So through my tears and stabbing pain and disbelief and wonder and questions about how and why this happened, I leaned over my sweet and wild and curious and mind-of-her-own Gracie, and asked, "Dear Gracie, what were you here to teach me that only your death could show me?" And this is the answer: This lovely little runt whom I'd brought home sick—on his first visit with her, the vet told me to return her and get my money back—did more living in two years than most dogs do in 12. She never stopped moving. Was energy in motion. Chasing squirrels, hop-leaping through the pond like a rabbit. Finding anything she could to play with, chew, run with. Dashing, frolicking. Speeding across the lawn as though she were in a rush for life. I was always saying, "Gracie, slow down." She gulped her food. Gulped treats. Would let you hug her for a second, then race off to—where? She was the only dog I was always looking for. Going out on the porch calling, "Graaaacie! Gracie, come!"

The day after she died, I went to the spot where she took her last breath and called again, "Graaaacie! Graaaacie!" I was hoping security wouldn't hear me and think I needed medical—or psychological—attention. Of course I knew this time she wouldn't come running through the brush. Out of the pond. Shaking her wet fur and racing to my arms with a smile. She was always, always smiling.

Not until I knew there'd be no response did I realize how much pleasure I had taken in calling for her. So I called and cried. Called and cried. "Graaaacie!" Tears of sadness for the shocking loss. Tears of joy for the pure happiness she'd given me for nearly two years. I have never seen a being, human or animal, always so full of joy. This dog lived every moment as though it were her last.

Her life was a gift to me. Her death, a greater one.

Ten days before she died, I was getting a yearly physical, and to lower my blood pressure I'd think of Gracie's smiling face.

Just days before the "freak accident," the head of my company came into my office to have a serious talk about "taking some things off your schedule—you're doing too much." Maya Angelou called me to say the same thing. "You're doing too much. Don't make me come to Chicago," she chided. "I want you to slow down."

I'd broken a cardinal rule: The whole month of May I'd had no day off, dashing from one event to the next. But though I appreciated everyone's concern, I still had to finish the season. Wrap up the year's shows. Have foundation meetings. Meet with auditors. Review plans for a new building, and on and on. So many people on my list. I literally forgot to put myself on the list for a follow-up checkup.

When the doctor's office called, I confessed. I hadn't heeded what I know for sure. I said, "Doctor, I'm sorry. I had so many meetings with different people, I forgot to put myself on the list."

The next day, Gracie died.

Slow down, you're moving too fast. I got the message.

Thank you for being my saving Gracie. I now know for sure angels come in all forms.


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