*If you haven’t read Annie’s story, CLICK HERE to read: Before You Go to Heaven
The following blog post is Part 3 of my special anniversary tribute to Rudy.
CLICK HERE to read Part 1!
CLICK HERE to read Part 2!
Pepsi was devastated by Rudy’s death, so she spent most of her time mourning by his grave. Well… apparently, that day, Pepsi decided to take a stab at eating concrete statues. Within 30 minutes, she’d chewed most of the paint and some of the concrete from my special Rudy memorial.
When I went to let Pepsi inside, I found the gnawed statue lying on the doorstep. In total disbelief, I picked it up, examined the damage, and said, “You have GOT to be kidding me! Pepsi!!! Concrete?!” Then, I quickly checked her mouth for broken teeth and her throat for any debris. She was fine. The statue… not so much.
Saddened and super-embarrassed, I sent a message to the Etsy seller who made the statue, Mary Ferguson of PhenomeGNOME. The message said:
Mary, I received my statue today, and I love it! It’s perfect! Well… it was. I’m pretty embarrassed to tell you what happened. Rudy’s best friend, my foster dog Pepsi, hasn’t been handling Rudy’s death very well. So, I guess she decided to take it out on my statue today. Thirty minutes after I placed the memorial in Rudy’s garden, I found it by the door. And it was… um… missing some paint, and some… um… concrete. Yes, that’s right. Concrete. Pepsi chewed on a concrete statue.
Sadly, I can’t afford to buy another right now. But I think touching-up the paint may hide some of the teeth marks on the concrete. (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.) So anyway, I was wondering if you could tell me what color and type of paint I could use to do touch ups? I know you’re busy, and this isn’t your problem, I just hate to put the chewed-up memorial back by Rudy’s grave. I want it to be special for him. Let me know. And thank you, by the way. Your work is amazing. -Ashley
|Pepsi, the culprit|
Then, Mary generously offered to send me the paint to touch-up the statue, and I offered to pay for shipping. She mailed that package on July 30th and sent me the shipping confirmation. When I tried to send reimbursement, Mary simply said, “Consider it my gift to you. It’s been a pleasure.”
Now, keep in mind-- Mary and I were total strangers at this point. Our interactions had been limited to my initial online purchase and the messaging back-and-forth about Pepsi’s destructive chewing. So, this woman honestly owed me nothing. But that little gesture on her behalf touched me in a way that brought tears to my eyes… and hope to my heart. And honestly, at the time, that was everything to me.
After that, my life got pretty crazy, and my brain wasn’t always functioning at full capacity. A month or so passed, and one day, I suddenly realized that I’d never received the paint. I contacted Mary, and she was shocked to hear that it hadn’t arrived. She re-sent the tracking number, and I checked the status, which said: In-transit. Since Mary didn’t want me to wait any longer, she generously offered to send me another package of paint.
Here’s where it gets good:
When Mary sent that second package, neither of us had any way of knowing that I was about to take-in a special dog named Annie, who would soon leave me for Heaven. So it was ironic that Mary’s package arrived on September 14, 2010… the day Annie died.
That day was incredibly painful for me. While Annie was in my home, I refused to expose her to any sadness. So, the day she died, the walls surrounding my pain finally collapsed.
Suddenly... I could feel the change taking place within myself. That devastating pain was back in my life… the despair I’d fought so hard to overcome after Rudy’s death. At that moment, I could feel all of the hope slipping from my heart, and honestly, I was ready to give up.
I pulled into my driveway, took a deep breath, and prepared to bury yet another dog. I couldn’t believe it… I was back here once again. But this time, there was no denying the truth: it was real; it was happening; and it was time. I got out, unloaded Annie, and chose a spot right next to Rudy. As I laid her in the ground, I fought back the tears, the pain, and the anger I’d been avoiding for days... and really, since Rudy died.
After I covered her body, I stood there in silence. Then… with the realization that yet another piece of my heart was resting beneath the Earth, I surrendered and walked inside.
That’s when I spotted a package on the counter. The label said, Shipped by: Mary Ferguson. In an attempt to distract my broken heart, I decided to go ahead and open it. I wiped the tears from my eyes, peeled back the tape, and opened the box.
And then… my heart stopped…
There are moments in life where God proves His existence, His compassion, and His mercy. In all my life, I have never known a moment quite like this one.
Because Mary’s package contained more than just touch-up paint. I reached inside to find a brand new memorial statue for Rudy’s grave… and something else. A second memorial piece… shaped like a heart… with a paw print in the middle.
Chills ran down my spine and tears filled my eyes… knowing that this moment was truly beyond all coincidence. My hands were shaking as I opened Mary’s note:
Ashley- I thought both you & Rudy deserved much better than a chewed-up statue, so I sent you another. I also made a second piece just for you. I’m not sure if you have somewhere to put it, but hopefully you can find a place. You have a big heart Ashley -- I can feel it through our communication -- and that heart should be rewarded with more than I can ever give you. -Mary
But, there’s more:
The original package was never delivered to my home, and it was never returned to Mary. We only have the confirmation that it was shipped to my address.
The last time I’d checked the status on that first shipment, was the day before the second package arrived. And, as always, it said: In Transit. So, when the second shipment finally got here, my curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to check the status on that first package one last time…
When I entered the tracking number of the original shipment and hit Submit, I read: There is no record of this item. In disbelief, I rechecked and reentered the information again, with the same result: There is no record of this item. I felt chills all over my body, sensing the power of those events we can’t quite explain. Because… for more than a month, that status had read: In Transit. Then, upon the arrival of an unrelated shipment, there was suddenly no record that the first package had ever existed: There is no record of this item.
I have no idea what happened to that package, but I know one thing for sure… it was never coming here. My greatest hope is that God re-routed that shipment to someone else with a broken heart. Maybe it brought them the same hope it brought me.
The package from Mary was honestly the turning point for me. Finally, I knew that Rudy was okay; I knew that Annie was okay. And most of all, I knew that I’d be okay, because God still cared about me.
How did I know? Well… on September 14, 2010, I received a gift from God. It came in a cardboard box. And when I opened it, these are the words that filled my heart: “Ashley, You can’t give up, because this is why I created you. Keep going… It’s just about to get good…”
--The story was meant to end there. But, in another ironic turn of events…
--The story was meant to end there. But, in another ironic turn of events…
|Ali & I|
So, when he ran across the perfect memorial statue online, he contacted the seller. And ironically, it was none other than Mary Ferguson. When Paul explained that he was buying a surprise gift for his friend Ashley Owen Hill, Mary laughed and said, “I think Ashley already has one of my statues. In fact, she has 2. Well, really, 3!”
Paul was totally confused, so Mary told the story I just shared with you. Then she said, “How about this. Instead of buying something from me, send the money to Ashley as a donation. Also, I don’t believe in coincidences anymore, so make sure you tell Ashley about our chance encounter. I know she’ll be just as excited about it as I am.”
|Paul & Ali|
And I was. After his talk with Mary, Paul sent me a message, and ironically, I received that message as I was writing this very story. Yet again, I was completely blown away. I responded: “You’re kidding!!! You contacted Mary Ferguson?? My Mary?! I don’t even know what to say!!! I love Mary!”
I smiled and laughed to myself, knowing that, once again, there was no explanation for this event. Honestly, it was so unlikely that Paul would ever contact Mary… eerily unlikely. Yes, Mary Ferguson sells the most incredible garden statues (which you should all BUY!), but there are literally hundreds of other statue/memorial retailers online. When I initially searched for Rudy’s memorial, I looked for hours before I ran across Mary’s wonderful store and the perfect item within it. But of course, Paul found Mary right away. Of course he did.
And so, just in time for Rudy’s anniversary, Mary would enter my life again, to remind me of that unbelievable hope she gave me before. After I replied to Paul, I sent Mary the following message:
Mary- It’s funny how life works its way back around. It’s almost been a year since you first gave me hope… and here we are again.
You probably don’t even realize what you did for me last year, but honestly, you changed everything. At a time when my life could’ve easily gone another way, you were the turning point for me. You showed an incredible amount of compassion to a complete and total stranger, and in doing so, you gave me back my life. I’d always wondered what it feels like for the dogs I save… when someone who owes them nothing… gives them everything. Now I know.
If I tried to explain all the things that have happened in my life since Rudy died, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But believe this: you made it all possible. Thank you, Mary, from the bottom of my heart. Your generosity saved more lives than you could know, including my own. -Ashley
*Mary Ferguson is an incredible human being with a heart of gold. Please thank her for what she did for me by doing 2 things:
PLEASE LIKE her PhenomeGNOME facebook page, & tell her that I sent you!