Bailey Is in Heaven
My name is Carly Ann. I live in a very small rural town in Georgia, in the great USA. Our town is not on a famous attractions map, but we do have a beautiful lake and abundant fishing ponds. Our weather is decent enough and seldom do we have to worry about any major snowstorms. Most folks down here boast about their delicious southern cooking, and I must say, it's hard to beat.
I want to point out that I am not a professional writer. I'm sure I'll have some grammatical errors and if my computer's spell-check stops working, then look for more mistakes. I just have a story that I want to share with you. A story that has filled my heart with love, compassion, happiness and faith and in so doing, allows me to honor my friend.
I guess you can say we are a typical small southern town. Most people know one another from attending school and church together. Our Main Street consists of some antique shops, a Bed and Breakfast and one great restaurant, which really does serve the very best country food. We also have a nice bank and great police and fire departments. Recently a new grocery store was built, so everything is now very convenient. Overall, it's a great little place to live. It's the town that I grew up in and wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I'm very proud of our town and the folks that call it their home. I guess this is what drew Jan to join our little community.
The first time I knew Jan was joining us is when my neighbor and I saw a large moving truck coming down our country road. It was quite surprising to even see a truck coming through as most people have lived here all their lives and nobody ever moves. I guess seeing someone new joining our little neighborhood was eventually going to happen since the Smiths moved to live closer to family in Charleston.
My neighbor and I started making a small bet that the moving van wouldn't make it up the Smiths' narrow and steep driveway. We were amazed that with one rolling turn the driver was able to make it look easy. Of course, and as usual, I lost the bet and had to finish raking my neighbor's leaves.
I knew the Smiths. They were members at our church. I visited their home on one occasion when I dropped off a pie that my mother made for their anniversary. Their home sat on six acres surrounded by large pine trees. It had a large barn, a wooden carport and a nice size workshop. The home was small and very quaint. Years ago the Smiths had a few horses, so the entire property was enclosed with a farm fence and an old wooden gate at the front entrance. Overall, a typical and cozy country home.
The first time I saw our new neighbor, Jan, it was quite an interesting moment. There she was, standing on the road in front of her home, desperately trying to fix her rural mailbox, which was falling off its stand. It looked like she was struggling and you couldn't help but see the frustration on her face. I decided to pull my truck off the road and got out and introduced myself. She started laughing, as she knew it was a comical sight to see. I told her that I could help her and in the fifteen minutes it took us to fix the mailbox, I just knew we would become good friends. Jan and I exchanged phone numbers and it wasn't very long after our first meeting that she called. "How about cake and coffee since you saved my life from that torturous mailbox?" The date was set and it would become the start of many cake and coffee times together.
Jan was 65 years old when I first met her. She was a widow for 25 years and was unable to have children. She was born and raised in Chicago and was proud of the fact that she never moved to the suburbs like most of her family and friends did. She was, as she proudly stated, an "inner city Chicago native".
Upon retirement, Jan had decided to move to a warmer climate where homes were affordable. She always yearned to live in a country setting. Jan had visited Georgia many times throughout the years and it was an easy decision for her to make our small town home.
Times were tough during her growing-up years. Even though money was scarce, her parents made sure they sent their daughters to a religious elementary and high school. Much was sacrificed to make sure they had a wonderful education.
Jan often told me stories about what life was like to live in a big city. Believe it or not, don't laugh, but the farthest I ever traveled to was Florida. Jan's stories were so remarkable for me to hear. I loved to listen to her speak about walking to school in huge snowdrifts dressed like Ralphie from "The Christmas Story". How the only swimming pool around was when the viaducts flooded and all the kids would swim in the mucky water. Christmas presents consisted of one toy, some candy, fruit and most important the three pairs of pajamas that her mother made for her and Emily, her older sister.
It took Jan about seven years to graduate from college because she had to work two jobs to save enough money for her tuition. She was certainly a self-made woman and I admired her tremendously. I always looked forward to my visits with Jan because she opened up a whole new world to me.
At this point in her life, the most important "being" was her dog Bailey. She never could have a dog during her school years as her parents lived in apartments where dogs were not allowed. Even during her adult years, her job took her out of town most of the time, so she thought it wouldn't be fair for a dog to live on that type of schedule. The most important wish she always had was to have a dog of her own.
Prior to her moving into our town, she went to a pet adoption with the intension of adopting an older dog. However, that didn't happen. The moment she walked into the agency, she noticed a pen with seven little puppies sleeping. Well, all but one, who was running, jumping, leaping and barking. Immediately, that was the dog she just had to have.
The lady who was adopting the pups said that she thought the dog's breed was part border collie and part Brittany spaniel. Jan said it really didn't matter what kind of dog it was, that had to be the pup she just had to have.
Jan and I were inseparable for the next seven years. We were the very best of friends. Lunches, dinners, movies, bingo, holidays, we did everything together. Jan was like a mother to me since my mom died when I was only 12 years old. Jan became the mother I had missed out on all of my years. I just knew that God sent her to me. Some folks in our town actually thought we were mother and daughter. That's the kind of love we both shared.
Jan was having some health issues, but nothing life-threatening. She never worried about herself but was so afraid to die before Bailey. Over and over I reassured her that if something happened to her, I would take Bailey and give him the best home possible. That seemed to be a relief for Jan. She knew that Bailey would be well taken care of.
During one of our visits Jan was noticeably upset. She told me that a local minister told her that dogs and all other animals would never go to heaven because they had no souls. She just felt that obviously there had to be some mistake in that assumption. How could God possibly not allow pets to come into heaven? She would always say that Bailey was "all soul". Her belief was that God created animals just like He created human beings. She felt that God knew how important it was for pets to join their owners, just as important as anyone in a loving family.
Jan even told me, smilingly, that she baptized Bailey in her bathtub. She prayed to God that this wonderful dog, which brought her more joy than anything she could remember, would someday be with her again after they both passed away.
The saddest day came when Jan called me crying and begged me to hurry and come to her home. Within five minutes, I was there with her. Jan was kneeling down on the grass by her back porch. She was crying, screaming and calling Bailey's name. As I approached her I saw Bailey lying on the ground, unable to move. Within a few minutes Bailey passed away. Later Jan found out that Bailey had a heart attack and there was really nothing anyone could have done to save him. Jan would keep saying over and over again that Bailey was only seven years old. Why did he have to die so young?
My husband James and my two teenage sons buried Bailey in Jan's yard under the tallest pine tree that Bailey favored. Jan took Bailey's favorite toys and laid them in the grave. We were astonished to see Jan unhook her beautiful gold necklace with a gold crucifix attached and put it around Bailey's neck. Her gold necklace and cross was her favorite possession and she wanted Bailey to have it, even in his death. She said that perhaps God would see the cross and grant her request to be with Bailey someday. I also heard Jan say when the last shovel of dirt was placed on the grave, "Bailey, God willing, I'll see you in Heaven." It was the most endearing moment I have ever witnessed. I was 41 years old at the time and even now, at this point in my life, I have never seen such love for a pet. This type of love is one that many people don't even share.
For the next six months, Jan grieved like I have never seen anyone do before. She always thought she would die before Bailey. The thought of possibly never seeing Bailey again just made her life miserable. There was really nothing I could say to her but to stay true to her beliefs that Bailey was with God in heaven. To be honest, I really didn't know if that was true or not. But it was the only way I knew how to console her.
One day, Jan and I were sitting on her porch sipping our iced tea. We didn't really say too much, but were just relaxing and enjoying the warm, sunny day. A slight breeze came through the yard and we both acknowledged how the air felt like silk upon our faces.
Suddenly, Jan stood up as if she had seen someone coming from the back of the property. I asked her, "Jan, are you okay, who do you see?" She hurriedly went down the porch steps and she started to cry. She kept yelling, "Bailey, come here boy. I'm over here." I got so worried, I kept saying, "Jan, Bailey's not there." She kept calling for Bailey to come to her. A few moments later, Jan seemed to jump up as if she was catching something, then stumbled and fell to the ground.
I ran down the steps and noticed that Jan wasn't moving. I grabbed my cell phone and called 911. I tried everything to help her. I did CPR and everything I could think of. The paramedics came within minutes. Unfortunately Jan had passed away. The paramedics thought maybe she died of a heart attack. Jan died at the same identical place where Bailey took his last breath.
I felt as if my life was over. My friend, my mother was gone. There was nothing more I could do. As the paramedics put her body on the gurney, I noticed something glistening on the ground a few feet away. At first I thought it was some shiny paper, or the bright sun was playing tricks with my eyes. I bent down to see what it was. Oh God, could it be?
I picked up the shiny piece. It was Jan's necklace and cross. The very same one that Jan had put around Bailey's neck. But how could this happen? What did this all mean? Who would believe me if I told anyone that this beautiful necklace that Jan cherished and gave to Bailey in his death had now suddenly appeared? Could I actually tell anyone about this amazing miracle? I wanted to shout this out to the entire universe that the unimaginable occurred.
I put the necklace and cross in my safety deposit box at the bank for a few months. I needed that time to decide just what to do. Should I tell my story or just keep this to myself? Then I realized that no one would ever believe me and perhaps this miracle was not meant to be shared with anyone else.
My husband was the first person to admire my new necklace and cross. He said that it looked exactly like Jan's necklace. My story to him was the same story I told everyone else that had that same inclination. My answer was, "A jeweler out of Atlanta did an outstanding job replicating Jan's necklace."
A few years have passed and I now realize the importance of sharing this story. Perhaps it can be of some comfort to people who cherish their pets and have the same hopes for reuniting with their furry little friends as Jan did. I learned that love endures all. The love that God has for His flock never ceases. Jan's words were, "Bailey, God willing, I'll see you in Heaven." God recognizes the love we all share and in this case He was more than willing to grant Jan's request. They're together now in Heaven.
When you read this story you can and will come to your own conclusions.
I think of Jan and Bailey every day and will for the remainder of my life. All I have to do is touch the necklace and touch the cross to know that Heaven is the place where all dreams come true. Heaven is the place where we will find the happiness we seek.
"God willing, Jan and Bailey, I'll see you in Heaven."