain outside my window. A long drought concedes.
And water falls from my soul.

I was gone just an hour.
A Thursday morning, like others.
I would be right back, to feed and play with my girls.

You weren't supposed to end,
And probably understood that in your last moment…
When hot rubber and metal smashed into you.
You stood right up. A reflex.

But you were broken, swept into a red current.
Your screams were stuck in the blood
That gushed off-course, drowning you.

You are not supposed to end.

You run faster than anyone.
You skim earth's surface.
You are strength of light,
Clarity and brightness.

You are not supposed to end.
You want to cry,
An endless note:
I am here, still.
But your voice is soundless,
Behind the wind.
Your eyes are terror,
The deepest place in an ocean,
Where water runs slowly.
You are dying.

You are not supposed to end.
You marvel at the wonder of worms and twigs…
Then come back inside
To play with Libby,
And do your best Diva Girl for mom.

Make February 2, 2012 stop.
Come home to me.
So my hands can lift you from the street.
My arms hold you.
My breath passes into you,
My compressions give you life.

So you are present tense.
Warmth between us.
Two heartbeats, not one.

Beautiful girl with sunlit fur.
Brown eyes as wide as the earth
Puppy kisses softer than grass.

My body aches where you once were:
In my lap at work,
My arms at bedtime,
Tangled together at play.

One and a half years old.
Forever unfinished…


There is nothing I can say to you that I have not already said everyday since February 2, 2012, except this: Each day that I have left on this earth, I live with you. You are my eyes. My ears. My hands and legs…every part that is me, is you. You are my heart. You are my soul.

What I cannot remember are your last few hours on this earth, with me. It is black. An erased mark, nothingness in my mind. Did I hold you in bed, before I got up? Did I look at you with that love reserved for my most special baby girl? Did I promise you breakfast, walks and kisses? Did I tell you "I'll be right back?" Like I always did, every Thursday. Because I was right back. And each reunion brought me to my knees. Literally. Rolling with you on the floor.

Down on on all fours, you crawled underneath me. Like I was your little tent or canopy. Ethel, no one was more enthusiastic about the business of living than you. It was evident in your bunny hops. Your prancey walk. And that bionic way you held air beneath you, each time you jumped.

What I've never done is tell you good bye. I don't know if I said good bye those last moments I saw you alive. I don't believe I can say good bye, even now.

Ethel, your mama knows YOU WERE HERE. All 1-and-a-half years of you. Here, Ethel. Your life is bigger than the universe to me. You are alive with me, sweet child, each day that I breathe.

And Libby knows, YOU WERE HERE, ETHEL. You were Libby's warmth and spoon partner, nearly since birth. Two little mushrooms, barely taller than the the rocks and sticks around you… That's how I first laid eyes on you, with Liberty, at Flawdogs. Two teeny hearts already bound.

There was never really a decision to make, though I sat with the two of you until after sundown. Elijah and I, on a hill, at Flawdogs. Until Elijah finally said: "Mom, you cannot take the beagle without the Lhasa. You cannot do that to them."

Because it was evident: Libby and Ethel were one. So home you came, the unanticipated lhasa. The golden girl. A miracle in our lives.

How could a creature be so perfect? Golden like the sun. Tumbleweed, up and down our stairs with Libby. Inseparable at play. Inseparable when passed out puppies. One beating heart, the two of you. That's why Libby nearly died that day too.

In fact, I thought of this much later. The look in Libby's eyes. The frantic, burn-into-your-soul way she seemed to plead with me: "Mom's home. She'll fix Ethel. She'll make Ethel get up. Mom! Please make Ethel get up. I can't wake her. Something is wrong! You always make us better. Please fix Ethel now."

And when I could not, Libby vomited on the exact spot of pavement where you were killed.

I TRIED ETHEL. Oh, how I tried. I did not believe you could be dead. Impossible.

You must be in a coma. You must be in a suspended state. If I can just get you to the animal emergency hospital, where you should have been taken within seconds of the hit… If I can just get you there now, we can bring you back. Breathe Ethel. Breathe. Breathe life. Gasp like you've emerged from water, from drowning. Gag and cough. Just wake up, please.

Open your eyes. You look like an angel asleep. Your legs, back and belly are perfect. Silky gold fur. Open your eyes. You are in my lap. Wake up.

I tried to bring you back Ethel, because I knew the last thing you wanted to do was go. The last thing you expected was to end. To be, no more. WHY DID YOU RUN OUT THAT DOOR? Did you think I was back home? Were you running AWAY…or TOWARD…something, someone? The shock and pain of hot metal smashing into you. Unimaginable. And I was not there to hold you, my angel.

Libby and I, we rolled in your fur sometimes. And put it in our mouths. Your freshly cut fur, saved from a grooming appointment, still with energy. With light. As if it recently belonged to your living body. Still with your smell… Your breakfast bowl sits at my side, even now:

Ethel, forever unfinished.
Here is your bowl, untouched since you last ate.
Please come home for breakfast and morning kisses.
Make February 2, 2012 end.
Come back to your mama…


ETHEL, YANKED: From your life with the girls, your pack — Libby, Mabel, Mandy.
YANKED: From your family, your home. From me, my beautiful baby girl.

AND YANKED FROM YOUR OWN LIFE: Suddenly. Without reason. No rainbow bridges. No long illness. No good bye. Just taken. Gone.

Ethel, I wrote many more words. Pages and pages and pages. At your birthday, when you should have turned two. At tjhe one-year anniversary of your killing, when you should have been here. And nearly every day in between.

But then, the most simple words from a mother whose child was slain in the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings. Those words caught me. I knew it was so. Eveyone told me to shut up. So I did. I said them to myself instead:

"To be honest, it seems to be getting harder. I keep looking for her. I reach out for her. I keep thinking she's here and can't understand why she's not. It's hard to get your head and your heart around."

It's been more than one year since you were smashed by a speeding car when I wasn't home to try life-saving measures. Your life was stolen. No one has let me keep you here. But I have never stopped Ethel. Cannot stop.

I've come to accept: No amount of time heals. A killing differs from a passing. You did not die. You were killed.

I relate to parents whose children are killed in an instant — like the Sandy Hook shooting and accidental gun death of my son's classmate. I think of the moms, in utter shock. How they imagine their child's final moments, over and over. How they must cling to details: Did you get your favorite breakfast that morning? Did I kiss you that morning? This is exactly how it feels. I don't hesitate to call you my child, because you were.

Just two days ago, June 20, 2013, it was Rebekkah's birthday. Rebekkah turned 16 years old. I couldn't give you all those years, Ethel. And it is my greatest failing in this life. It will haunt me until I die myself. THIS IS I KNOW: You were my baby girl, and I love you.

So now we tuck you in, forever.
The last cuddle
In your place.
Ms. Ethel Jolene Super-Model Sassypants

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