My Dearest Sir Shakespeare Hemingway

035Dearest Readers:

Today is Tuesday, March 28, 2017. Exactly three weeks ago today, my husband and I made the decision to let our precious almost 14-year-old mini schnauzer leave us to go home to Heaven. How I miss that precious little boy. He was my friend. My dearest and most trusting friend.

Shakespeare joined our family in May 2003. He was six weeks old when we brought him home. I remember him resting in my arms, crawling up to rest on my chest. One of his favorite places to rest was either on a pillow, or my chest. How I wish I could cradle him in my arms just one more time.

I cannot stop crying. The tsunami of grief overtakes me as a rush of fresh tears pour from my eyes. Every morning, I still feel his presence in the bed. He loved to sleep next to my right hip. During the day, he followed me every where I went. When I rehearsed a new song, Shakespeare would sit up, listening to me, and when I sat down next to him, he touched me with his left leg. Then, he would crawl into my legs, crossed on the floor and rest as I petted him.

I am a bit surprised at how depressed and alone I feel after letting him go. Almost five years ago, we had to make the same decision for Prince Marmaduke Shamus. After that tsunami of grief, I told myself I would not permit myself to grieve in such a desperate way again, but here I am — crying until my heart breaks over and over again.

My other boys just heard me bursting into another throbbing heartbreak. Prince Midnight Shadow rushed to my side, whining, not understanding. Sandy Bear Sebastian is curled on the right side of my foot, next to the pillow Shakespeare loved. After Shakespeare died, Sandy Bear kept looking all over the house, rushing to look behind his dad’s chair. No. Shakespeare isn’t here. Maybe he’s on the pillow. No. No Shakespeare.

He is still looking for him. After he died, Sandy Bear became depressed and when he heard me crying, he wanted more attention. He didn’t understand. Funny. Neither do I. I’ve talked to Sandy Bear letting him know Shakespeare is not visual in our house, but he is still here in spirit.

Isn’t that how the loss of a loved one is? One minute, you are with them, maybe laughing or crying, and in the next minute — POOF! The person is gone – forever.

I suppose I do not understand death, nor do I understand why animals cannot live longer. They come into our lives, steal our hearts and souls and in their later years, we realize they are preparing to leave us…just like Shakespeare was.

He was not eating regularly. How I wish I had documented the days he did not eat, but I didn’t. On an average, probably two days each week he refused any food, including treats.

At his biggest, Shakespeare weighed 34 pounds. The vet suggested giving him green beans and cutting his food back a bit. It worked. Shakespeare loved green beans and his weight decreased to a healthy 26 pounds. At Christmas of 2016, I noticed he was easier to lift. He did not like us to pick him up. He was extremely independent and wanted only to be picked up on his terms. He was getting skinny. In February, I could feel his ribs.

I planned to take him to the vet, but I was horrified my vet would say, “if he was my dog, I’d let him go.”

I wasn’t ready. Selfish and horrified over losing him, I could not let him go. Not during the holidays.

Three weeks ago, I faced the reality that he was not getting better, only weaker with each day. He was telling me it was time to leave since he was lethargic, not eating, and only moving around when I touched him to go outside. His spirit was gone. Energy – non – existent. I kept telling myself tomorrow he would be better. He only got weaker.

Today, I am still crying an ocean of tears. My body shakes and my heart feels empty. Just how do I learn to let go and walk thru this grief. I miss my little Shake n Bake so much. No, I will not get another animal. I still have four who need me.

Meanwhile, I must make peace with myself. In memory of my precious Sir Shakespeare Hemingway. How I wish I could feel at peace over the decision we had to make. I suppose I do not understand how we can make those decisions for animals, but not humans.

A few days ago, after praying for a sign that Shakespeare was at peace, a fly flew into my cup of coffee. I noticed a few flies flying around my windows inside, but I didn’t think anything about them with exception they are such pests. When I discovered a fly floating in my coffee, I realized it was a sign from him. Shakespeare watched me every morning, recognizing one of my first morning rituals was to get a cup of coffee and sit at my writing desk with it. He knew coffee would get me moving, and he knew I would recognize his message, especially after he let me know he would not drink his water IF it was dirty, or had a fly. Over the years, he pawed at his water bowl many times. His actions told me he only wanted clean water. Shakespeare was great at communicating without saying anything. His actions said so much. The flies inside my house are now gone. Weird? Perhaps! A sign from Shakespeare – most definitely!

I am a bit relieved that he sent me a message. If only I could scoop him up in my arms and sing to him again. My little precious, Sir Shakespeare Hemingway, I will love you always. I will never forget you, and I know one day, we will be reunited.

Happy Birthday to the Perkins Twins

Dearest Readers:

Today is a special, melancholic day for me. On this date — 100 years ago – December 19, 1914 – my dad and his identical twin brother, Lewis, were born. Before Uncle Lewis’ death in September, 1941 from Bright’s disease, they were known withini
the State of Alabama as The Perkins Twins. Together they sang, harmonizing, sharing their belief in God and their sermons to all who would listen. It is unfortunate for my Dad, Walter Perkins, that the music stopped for him in September 1941. Never did I have the pleasure to meet Uncle Lewis. Reportedly, he and my dad were inseparable. When he died, according to relatives and stories my dad shared, his death broke my dad’s heart so much that he never was the same. Gone was his spirit and passion to sing and preach the gospel.

Happy 100th Birthday to The Perkins Twins – in Heaven!

Unfortunately, I lost my dad to esophageal cancer on July 6, 1999. Today, I have regrets – regrets for not documenting the stories Dad occasionally shared about his life as an identical twin. Like most children, I listened a bit to his stories, but never wrote them down. Reportedly, The Perkins Twins were so identical people could not determine just who Lewis was and who was Walter. Their handwriting was the same. When one spoke, the other finished the statement. As a child, I found this strange – now, as an adult, I wish to know more. Uncle Lewis never married, but according to my dad, “He loved beautiful women…and…they Loved him!”

In Dad’s diaries I cannot find his deepest feelings about what it was like to lose his twin brother. The only comment listed during September 1941 related to Uncle Lewis and his illness was a passage that ‘Lewis was rushed to the hospital and Uncle Vera, their sister, donated blood for a blood transfusion.’ I cannot find anything else about his condition or death. It is difficult to read his diaries still. Although my family had a tradition of writing in their diaries, many of life’s important and dreadfully sad moments were not recorded.

I suppose I should find an archive to donate all of these diaries to, just to record more about the Perkins Family. Perhaps one day I will but for today, I want to remember The Perkins Twins.

My parents were married in the 1940’s. If my memory is correct, I believe it was 1943. Their marriage was not a happy one…more like a torrential storm of events. When I was a teenager, I listened to their toxic fights – always shouting, cursing and spitting violent poisons of hatred to each other. As hard as I try, I cannot remember them hugging or kissing – EVER! After their divorce, my dad changed all for the better.

Gone was the hatred, replaced by a peaceful, calm and happy man who actually said that he loved me. When I first heard “I love you,” from his lips, I stepped back, recognizing this was a new man. I was so proud of him. Over the years, Dad and I became closer. When I graduated from high school, he stood in the audience, applauding me. When my only child was born, a son, Dad sent me a hydrangea plant, with a card signed with his love.

When we moved Dad to Charleston to be closer to us after his retirement, the bonding between us grew tighter. When cancer knocked on his door in 1997, I became his caregiver. Suddenly I became the parent to my parent and it broke my heart to watch him slowly fading away from me.

Now that he is gone, I still miss him. Today is an extremely sad day for me because it is his 100th birthday. How I wish I could sing Happy Birthday to him. How I wish I could hug him, just one more time.

I suppose all of us who have lost our parents have the same emotions and thoughts in our minds on their birthdays. For me, this day is extremely difficult. I walk through my house; glancing over at the dining room table, looking at “Dad’s chair.” The chair he always sat at during our many Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. After his death, I found myself placing a plate, glassware and silverware by his chair, recognizing moments later that his chair would be empty. I don’t set his place now, but I still look to see my dad sitting there. I can almost hear his laughter and the prayer he always expressed so eloquently during the holidays.

Now, it is his time to be with his identical twin brother. This is their day to celebrate their short life together. Today, I wish the Perkins Twins a happy, glorious 100th birthday. To say I miss my dad is an understatement. I still grieve. I suppose we always grieve over losing someone so important in our lives.

Once Dad described me to others as ‘his shining star.’ During a television interview during his illness, the reporter mentioned that Dad was a poet and a writer. Quickly, Dad interrupted him, stating – “No, I’m not a writer…My daughter…Now – She’s the writer!”

I can still hear his melodic voice ringing in my ears. How I miss hearing the expression, “You are my shining star!”

Tonight during our date night, I will sing “Dance With My Father Again,” in remembrance of my dad.
Happy 100th Birthday, Dad…Uncle Lewis. Happy 100th Birthday to The Perkins Twins! Words cannot express how deeply you are missed.

To Honor Robin Williams

Dearest Readers:

Early last night while checking my phone I received a news alert — Robin Williams is Dead. “Oh my God…No…the man was brilliant. What happened?”

As I read the news blurb, I could not believe that such a brilliant, gifted talent — the guy who made me laugh, cry and feel so many protected emotions reportedly had taken his own life. Why? I ask…over and over again.

Robin Williams and I have something in common — DEPRESSION. Robin Williams fought the demons of depression, alcoholism and drug abuse while starring in many movies that made us laugh, cry, and ask probing questions. He was a gifted man who could ad-lib hysterical quotes that left me wiping my face while watching and listening to him. One of my favorite movies starring Robin Williams was “Awakenings.” He was brilliant in every movie he starred in. This morning, as I write this post, I feel such a loss. Never will I laugh at him in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” — all I can do now is cry when I watch his movies because I understand what depression does to us.

But what is depression? An estimated 19 million people suffer with depression, according to the website, WebMd.

I could list many of the symptoms of depression here, according to the website; however, because I battle depression, I have experienced many of these symptoms, including the inability to sleep, lack of confidence, sudden, debilitating sadness, tears, unhappiness…anger. Depression is genetic for me. My mother suffered with depression, making her develop into an angry, miserable woman. She died alone, without any friends. I watched her as the demons of depression slowly took over her ability to laugh or enjoy life. All that was left of her before a stroke was an agitated, angry, bitter woman with a spiteful, poisonous tongue that could almost chew me up and spit me out. In 1988, I chose to break away from her after she emotionally abused me for the final time. I walked away without looking back as hot tears gushed from my eyes. I still loved my mother. Isn’t that what a child is supposed to do — to love our parents, regardless of how they treat us? That week, I went to my family doctor asking for help. I was horrified that I might become like my mother. I did not want depression to destroy me.

I have spoken about depression in my posts previously, and when I published my book “Condition of Limbo,” I discussed how difficult depression was for me during my father’s terminal illness. Depression isn’t something easy to write about. People do not understand it. They laugh or joke about depression, saying cruel things such as ‘she’s mentally ill,’ or ‘she’s just not right…’ Friendships are broken and you suddenly see yourself standing alone. Why? Simple. People do not care or maybe they are afraid that if they get too close to the person who is depressed, they might ‘catch it.’

I battle depression daily; however, I have found ways to get me going again. When I feel the depression wrapping me in its destructive, demon crushing arms, I thrust my hands out, as if I am brushing the depression away. I find myself forcing myself to either take a walk, to enjoy the freshness of warm, coastal air, or I step onto the treadmill and walk briskly for 60 minutes. I remind myself that if I work out and walk towards depression, I can survive.

Never have I been tempted to take my life due to depression. Yes, I have experienced many tears, and I have battled days of simply turning off the lights, pulling the shades, ignoring the phone or door bell, and closing myself away in my home. Fortunately, I have a wonderful doctor I can talk to. He understands and listens to me. For two years, I went to a therapist, sharing my most compelling thoughts and childhood experiences with her. She taught me how to confront my demons and I am a much stronger woman for sharing depression with her and my medical doctor.

Maybe it is true that only someone who suffers with depression can understand it. How I wish Robin Williams found a way to work through whatever pain he was enduring when he chose to end his life. Isn’t it strange that those of us who loved his talent, those of us who watched him on-screen and in person, really thought he had his life together. After all, he was a brilliant actor who could laugh or cry, right on cue. Words cannot describe how much he will be missed. I doubt another comedian or actor will ever equal Robin Williams. Rest in peace, Robin. The world will miss you so much, but your legend will continue — in all the characters you truly brought to life. Today, I plan to watch “The Birdcage” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “Awakenings,” while the tears of depression wash away — for one more day.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams!

Reminiscing on July 6 of Each Year…

Dearest Readers:

July 6 is always a day to remember for me. Why? Allow me to explain. During the stressful days of my dad’s terminal illness with esophageal cancer during December 1997 until his death on July 6, 1999, I have felt such a loss.

I’ve had people tell me I need to move on. “Get over it. Life goes on…” Etc. ETC! It isn’t easy! Tomorrow is July 6, 2014 – exactly 15 years since the death of my dad. I remember the day, as if it was yesterday. After a demanding day at work, I rushed to visit him, like I did every day. I spoke to the nursing home earlier in the day. “Dad was doing fine,” they replied. “Fine!?!” If he’s in a nursing home he isn’t fine. Yes, he was as well as could be expected; nevertheless, over the last six months of his life, I watched his body slowly shutting down. First it was the weakness from esophageal cancer. His inability to retain his food. His legs grew weaker and he fell – LOTS. Each time the nursing home reported the falls to me, like they are required. And each time, I prayed a sigh of relief. Just one more day. Please God, give us one more day.

In March, his heart grew weaker, and I realized the end was near. I stopped praying for a miracle. In my nightly prayers I prayed for God to find a special place for my dad, to use his talents, his voice, and yes – even his temper. Dad could be a tenacious man when he wanted to be!

During my daily visits after March, I noticed Dad no longer walked me to the door, to kiss me goodbye. He simply waved his hand as he closed his Holy Bible. No longer were the visits welcoming or fun. He appeared to be angry at me, always waving me away after about 10 minutes of our time together. His roommate told me Dad was mean to me. “You deserve better,” Dudley said. “He is so mean. He should appreciate you.”

I smiled at Dudley. “Don’t you understand,” I cried. “Dad is dying. He’s angry at life.”
Dad and Dudley were the odd couple of Sandpiper Convalescent Center. They teased and complained, always trying to compete with each other. For a while, Dad had the upper hand since Dudley’s body no longer moved and he remained in the bed, or a special wheelchair. Dudley had difficulty with speech too, but after visiting Dad so often, Dudley and I were able to communicate without a problem. After March, Dudley had the upper hand as we watched Dad sit on his bed, or remain in his bed most of the time. Gone were his daily strolls with his walker.

I suppose I was counting the days down, knowing my dad and I would not share another holiday together. No more birthday parties. No more Christmas trees, Thanksgiving and holiday dinners together. Tick. Tock…How I wish I could make this clock stop and save my dad.

On the moment of his death, I was walking in the corridor of Sandpiper Convalescent Center. A nurse I recognized approached, pushing an oxygen tank. I remember speaking with her, saying Uh, oh. That isn’t a welcoming sign for someone. She nodded, never saying a word to me.

I placed my hand on the door of Dudley and Dad’s room and so did the nurse. Quickly, she nodded, telling me not to come inside.

I screamed.

“Oh, Dear God, No. Please…please….Please God, NO!” I cried.

Someone grabbed me, walking me to a chair and I sat down. I knew. The clock was stopping. My dad way dying.

I heard a voice say, Barbie. We can bring him back.

“No,” I cried. “He’s a DNR. I must honor his wishes.”

Moments seemed like hours. At 6:15 a nurse approached me. “I’m so sorry. Do you want to say goodbye?”
Yes, I nodded.

I waited a few minutes for my husband to arrive and together, we walked in to Dad’s room. Dudley was eating dinner. I could not speak to him. I touched my Dad – his body as cold as ice. His skin clammy. His eyes closed. I kissed him. Told him I loved him and I would never forget him. “You’re still here, inside my heart,” I cried.

I have no idea what happened next. I was numb. Dumbfounded. How would I live without my Dad?
After his funeral, I joined a grief therapy session and learned to move forward. Still, as the day of July 6 of each year approaches, I feel an incredible emptiness. Grief. Heartache. I ask myself, will this pain ever leave?

I think not. July 6, 2014 is only hours away. I must keep myself busy, remembering my Dad, Walter W. Perkins, and the goodness inside of him. Yes, he had moments of temperamental ups and downs, but he was my dad. As a child, I always looked up to him. I held his hand. We sang. He taught me how to harmonize and he always reminded me to “Make this a good day.”

I ask you how? How do I make each day a good day without my dad?

When do we stop grieving over those we’ve loved and lost? When does the heartache end?

After my dad died, I felt like an orphan. I have learned to move on and to recognize that each day is a gift. I plan to have a serious heart-to-heart discussion with my dad in the morning while drinking my morning coffee. I will lift my head high, looking into the Heavens and speak softly to my Dad. Yes, I will probably cry, but now, the tears are good, cleansing tears because I have learned to move forward. To make the most of every day. July 6, 2014 is another day without my dad, but I am so thankful that I was there for him daily while he battled cancer. Yes, I miss you, Dad. I was blessed to share one more day.

Thank you, God for giving us one more day!

My Thoughts About “Following Atticus”

As a writer, I enjoy nothing better than reading a book that captivates me. One that is a page turner where my imagination and passion are consumed, or perhaps, kidnapped with the book. A few months ago, I found a Facebook site, Following Atticus. The site caught my attention because I am the mom to four schnauzers. Three mini-schnauzers and one giant schnauzer. All have unique personalities. I do not treat them as dogs. I describe them as my babies. My groomer gets a big kick out of that!

When I started following Following Atticus, I became captivated. Last week, I ordered the book. Yesterday, while I was baby sitting the service techs for a major repair of our heating and air unit, I sat in the kitchen, with my babies, reading Following Atticus. Some will describe it as a book about a man and his dog. Those of us who rescue and foster animals describe this amazing book as something more. It is a book about forgiveness, finding one’s self, compassion, acceptance, and in many ways, a story about finding yourself when you thought you were lost and alone and the journeys we take to come home again.

Atticus and Tom have a relationship extremely close to the relationship I have with my animals. Last year, when I lost my precious giant, “Prince Marmaduke Shamus,” aka “Shamey-Pooh,” I thought I wanted to go with him. I am pleased to say, my babies taught me how to accept his loss and how I must move on. That is when I decided I had to adopt another giant schnauzer, preferably, a rescue. For weeks I searched and could find nothing. One morning when opening Facebook, I found a posting of a black giant schnauzer now available for adoption — in Athens, GA. Immediately, I phoned to inquire and was told, if I applied, I would be the third person in line for him. Within 24 hours, I was contacted that if I wanted this abandoned giant, I would be the adoptive mommy to him! Isn’t it funny and strange how things work out. I believe in the power of prayer, visions and the power and strength to be clairvoyant. No doubt this was a sign from my precious Shamey-Pooh. He wanted me to go on and to stop all of the tears. The tears haven’t stopped, but I have opened my heart to love once again. Shamey-Pooh and I had a connection — a deep, passionate connection, but he was leading me to something he wanted me to do – to find the love within my heart to love and accept a lost and lonely black giant schnauzer that had been abandoned. In a dream my beautiful, silver gray Shamus pranced around again, telling me he was fine and I needed to “Move On,” just like I moved on after my dad died. This was truly another hard lesson in life, but Shamey-Pooh was guiding me, showing me how to journey into love again.

Now, a year later, my new giant schnauzer, Prince Midnight Shadow, has not taken Shamus’ place. That portion of my heart is reserved for Shamey-Pooh, but recognizing that life must go on has given me a new perspective to allow my heart to heal by allowing another rescue to teach me more about life, acceptance, forgiveness and love. “Shadow Bear” is full of life and in many ways, he is still a sneaky, energetic puppy that loves to jump up on me, until I remind me to ‘get down.’ His eyes grow wider with excitement when I come into the room. No, he isn’t Shamus. No one can replace that precious and fearful love, but we can grow and learn to accept the journeys we take in life, even the heartbreaking journeys.

If you have never read the book, Following Atticus, I strongly encourage you Continue reading “My Thoughts About “Following Atticus””

Gardening Therapies

First North American Rights Only

Total Word Count – 988 words








Barbie Perkins-Cooper




            New to gardening, I never understood how therapeutic gardening could be until my father became ill. Years prior, I played at gardening, planting a rose bush here…a gardenia there…pulling an occasional weed…never planning, or recognizing how gardening heals a broken heart. When my father was battling cancer, I neglected my rose gardens. After he died, I allowed my rose bushes to mourn his passing with me. I failed to fertilize or care for the roses, letting several get diseases while watching them grow long and spiky. Eventually those rose bushes were so infested with black spot, they died.

The summer of 1999 was the most depressing summer I have lived, until I noticed a cedar tree germinating in the front lawn, after returning home from my father’s funeral. Before summer ended, this tiny tree grew symbolically for me – an image of new life, new ambition, and new dreams. Suddenly gardening was taking on a new significance for me, teaching me how germination and gardening provides creativity, enjoyment, and therapy during times of unbearable sadness.

            During the heat of the summer of 1999, I found myself escaping grief by planting petunias, pulling weeds, and fertilizing the few flowers left. My husband and I built a wilderness area in the front yard where grass refused to grow. I planted Iris bulbs, purple fountain grass, amaryllis, black-eyed Susan, canna lilies, and begonias surrounding the border. When these flowers blossomed with radiant colors, so did I.

Only a gardener understands the passion I feel when gardening. This is the first year I have dedicated myself to the therapy of gardening. Although my husband and I have lived in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina for over twenty years, we had a mutual agreement that I would care for the house, and he could care for the yards. Now that I have introduced myself to the therapy of gardening, I feel refreshed after planting, weeding, or pruning, especially this year when I see the results of my care with the rose gardens. My rose gardens are a rainbow of colors, from the American beauty, triple delight, blue, yellow, apricot, and white. I nourish the roses with Ironite, Epsom Salt, Rose Pride, and coffee grounds, combined with lots of tender loving care. I am rewarded with beautiful rosebuds that open to pastel shades of brilliance and aroma.

In the back yard, my husband and I landscaped the edges of the yard with concrete retainer walls, building a foundation for a shade garden. Presently, we have the foundation of the retainer wall placed, and we plan to add additional rows of retainer walls over the summer. We are using leaves as the compost for this shade garden area, while I plant hosta, bleeding hearts, and other shade loving species to my new shade garden.

            Last year in memory of my father, I planted an Easter lily by a Palmetto tree. Reading a gardening magazine, I recognized that Easter lilies are toxic to animals, so I moved the Easter lily to the front yard. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it, so I planted lantana. I like to use statues in the garden, so I have placed a statue of a pelican in that flowerbed. Angel bird feeders sit in the shade garden. Additional flowerbeds contain a bench, a statue of a dog, in memory of my best friend, Muffy, a mixed breed terrier with a lot of schnauzer, we lost a few years ago. In memory of her passing I planted a variety of Gerber daisies, lantanas, and another lily assortment, surrounded by an American rose bush in the center. Complimenting this bed is a concrete birdbath and birdhouse. Guardian angel statues are placed in other areas, along with a concrete birdbath, bench, and more guardian angels.

            Over the summer, I hope to finalize my shade garden, although since I became a gardener I realize that gardening is a constant work-in-progress, because gardening ideas are a constant source of enjoyment and inspiration. One of the most rewarding aspects of gardening is the realization that if something does not look or grow well in one area, all it needs is to be transplanted and nurtured in another area of the garden.

I love to express myself in my gardening. Next year I will plant more flowers and transplant some of the mistakes I made as a novice to gardening. Now that I am so passionate about gardening, I am learning how gardening really is a new art form, at least for me. Gardening mistakes made can be corrected by transplanting, moving, or rearranging. Gardening has given me new a new lease on life, providing another outlet of expression; and on days when I am sad, if I work in the garden, my sadness disappears.

My worst gardening mistake was I failed to appreciate the therapeutic value of gardening until later on, after losing a part of myself when my father died. After much grief and soul searching, I discovered life is to be enjoyed by the fruits of our labor, and so, I find new ways to reflect as I dig holes to plant flowers, bulbs, and rose bushes.

After planting a spring garden, flowers bloom with vibrant colors and scents, providing gardeners with newfound appreciation of the beauty of life. Although it took losing someone significant in my life to teach me appreciation of life, I hope you will not make the same mistake. Enjoy gardening, along with the therapeutic rewards of gardening. If you have a bad day, take the hostility away by digging in your garden, or pulling weeds. On one such day, after a stress filled day at work, I came home planting hundreds of gladiola bulbs…They flourished with a rainbow of colors and still provide great joy and comfort. Make gardening therapeutic on a sad day…You will be significantly rewarded.