Held In The Heart
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Uncover to Discover

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.
— Anatole France

When a baby is born into this world, it enters as love and light. Clothed in a human body, the intuition of a baby is pure and unfettered. A baby knows it needs to eat, it learns how to get attention, and it knows that its future is limitless.

There were things I knew and things I learned as a child. One thing I knew without a shadow of a doubt was that animals were also love and light with their own lessons about the world.

My first pet was Buddy. Part Great Dane and part German Shepherd, Buddy was not only my brother, my playmate, my best friend; he was also my protector, my bodyguard, my guardian angel. Next to me, Buddy was a giant and could be intimidating. But my child’s intuition knew instinctively that he would not harm me, rather, he would protect me. His love and light was limitless.

Buddy also taught me my first tough lesson about grief when he was struck and killed by a car. The loss of his love and his light still brings tears to my eyes even today. After Buddy, I had many more pets that taught me about love and with every loss the pain of grief deepened in my heart. But I never stopped loving –

the power of an animal’s love is worth the pain of the loss.  

Buddy and Dawn, May 1970

Buddy and Dawn, May 1970

When I was 16, a teacher at my Christian high school, ‘Mr. Smith’, stated that animals don’t go to heaven. The emotions that surfaced inside of me in an instant erupted in a shattering of my heart. Was this possible? Could it be true that I would never see my pets again? His statement, said with all the certainty and knowing of a theologically educated adult, crushed me in that moment. Who was this God that would pick and choose which of all His magnificent creations to allow to live in heaven?

I trusted adults. I believed what adults told me. I respected, listened, and followed my teachers. I didn’t necessarily like all of the teachers I had through my academic career, but I knew they were in their positions to teach me something and I trusted that they knew what they were talking about.

But that day everything changed. I told Mr. Smith that he was wrong. The conviction of my heart, of what I knew from infancy, my intuition, was so strong that I walked out of the classroom and told the principal I refused to go back to his class. It was the first time I had done something so brash and there has never been a moment that I regretted doing so. In my heart and mind, he told me that love does not extend beyond the grave simply because what I loved was created as an animal rather than a human.

What I heard was that my intuition, my belief, even my heart, did not matter to God.

I don’t know how old I was when I was conscious of a spiritual life that continues after the physical form dies, but I do remember quite clearly how I would cry in my bed at night as I talked to all my pets who had passed over. I was comforted with knowing that they had found each other in a mysterious place for souls and spirits. I would close my eyes, they would line up, tails wagging and hearts purring and I would kiss each one on the head, tell them I had not forgotten them, remind them that I still loved them, and call each one by name so they would know they were forever in my heart. The love between me and my pets was a bond that even death could not break.

Over the course of my life I have believed a lot of things adults and teachers had to say to me. I got straight A’s in school, “Dawn is smart.” I was a slow runner, “Dawn is not an athlete.” Other than my C in gym class, the effect of being a slow runner, my only other C in my entire academic career was in 6th grade art class, “Dawn is not creative.”

Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we begin covering ourselves, hiding our authenticity, as we start layering on the beliefs we learn from the outside world about who we are and who we are not. Those coverings can get so thick and unwieldy that they begin to suffocate the light and love that we entered the world with, naked and pure as a newborn baby.

I spent decades putting on those heavy coats, believing all of the stories that others told me. I have been spending the last few years of my life taking those coats off, shedding those layers of beliefs about myself, allowing my authentic love and light to shine through to the outside world once again. It’s not easy, there are so many people just like Mr. Smith who think they know the answers. So many people who want to tell you who you are, who you should be, and the expectations of God for your life.

The truth is, the only person who knows you, is you. The only person who can decide your role in this world and how God shows up in your life is you.

Only I can decide who or what Dawn decides to be. The fact is: I am smart, I am athletic, and I am creative. I don’t believe that it is a bad thing to trust others, it is a necessary and important part of life to give and receive trust. What is a bad thing is to not listen to what my intuition, my heart, my authentic self has to say. When I do that, I am walking out of my own classroom – and that would be something to regret. Because the fact is, my intuition, my heart, and my self DO matter. I know they matter because I am here.

The beautiful thing about a spiritual heart is that it can mend and become stronger.

My heart broke when I was 16 in that high school classroom over three decades ago. But what I knew then is what I still know today – that love is the only thing that matters. The body, the human form, the vessel we travel this earth in is not what matters – it is a tool to give and receive.

Buddy has been gone for 46 years but his love and light are still here. Because I know with absolute certainty that love transcends the grave, it transcends time and space, and it is my very reason for being on this earth. I know because intuition told me.


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Since leaving the church over 20 years ago, Dawn Adams has been on a pilgrimage to discover her personal spiritual truth. As a former church member, graduate of a Christian high school, and holder of both a Biology & a Bible degree, from the now defunct Tennessee Temple University, Dawn explores the unearthing of spirituality outside the traditional church building. She invites you to explore with her. / Follow Dawn and her travels on Instagram.